2019 Kentucky Derby Contender Profile: Mind Control

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

January 2nd, 2019

We’ve long known that Mind Control is a very talented colt over short distances, but on New Year’s Day he took an important step toward the 2019 Kentucky Derby by demonstrating that he can handle a mile and isn’t purely a sprinter.

That was a bit of a question mark prior to Mind Control’s front-running victory in the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct, if only because his tenacious victory in the seven-furlong Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) during the summer at Saratoga—which followed a couple of strong efforts sprinting in maiden races—had stamped him as a precocious youngster with an abundance of early speed, and oftentimes that type of horse has trouble stretching out in distance.
Concern probably stemmed as well from Mind Control’s seventh-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), his lone previous start beyond a mile and by far the most disappointing effort of his career. But in Mind Control’s defense, he had missed a key prep race and then endured a slow start in the Juvenile that left him far off the early pace, a change in tactics that surely cost him any chance at victory. To his credit, he didn’t throw in the towel entirely and actually fought on reasonably well to finish seventh, splitting the field in an effort that could hardly be considered evidence of insufficient stamina.
Besides, from a pedigree perspective, there was no reason to doubt Mind Control's ability to handle a mile, especially a one-turn mile like the Jerome. As a son of the stoutly-bred 2011 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Stay Thirsty, Mind Control figured to receive a nice dose of stamina from his sire, and from all appearances that stamina definitely came into play during the final quarter-mile of the Jerome. After carving out solid if unremarkable fractions on the front end, Mind Control was challenged by the late-running stakes winner Our Braintrust, but dug deep to turn back the challenge and sprint home the final quarter-mile in :25.28 (reasonably good for Aqueduct) and win by 1 ½ lengths.
There will be plenty of additional tests for Mind Control as he continues down the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Technically he still hasn’t won around two turns, which is the next logical obstacle to tackle, and in terms of speed figures he still needs to step up his game a bit—whereas many of the top Derby contenders have already posted Beyers of 92 or higher, Mind Control’s career-best number from the Jerome was only an 88.

Then again, Mind Control is an April foal who might not reach his peak until later this year, and he also has the Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in his corner. Even with two stakes wins under his belt already, Mind Control might still be on the rise for trainer Gregory Sacco and owners Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stables.