Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Speak Easy is the talk of the town

January 29th, 2024

On Jan. 28, 2023—Pegasus World Cup (G1) day at Gulfstream Park—an unraced three-year-old named Mage won his debut in a seven-furlong maiden special weight. Barely more than three months later, he took home top honors in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

On Jan. 27, 2024—again on the Pegasus World Cup undercard at Gulfstream—an unraced three-year-old named Speak Easy made his debut in an identical seven-furlong maiden special weight. The result? An impressive victory in a fast time, stamping the bay colt as a possible 2024 Kentucky Derby contender.

Speak Easy showed speed from the start, pressing hot fractions of :22.64 and :44.61 from second place. And he was strong through the final three furlongs, navigating the distance in about :37.27 (solid off the hot pace) to prevail by 1 3/4 lengths over the favored pacesetter.

While direct comparisons can’t be made between winning times across different days, much less different years, Speak Easy’s final clocking of 1:21.96 was quite fast and stacked up favorably against Mage’s winning time of 1:22.54 from the year before. For further comparison, the only other seven-furlong dirt sprint on 2024 Pegasus World Cup day was the Inside Information (G2) for older fillies and mares; the winning time there was 1:23.04.

As a son of Florida Derby (G1) winner Constitution out of Alcibiades (G1) third-place finisher Fun (by Harlan’s Holiday), Speak Easy has the pedigree to stretch out around two turns for two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher. Mage went straight from his maiden victory to competing in the Fountain of Youth (G2) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Speak Easy follow a similar path.

Speak Easy wasn’t the only noteworthy three-year-old maiden winner last week. Just a Touch likewise impressed when debuting in a six-furlong maiden special weight on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

A son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, Just a Touch raced in second through an opening quarter in :22.25, but readily took over through half a mile in :46.10 and pretty much cruised home through two final furlongs in :11.86 and :12.54 to score by 4 1/4 lengths in 1:10.50. Produced by the graded stakes-winning Tapit mare Touching Beauty, Just a Touch is bred to shine running long and looks like a stakes horse in the making for Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Brad Cox.

Up at Aqueduct, Capital Idea was tons the best in a one-mile maiden special weight on Sunday. Coming off a close third-place finish in his debut over the same track and distance, Capital Idea moved forward significantly in his second start, tracking fractions of :24.16, :48.95, and 1:14.88 over a sloppy track before powering clear to dominate by 8 1/4 lengths in 1:40.42.

The track was very slow, so Capital Idea’s winning time is better than first appears, and his final quarter-mile in :25.54 offers potential for stretching out around two turns. Christophe Clement trains the son of champion two-year-old Classic Empire.

We’ll also mention Good Money, a debut winner sprinting seven furlongs on Friday at Tampa Bay Downs. After settling four lengths off the early tempo, Good Money advanced steadily into splits of :22.15 and :45.35 to win by one length in 1:23.95. A son of champion two-year-old Good Magic (the sire of Mage), Good Money may have a bright future for four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown.