This is the time of the year to keep close tabs on 2-year-old maiden races. Whether trainers admit it or not, they are well aware that no Kentucky Derby winner has failed to start as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882.
Many of the sprinter-types have already made their debuts and have been running for several months, and we're now seeing more distance-types emerging on the scene. Recently, we've seen several intriguing prospects break their maiden, and now is as good a time as any to start planting the seed.
A number of hot prospects have popped up in New York over the past few weeks, and are worth keeping an eye on. We were particularly impressed with the powerful, sustained run by the Shug McGaughey-trained Maybry's Boy
, who came from 11th, circled horses, then blew by everyone to win by 6 lengths in a sharp 1:22 3/5 for seven furlongs. Although he had run well in his three previous starts, this was a quantum leap forward. Finishing second was the highly promising Peppermint Kid
, a $650,000 yearling purchase trained by Scotty Schulhofer. Maybry's Boy is a son of Broad Brush, out of an Alydar mare. His second dam is the graded stakes winner Am Capable, a daughter of Icecapade. There is speed in his pedigree, but certainly enough stamina to compensate for it. His fifth dam is Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Rampart. His next dam is the Man o'War mare Boat, whose family produced Skip Away. So, there are more than enough classy mile and a quarter influences.
Two days earlier, Seeking Greatness
, a son of Seeking the Gold, trained by Alan Goldberg, demonstrated the quick turn of foot you look for in a young horse. Making his career debut, Seeking Greatness really turned it on leaving the three-eighths pole. He was moving with such momentum, he was carried wide turning for home. But he leveled off beautifully in the stretch and collared the leader nearing the sixteenth pole to win by three-quarters of a length in a near-track-record 1:03 flat. The colt's pedigree is quite enigmatic, as it is distance-oriented, yet has produced some incredibly fast horses, including Seeking Greatness' half-brother (by Gone West) Elusive Quality, who holds the world record for a mile with his 1:31 3/5 clocking on the grass. Others from this family are 2-year-old champion Anees and several European group winners at 2. However, you also have a slew of top-class distance horses, including third dam Natashka, winner of the 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes. With Seeking the Gold as sire, and names like Graustark, Sir Ivor, Natashka, Glowing Tribute, and Northern Dancer in the first four female generations, there is no question this colt will handle the longer distances. He will winter at owner Richard Santulli's Colt's Neck Stable in Colt's Neck, N.J. and compete over Aqueduct's inner track.
Todd Pletcher has a talented colt named Nokoma
running in Saturday's Remsen Stakes. The gray son of Pulpit stretched out to 1 1/16 miles to break his maiden at Belmont by 1 3/4 lengths on Oct. 13 in his second career start. Consigned to this year's Keeneland April 2-year-old, he was withdrawn after being sold privately to Michael Tabor. The colt was supposed to have run in an allowance race, but when it didn't fill, Pletcher decided to run him in the Remsen, so they are a little off schedule. If this colt shows he can run with the likes of Monthir and Listen Here, it will stamp him as one to watch for next year. His second dam, Corella, is by English Derby winner Roberto. Pletcher says he is "improving every day."
Pletcher's other 2-year-old to watch is Warners
, who broke his maiden impressively on Sept. 3 after getting beat in a photo by the swift In High Gear
in :56 3/5 for five furlongs. The son of Dehere was heading for the Cowdin Stakes when he bucked his shins. The shins have been pinfired, and the colt is scheduled to be sent to Gulfstream at the end of the week. Pletcher described him as a "very, very talented horse," and his only question is how far he wants to go, being by Dehere, out of a Gilded Time mare. But no one really knows how far Dehere (by Deputy Minister out of a Secretariat mare) would have gone, and this colt's second dam is by Pretense. His dosage index is 3.00.
If there is one thing Warners certainly can boast it is being one of the greatest pinhooks in history. Hartley/De Renzo bought him as a yearling at the Keeneland September sale for $50,000, then sold him the following year at the Ocala 2-year-old sale for $1,050,000. Now, that is a heck of a way to make an even million-dollar profit. "Dehere wasn't real hot when they bought him," Pletcher said. "But anyone could see he had developed into a very impressive individual. He was a standout. Back in June, he already looked like a 3-year-old. He's just a big, beautiful specimen."
Bill Mott, who has already sent out promising 2-year-olds Listen Here
, unveiled another runner on Nov. 18 when he saddled Spinning Tales
to a 5 1/2-length maiden victory going a mile. The son of Spinning World is out of a Mr. Prospector mare, and has a dosage index of 2.33. Second dam, Thaidah, by Vice Regent, is a half-sister to Devil's Bag, Glorious Song, and Saint Ballado (all by Halo). Glorious Song in turn is the dam of Rahy and Singspiel, so you're not going to find a more potent female family.
In one of the gutsiest efforts by a 2-year-old this year, Fonz's
, coming off a six-month layoff and jumping from five furlongs to seven furlongs, battled back and outfought Bob Baffert's promising Popular
to win Hollywood's Prevue Stakes on Nov. 17 by a half-length in 1:22 flat. The son of Out of Place, trained by David LaCroix, had broken his maiden at Hollywood going 4 1/2 furlongs, then was beaten a neck in the five-furlong Willard Proctor Memorial, also at Hollywood. Popular ran another game race, following his hard-fought maiden victory, and the son of Saint Ballado looks to have a big future, especially sporting a 1.73 dosage index.
At Churchill Downs on Nov. 16, Thunder Days
, a well-beaten third in the Hopeful and Nashua Stakes, found an easier spot and drew off to a 2 1/2-length victory, covering the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44 3/5. Trained by Ronny Werner, Thunder Days is a son of Thunder Gulch, out of a Silver Hawk mare. He was purchased for $70,000 out of the same 2-year-old sale as Warners.
At Woodbine, Tails of the Crypt
flattered his conqueror in the Grey Breeders' Cup, Changeintheweather
, by winning the Display Stakes on Nov. 17. Second-place finisher Streakin Rob
also came out of the Grey, further boosting the reputation of Changeintheweather, who won the Grey by 4 lengths after breaking his maiden by 10. Tails of the Crypt has been entered in sales three times, twice failing to meet his reserve and once selling for a meager $4,500. So, we have a great Cinderella story brewing here. Also at Woodbine on Nov. 17, Frank Stronach's Saint Appeal
, by Saint Ballado, broke his maiden by 5 1/4 lengths, getting his seven furlongs in 1:23 flat.Related StoriesHaskin's Derby Preview--Part 3: The Return of Johannesburg2002 Kentucky Derby: Steve Haskin Looks Ahead