Racing in mid-pack early, the son of Sky Mesa—Moonlight Sonata, by Carson City, rallied up the rail, no surprise since Calvin Borel was aboard, and passed the pacesetting favorite, Capt. Candyman Can, at the head of the stretch before holding off Giant Oak by a neck at the wire of the 1 1/16-mile test for 2 year olds in 1:37.78. Capt. Candyman Can was another neck back in third.
"I put him on the fence and stayed there the whole way," Borel said. "Turning for home, I didn't see anyone coming and I thought I had a heck of a chance."
Beethoven paid $14, $6, and $3.40. Giant Oak returned $8.40 and $4.80, with Capt Candyman Can paying $2.20 for the show. Following the top three were Zion, Stormalory, Jazzandthemagician, Coal Baron, Star of David, and Big Surf, the latter of whom was pulled up and vanned off.
Beethoven, conditioned by John Ward Jr., was bred in Kentucky by Deerbrook Racing, and was a $300,000 Keeneland yearling purchase. After an off-the-board debut at Churchill in July, Beethoven broke his maiden at Turfway Park before resurfacing at Keeneland and running third in an allowance heat. Earlier this month, he scored in a Churchill allowance, and has banked $149,913 in his five starts thus far.
"He handles Churchill Downs," said Ward, "and the Derby is always on my mind and Mr. Oxley's mind." The two teamed up for a Derby win with Monarchos in 2001.
Capt. Candyman Can set early fractions of :23.6 and :47.26 before jumping shadows on the second turn. Jazzandthemagician and Zion, closest to the leader early on, both faded.
Said Ian Wilkes, trainer of Capt. Candyman Can, "He didn't relax or switch leads when he should have. It was the little things that got us. But he fought on, and I've very proud of him."