It’s not every day that a half-sibling to a Kentucky Derby winner debuts. But racing fans will enjoy just such a treat on Saturday when Churchill Downs hosts a “Stars of Tomorrow” card devoted exclusively to juvenile racing.
The Stars of Tomorrow action accounts for much of this week’s Prospect Watch coverage. But I also highlight a couple of promising youngsters entered to race at Aqueduct.
Aqueduct Race 1: Maiden special weight (six furlongs, 11:50 p.m. EST)
No. 1 Glen Echo
Pedigree: Gun Runner–Ana Luisa, by Elusive Quality
Purchase price: $150,000
Trainer: Shug McGaughey
In 2013, Shug McGaughey won the Kentucky Derby with Orb, who had broken his maiden at Aqueduct the previous fall. Might history repeat itself with McGaughey’s promising colt Glen Echo?
A son of ultra-hot sire Gun Runner (who is siring 32 percent winners from first-time starters), Glen Echo was produced by the Elusive Quality mare Ana Luisa, a two-time group stakes winner in her native Brazil. With only six workouts under his belt, Glen Echo probably isn’t cranked for a peak performance on debut. But he has shown at least a bit of speed (clocking three furlongs in a bullet 36.6 seconds at Belmont Park last month), so it is possible Glen Echo has long-term potential.
No. 2 Never Change
Pedigree: Uncle Mo–Danette, by Curlin
Purchase price: N/A
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Conditioned by two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, Never Change is a son of juvenile champion and successful sire Uncle Mo out of Danette, a daughter of noted stamina influence Curlin. Danette was good enough to place third in the Chandelier (G1) as a juvenile, so any way you slice it, Never Change has the pedigree to be a Kentucky Derby type.
Never Change has put together a lengthy work tab at Belmont Park in preparation for his debut, culminating with five furlongs in 1:01.2. The Repole Stable homebred is well worth following, and a victory on Saturday could launch him on to the Triple Crown trail.
Churchill Downs Race 4: Maiden special weight (seven furlongs, 2:27 p.m.)
No. 13 Beyond Perfection
Pedigree: Curlin–Above Perfection, by In Excess
Purchase price: N/A
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Few broodmares can boast as impressive a production record as Above Perfections. Her foals to date include Spinaway (G1) winner Hot Dixie Chick, Demoiselle (G2) heroine Positive Spirit and – most significantly – 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.
It is hard to say whether Beyond Perfection can live up to this lofty heritage, but as a daughter of elite sire Curlin (known for siring long-winded dirt stars), Beyond Perfection has the pedigree to develop into a Kentucky Oaks type. She has shown speed in the mornings and picks up hot jockey Joel Rosario for her debut, stamping Beyond Perfection as one of the most exciting fillies entered to race this week.
Churchill Downs Race 6: Maiden special weight (seven furlongs, 3:27 p.m.)
No. 3 Vigano
Pedigree: Honor Code–Stomping, by Dixieland Band
Purchase price: $200,000
Trainer: Nick Zito
A son of champion and successful young sire Honor Code, Vigano hails from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito. From a pedigree perspective, the dark bay colt is bred to be a two-turn dirt star; Honor Code’s progeny improve with distance, while dam Stomping already has foaled Cyber Secret, winner of the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and Razorback Handicap (G3) running 1 1/16 miles or farther.
Zito rarely saddles winning first-time starters, so Vigano is unlikely to be cranked for a peak effort on debut. But he has turned in encouraging half-mile workouts on the Kentucky circuit, so there is a chance Vigano can develop into a player on the Kentucky Derby trail. Remembert, Zito has won the Derby twice with Strike the Gold (1991) and Go for Gin (1994).
No. 7 Halfmoon
Pedigree: Malibu Moon–Salty Strike, by Smart Strike
Purchase price: $65,000
Trainer: Brendan Walsh
Malibu Moon is the sire of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb, and Smart Strike (the sire of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin) is the dam sire of 2009 Kentucky Derby hero Mine That Bird. So it must be safe to say Halfmoon is bred to relish classic distances.
Halfmoon’s pedigree gets even better when you consider that he was produced by Salty Strike, a four-time stakes winner at Churchill Downs who counted the Dogwood (G3) among her signature triumphs. Halfmoon thus is bred to love the Kentucky Derby’s host track, so do not be surprised if the Brendan Walsh trainee eventually joins the Road to the Kentucky Derby. He has put together a lengthy work tab in preparation for his debut and looks like an intriguing colt.