Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Willakenzie cruises for Cox

January 9th, 2023

Kentucky Derby (G1)-winning trainer Brad Cox enjoys strong success saddling first-time starters in races over one mile or farther. This was readily apparent when Cox sent out Willakenzie on Thursday at Fair Grounds to win his debut traveling 1 1/8 miles.

It’s uncommon to see horses debut over 1 1/8 miles in North America, and Willakenzie was the lone first-time starter in Thursday’s maiden special weight, which was originally slated to take place on turf. But Willakenzie casually shrugged off his inexperience, tracking fractions of :23.88, :49.04, and 1:14.37 before drawing off down the homestretch to dominate by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:54.45.

Willakenzie is a son of the versatile and internationally successful stallion War Front out of the Quality Road mare Road to Victory, who handed two-time champion Monomoy Girl a rare defeat in the 2017 Golden Rod (G2). This is a classy pedigree with potential for success over multiple distances and surfaces, but Willakenzie seems destined to stick with dirt route racing for the time being. The Road to the Kentucky Derby surely beckons for this Stonestreet Stables homebred.

Willakenzie wasn’t the only flashy debut winner of the week. Up at Aqueduct on Friday, four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown unveiled Uncorrelated, the sharp winner of a six-furlong maiden special weight. Uncorrelated settled a length behind an opening quarter-mile in :22.46, pounced to a clear lead through half a mile in :46.25, and maintained his advantage down the stretch to beat fellow first-time starter Register by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:12.35.

A son of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Arrogate out of a mare by Harlan’s Holiday, Uncorrelated has the breeding to run long, so look for this chestnut colt to improve during the winter. Keep in mind, Brown debuted Preakness (G1) winners Cloud Computing and Early Voting at Aqueduct, so it’s possible Uncorrelated can develop into a classics contender.

The following day, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott sent out Please Be Nice to obliterate a six-furlong maiden special weight for New York-breds at Aqueduct. The son of juvenile Grade 1 winner Violence dashed to the front through splits of :22.77 and :47.24, then finished fast (final two furlongs in :12.16 and :12.35) to dominate by 10 1/4 lengths in 1:11.75. This chestnut colt might be a good one.

We’ll wrap up by mentioning the breakthrough maiden victory of Quick Chaos. A top-three finisher in his first three starts sprinting on the New York circuit, Quick Chaos appreciated stretching out over one mile for a Friday maiden special weight at Aqueduct, setting fractions  of :23.39, :46.22, and 1:11.60 before battling on to prevail by half a length in 1:39.29.

As a son of Unified out of a Mineshaft mare, Quick Chaos boasts a pedigree combining speed with stamina, often a valuable combination. This Jorge Abreu trainee is worth keeping an eye on.