Prospect Watch: 3 races to look for Kentucky Derby hopefuls

By Keeler Johnson, Special to HRN
September 19, 2019 11:25am

The Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby officially kicked off last weekend with Churchill Downs’ Iroquois Stakes (G3), and while Dennis’ Moment was an eye-catching winner, only time will tell if he’ll be a factor on the first Saturday in May.

For all we know, next year’s Kentucky Derby winner hasn’t even debuted yet. Perhaps he’s entered to race this week at Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, or Los Alamitos, as each track has carded appealing open maiden races.

Let’s dig through the entries and add a few more promising juveniles to our watch lists:


Churchill Downs Race 8: Maiden Special Weight (6 furlongs)

#3 Court Sky

Dirt or turf: Court Sky might be effective on either surface. His sire, Court Vision, won the Breeders’ Cup Mile on grass, but was also a two-time graded stakes winner on dirt. Court Sky’s broodmare sire, Kingmambo, was a French classic winner who sired primarily grass runners, but also the 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid. Adding to the confusion, Court Sky is a half-brother to Sky Kingdom, a two-time Grade 3 winner on dirt who also placed at the Grade 1 level on synthetic. If there’s any certainty here, it’s that this Charles Fipke homebred will be at his best running a mile or farther, and trainer Dallas Stewart is unlikely to have him fully cranked for this six-furlong sprint.

#4 Don Bourbon

A few years back, the Mineshaft mare Juanita was a capable stakes performer running long on dirt, nabbing victories in the 2011 Indiana Oaks (G2) and 2012 La Troienne Stakes (G2) during a career that saw her earn more than half a million dollars. Now her son Don Bourbon is set to debut at Churchill Downs, where his sire — Tiznow — edged Giant’s Causeway in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Sold for $210,000 as a 2-year-old in training, Don Bourbon seems unlikely to win his Friday debut, as both his sire and dam were at their best as older runners racing around two turns, and trainer Ian Wilkes rarely sends out ready-to-win first-time starters. But Don Bourbon should improve with time, so keep an eye out for him down the road.

#7 Complexifier

Conditioned by Brian Lynch, Complexifier knocked heads with some pretty good horses at Saratoga this summer. After finishing third in his debut behind future Hopeful Stakes (G1) runner-up Shoplifted, Complexifier improved to be second behind the fast maiden winner Tap It to Win. Off these promising efforts, Complexifier is favored at 9-5 to win Friday’s maiden heat, and barring a big run from one of the first-time starters, this son of Overanalyze could get the job done.


Belmont Park Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (6 furlongs)

#1 Aasr

Amen Hallelujah never managed to win a Grade 1 race, but this two-time Grade 2 winner placed six times at the highest level and has proven productive as a broodmare given her first three foals have all been winners. Aasr seems destined to follow suit, as this son of top stallion Into Mischief sold for $340,000 to Shadwell Stable as a yearling and has turned in some nice workouts for trainer Chad Brown. A sharp debut should be in the offing.

#4 Positive Impact

His work tab might not be eye-catching, but Positive Impact was purchased by Godolphin for $350,000 as a yearling, so trainer Kiaran McLaughlin surely has some classic aspirations with this well-bred colt. A son of Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun out of Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid, Positive Impact has a perfect pedigree for the classics.

#7 Sixteen Tops

A half-brother to 2018 Spinaway Stakes (G1) winner Sippican Harbor, this son of Bodemeister didn’t bring a huge price at auction — $125,000 — but his pedigree boasts the ideal blend of miler speed and classic stamina that has been so effective in recent editions of the Kentucky Derby. Trained by Brad Cox, who wins at a 20% rate with first-time starters, Sixteen Tons is another exciting prospect in this competitive maiden event.

Los Alamitos Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (5 ½ furlongs)

#1 Ragtime Blues

One of two in this field trained by Bob Baffert, Ragtime Blues brought $500,000 as a yearling, an understandably large price since Ragtime Blues is a son of Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags out of a mare by Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Street Cry. With this classy, stamina-oriented pedigree, Ragtime Blues is cut out to be a classic contender, and the fact this colt has been posting bullet workouts since June adds to the appeal in this spot.

#4 River Finn

Ragtime Blues’ stablemate River Finn is a son of Pioneerof the Nile out of a Street Cry mare, the stallions responsible for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and the legendary race mare Zenyatta, respectively. Like Ragtime Blues, River Finn brings a solid work tab to his debut, and it’s encouraging to note he’ll be ridden by apprentice jockey J.C. Diaz Jr. Baffert and Diaz have gone 3-for-4 together over the last 60 days, with all three victories coming in juvenile maiden races at Los Alamitos. Thanks to Diaz’s apprentice status, River Finn will carry just 115 pounds on Saturday, seven fewer than Ragtime Blues.


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