Some of the best racing during the final week of May is taking place on Memorial Day, but the Friday and Saturday action is intriguing as far as high-quality maiden special weights are concerned.
Competitive events are taking place across the country, so let’s highlight seven well-bred 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds who are slated to debut.
Belmont Park race 5: Maiden special weight (1 1/16 miles on turf, 3:03 p.m. EDT)
No. 2 Double Dream
Pedigree: Curlin–Enchanted Rock, by Giant’s Causeway
Purchase price: N/A
Trainer: Chad Brown
Double Dream brings a classy pedigree to her debut. The daughter of two-time horse of the year and elite sire Curlin is a half-sister to Risen Star (G2) winner El Padrino and Haskell (G1) and Wood Memorial (G1) winner Verrazano. The latter runner placed twice at the Group 1 level on turf, so tackling the Belmont grass might suit Double Dream just fine. Throw in hot jockey Flavien Prat (a 25 percent winner at Belmont this meet), and there’s plenty to like about Double Dream.
Santa Anita race 3: Maiden special weight (one mile, 5:01 p.m.)
No. 4 Smart Mo
Pedigree: Mo Town–Vendita, by Smart Strike
Purchase price: $190,000
Trainer: John Shirreffs
John Shirreffs isn’t a frequent winner with first-time starters, but Smart Mo is eligible to factor after posting a sharp series of workouts at Santa Anita. Six furlongs in 1:13, five furlongs from the starting gate in 1:01.6, five furlongs in 59.6 seconds and three furlongs in a bullet 35.4 seconds … that’s a flashy work tab. Don’t count Smart Mo out of the mix.
Santa Anita race 2: Maiden special weight (4 1/2 furlongs, 4:30 p.m.)
No. 2 Smoove Over
Pedigree: Pavel–Smoove It, by Square Eddie
Purchase price: $6,500
Trainer: Jose Hernandez Jr.
Although Smoove Over sold for only $6,500 as a yearling, there’s quite a bit of class in her pedigree. Sire Pavel won the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) and dam Smoove It won the Irish O’Brien and placed in the Wilshire (G3). Smoove Over has put together a lengthy work tab in preparation for her debut (including a recent half-mile from the Los Alamitos starting gate in 49 seconds) and might fire a competitive shot.
No. 3 Kythira
Pedigree: Kantharos–Cascading, by A.P. Indy
Purchase price: $25,000
Trainer: Ryan Hanson
Another well-bred filly scheduled to debut in this field is Kythira, a daughter of unbeaten Saratoga Special (G2) and Bashford Manor (G3) winner Kantharos out of Glorious Song winner Cascading, in turn a daughter of horse of the year and legendary sire A.P. Indy. Kantharos is the sire of millionaire sprinters X Y Jet and World of Trouble, and Kythira showed speed when clocking a bullet half-mile from the Santa Anita starting gate in 47.4 seconds, so look for this dark bay filly to challenge for top honors on Saturday.
Churchill Downs race 11: Maiden special weight (6 1/2 furlongs, 5:58 p.m.)
No. 4 Cusp
Pedigree: City of Light–Swingit, by Victory Gallop
Purchase price: $725,000
Trainer: Paulo Lobo
Sold for $725,000 as a yearling, Cusp is a son of Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner City of Light out of Swingit, previously the dam of Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and Golden Rod (G2) winner Travel Column as well Neolithic, who placed third in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), Dubai World Cup (G1) and Woodward (G1) on his way to earning nearly $2.3 million. With a classy pedigree and a bullet-packed work tab in tow, Cusp is well worth watching.
No. 5 Bayou Spirit
Pedigree: Mor Spirit–Beautiful Daniele, by A.P. Indy
Purchase price: $240,000
Trainer: Brian Lynch
A son of Metropolitan Handicap (G1) hero Mor Spirit, Bayou Spirit was produced by the A.P. Indy mare Beautiful Daniele, whose previous foals include Del Mar Juvenile Turf and Zuma Beach winner King of Speed plus Indian Summer and Prairie Gold Juvenile winner Bodenheimer. Bayou Spirit clocked a bullet half-mile in 48 seconds at Churchill Downs last Saturday and has every chance to factor for trainer Brian Lynch, a 14 percent winner with first-time starters, according to Brisnet stats.
No. 11 Paddington
Pedigree: Curlin–Sea Island, by Pulpit
Purchase price: N/A
Trainer: Brad Cox
Paddington has shown speed in the mornings for high-percentage trainer Brad Cox. On April 17 at Keeneland, he traveled a bullet half-mile in 46.8 seconds. And last Sunday, the chestnut colt clocked five furlongs from the Churchill Downs starting gate in 1:00.8. As a son of Curlin out of Gazelle (G1) runner-up Sea Island, Paddington is bred to run long, so sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on debut is unlikely to be his strong suit. But watch out down the road, because Paddington might develop into something special.