Keeneland opens on Friday with a bit of a whimper. Now, I love maiden juvenile races, especially as early as this one. So much promise, so many dreams. However, there’s not much to get excited about in this 2-year-old maiden special weight event going 4.5 furlongs.
Typically, juvenile fillies have an advantage over colts this time of year so let’s start with the sole filly entrant Concept (Montbrook). Her dam Quincy Market (Boston Harbor) was unraced at two, and it took seven attempts for her to break her maiden. Of her other progeny, neither have won yet, nor is Montbrook exactly a hot first-out sire. However, as a juvenile, Concept’s second dam Cheyenne City won a late fall 6-furlong maiden special weight over Keeneland’s old dirt track by 13-lengths on her third attempt; Cheyenne City’s full-brother Boones Mill was a sharp juvenile winner of the G2 Sapling, not to mention runner-up in both the G3 Bashford Manor and G3 Sanford. Perhaps not worth backing to win first out, but she could surprise.
Perennial juvenile master Wesley Ward sends out two entries, both with Jeffrey Sanchez named as jockey, so one horse will likely scratch. Gentlemans Code (Proud Accolade) is out of an unraced Saint Ballado mare that has produced only one winner in three runners—a one-time juvenile $12.5k maiden claimer last known to be racing in Argentina. That said, Gentlemans Code is from the same family as G1-placed (Santa Anita Handicap) Saint Buddy, G2 Fall Highweight runner-up American Champ, and G2 Arlington Classic runner-up Street Theatre. Not exactly precocious, but a sharp 3-furlong bullet workout over this track helps. Ward’s other entry is Everyday Dave, by first-crop sire Weather Warning (Storm Cat). A $39k yearling purchase, he’s actually the highest-priced horse in the field. His dam Numerieus was a listed winner in France as a juvenile, just missing breaking her maiden first-out going 5-furlongs in late April—pretty precocious overall. This is her first offspring, and the one I’m backing if he runs.
Garrett Gomez takes the ride aboard Soul Vacation (Seattle Fitz) whose dam Antoinette was unplaced in four races in the UK and whose only other runner Notassharpasuthink just missed (by a neck) breaking her maiden first out at Hoosier last September, and then ran into the likes of subsequent G2-placed Niji’s Grand Girl. Antoinette’s half-brother Excellent Band was a minor stakes winner as a juvenile, while her dam’s half-brother Evansville Slew broke his juvenile maiden first-out by four lengths, and later won the G3 Arlington-Washington Futurity.
Kent Desormeaux rides Curfew Tower (City Zip) for trainer Eric Reed. While his sire hits with 17% of first-time starters, Curfew Tower’s Australian-raced dam Lights Out (Way of Light) is only a maiden turf sprint winner whose only other runner Romantic Intention (Suave) is yet a maiden after six attempts over the past two years. This is the family, though, of Mepache (Iron Constitution), dam of juvenile stakes winners Valid Expectations, Littleexpectations and Little Sister.
The other two in here out of high-percentage (16%) sires of first-time starters are Adena’s Chance (Limehouse) and Hachi (Cuvee). Adena’s Chance has put in two sharp works including a nice 4-furlong gate work most recently. Only twice raced, his dam Little Krissy (Kris S.) broke her maiden going 8.5 furlongs on dirt as a three-year-old after failing at that distance on turf. It took 11 efforts before his half-brother Sweettalkinjerome broke his maiden as a four-year-old, while his other two siblings finished their careers as maidens. Little Krissy’s G3-placed dam Little May (Air Forbes Won) didn’t race until she was 3, and of her other offspring (which includes 12-furlong turf handicap winner Bend A Little) only two won late in their juvenile campaigns and both routing. Thus, I’m not sure Adena’s Chance will have enough early speed to win a first-out sprint like this one. Hachi’s dam What’d I Say (Shuailaan) took three years—and 16 races—to break her maiden, but when she did it was in an 8-furlong maiden claiming race and she beat 7 other entrants by 12-1/2 lengths! Hachi’s second dam Musical Miss (Seattle Song) also produced juvenile winner Trion Georgia (Prospect Bay), later placed behind Orientate in the Indiana Derby, but none of her other eight runners won at 2.
That leaves Gimmeawish (Gimmeawink) as the final entry, and here’s one with a bit of promise including six recorded workouts, each progressively better and longer. His dam Wish for Candi (Candi’s Gold) is, like Everyday Dave’s dam Numerieus, a juvenile stakes-winner, having won the 8-furlong Debutante at Stampede Park. Gimmeawish’s half-brother Pete’s Wonder (Three Wonders) broke his juvenile maiden at Woodbine first-out going 2-furlongs in April, and next out ran runner-up in the 5-furlong Victoria Stakes, while Gimmeawish’s full-sister Michaela’s Candi broke her maiden second-out as a two-year-old going 5.5 furlongs, but not until October. Second choice for me.
Happy to have hit the winner with Everyday Dave ($3.20). Curfew Tower ($3.20 place) finished 2-1/4 lengths back in second while Gimmeawish only faded in the stretch and finished out of a placing. It was the filly Concept ($4.60 show) at over 33-1 that made up the most ground late, hustling in for third ahead of Adena’s Chance. Hachi lost his jockey at the start, while Gentlemans Code and Soul Vacation scratched.