Are you ready for some action on the Road to the Kentucky Derby? The trail resumes on Saturday with the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, the highlight of a “Stars of Tomorrow” card exclusively for 2-year-olds.
Stakes horses, allowance runners and unraced maidens all will be in action over Louisville’s famous oval, but the weekend excitement extends far beyond Churchill Downs. Fair Grounds opens for business on Thursday, and Aqueduct is heating up as the cold season settles in.
I’ve got a quartet of 2-year-old colts on my radar over the next few days, but I’m just as excited to see a couple of well-bred fillies (potential Kentucky Oaks contenders?) make their debuts.
Let’s review six promising prospects to follow on Thanksgiving week:
Friday, Nov. 27
Fair Grounds Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (1 mile and 70 yards, 4:31 p.m. ET)
A cleverly named daughter of 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff champion Stopchargingmaria, Stillchargingmaria was sired by the late Pioneerof the Nile, famous for his Triple Crown-winning son American Pharoah. With this elite pedigree in tow, Stillchargingmaria sold for a lofty $1.9 million as a weanling, so expectations will be high when she debuts on Friday at Fair Grounds. Her work tab hasn’t been overly flashy for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, but Stillchargingmaria is bred to improve with maturity, so look for her to find her best stride in 2021 or beyond.
Saturday, Nov. 28
Aqueduct Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (6 furlongs, 2:15 p.m. ET)
#6 All Mo
A son of successful sire Uncle Mo and a half-brother to the stakes-winning sprinter Fusaichi Red, All Mo was popular at the 2019 Keeneland September yearling sale, bringing a final bid of $900,000. The bay colt has since put together a lengthy work tab for trainer Jonathan Thomas (a 14 percent winner with first-time starters), including a sharp half-mile from the Belmont Park starting gate in :48 1/5 on Nov. 8. Owned by the partnership of Robert LaPenta, Gainesway Stable, and Bridlewood Farm, All Mo arrives for his debut with high expectations and could develop into a Derby contender if he runs well on Saturday.
Churchill Downs Race 2: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles, 2:27 p.m. ET)
It’s safe to say Take Charge Lorin hails from one of the most productive families in racing. A daughter of three-time leading sire Tapit, Take Charge Lorin was produced by the unraced War Front mare Take Charge Tressa, whose dam — Charming — has already foaled Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Omaha Beach and champion 2-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi. Charming, in turn, was produced by the three-time Grade 1-winning router Take Charge Lady, best known as the dam of champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge and Florida Derby (G1) winner Take Charge Indy.
With this stellar pedigree in her corner, Take Charge Lorin has great value as a broodmare, even if she fails to show much on the track. A Willis Horton Racing homebred, Take Charge Lorin has been breezing steadily at Churchill Downs for trainer Dallas Stewart, flashing signs of speed along the way. The 1 1/16-mile distance of Saturday’s race should be right up her alley, so I’m curious to see how Take Charge Lorin performs.
Churchill Downs Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles, 2:27 p.m. ET)
Burrow showed promise in his debut racing 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland, carving out the pace before finishing clearly second best, and there are plenty of reasons to believe he’ll improve on Saturday. A son of Candy Ride out of the Menifee mare Letgomyecho, Burrow is a half-brother to H. Allen Jerkens (G1) winner Echo Town and Gotham (G3) winner J Boys Echo, two late-developing colts who peaked as 3-year-olds. Just as important, trainer Brad Cox strikes at a 27 percent rate with second-time starters and at a 37 percent rate with horses running long for the second time, suggesting Burrow is poised for a big step forward at Churchill Downs.
Owned by Fox Hill Farms and trained by Larry Jones, Galilee is bred top and bottom to be a star. Sold for $475,000 as a yearling, the bay colt is a son of Pioneerof the Nile (the sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah) out of the Beau Genius mare Pretty ‘n Smart, previously the dam of four stakes winners led by Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) hero Cupid. Galilee has shown talent in the mornings, breezing a bullet 5 furlongs in :59 4/5 on Nov. 23 at Churchill Downs, so it’s not a stretch to believe he can follow his siblings with success at the stakes level.
Churchill Downs Race 12: Maiden Special Weight (7 furlong, 6:24 p.m. ET)
#12 Persian Empire
Sold for $260,000 as a yearling, Persian Empire is a son of Belmont Stakes (G1) champion Empire Maker out of the Malibu Moon mare More Chocolate, winner of the La Canada (G2) and three times placed against Grade 1 company. This is a pedigree geared sharply toward success running long, so Persian Empire probably won’t fire his best shot sprinting 7 furlongs on Saturday, especially considering trainer D. Wayne Lukas rarely wins with first-time starters. But down the road, Persian Empire has the potential to develop into a classy prospect.