A $420,000 OBS April Sale purchase, it should come as no surprise that Conquest Two Step came out of the gate running for his career debut today at Churchill Downs for trainer Mark Casse. A son of first crop sire, and multiple stakes winner, Two Step Salsa, Conquest Two Step has impressed onlookers for some time now. His new owners spent a lot of money at Ocala, and on the advice of their successful trainer, this one was one of their larger investments. He would not disappoint.
Bet down to even money, the Conquest Racing runner helped set very fast fractions of :21.67 and :44.83 before quickly shaking clear of his early competition. From there the dark bay colt was kept to task, but never looked like anything but a winner under Shaun Bridgmohan as they hit the wire under the famed twin spires two lengths ahead of the only other horse to get into the picture. Bred in Florida by Manuel Andrade, Conquest Two Step finished the 5 1/2 furlong race in an excellent 1:03.63.
The aforementioned second place finisher also ran a strong race. Breaking a beat slow, Ride On Curlin continued to move up on the backstretch, and finished with good energy to be well clear of everyone else at the wire. Also a first-timer, the bay colt is part of two-time Horse of the Year, Curlin’s second crop and is trained by William Gowan. Curlin’s first crop recently gained a measure of excellence with the Belmont Stakes win of Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice.
Speaking of Dogwood, perhaps the most interesting colt to debut today, at least to me, came at Belmont Park, when None Like Nolan rallied strongly to finish second best in the first open juvenile race for males at the New York oval.
Much like Ride On Curlin, None Like Nolan really had no chance to run down the sharp winner, Jake’s Magic Hat, but the way the son of the top sire, Malibu Moon, finished the fast five furlong race makes me believe he has a bright future. Plucked from the Keeneland September Sale for $125,000 by the Cot Campbell partnership group, the good looking bay colt is trained by Todd Pletcher. Showing only enough speed to lead the trailing group of four, he seemed only to hit his best stride in the last sixteenth which carried him to easily nab second-place money. As for the winner, who went off as the same 2-1 odds as None Like Nolan, Jake’s Magic Hat is a son of successful young sire, Tiz Wonderful. Able to stay in touch with the strong early pace from the get-go, the Eddie Kennealy trained youngster moved up nicely into connection on the outside of the tiring pacesetters, and looked liked a winner throughout the entire stretch. The $90,000 OBS March Sale graduate was driven to the wire by Jose Lezcano as he stopped the timer in a sharp :57.57 for the five panels, while 2 ¼ lengths ahead of None Like Nolan at the wire.
While it was a pair of sharp first-timers in Conquest Two Step and Jake’s Magic Hat who looked very good as they cruised to victory today in Louisville, and New York, don’t look past the two horses who finished full of run to be second, Ride On Curlin and None Like Nolan. All four will likely have stakes racing in their futures, but it might be today’s bridesmaids who become the ones to really look out for when both the distances and the importance of the races increase.