Catching My Eye: Saturday, June 4, and Sunday, June 5, at Churchill Downs

Profile Picture: Kevin Kilroy

June 7th, 2022

Caddo River has the look of a four-year-old ready to make a serious name for himself. Sunday’s 4 1/2-length victory earned a big speed figure and showed a level of dominance that justifies last year’s Derby dreams.

After winning the 2021 Smarty Jones by 10 lengths, his Kentucky Derby trail stopped short after regressing in the Rebel (G2) and finishing second to Super Stock in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

Trainer Brad Cox brought him back this winter working through his conditions at Oaklawn Park, and after winning two 1 1/16 mile races by more than five lengths in each, Cox cut him back to Churchill Downs’ one-turn mile.

Facing a fairly salty bunch of older horses on Sunday in a 150kOC conditional n4x, Caddo River was sent off as the odds-on favorite, and his backers didn’t lose a drop of sweat watching him position perfectly to stalk and take over. Interesting to see Cox enter him at one turn when he’s proven at two. Maybe this recent effort justifies more ambitious spotting after building up this son of Hard Spun’s confidence. Or maybe, a sprinter he will be. Either way, after winning his fourth out of five mounts, it looks like jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. will be along for the ride.

Walkathon, trained by Ian Wilkes, showed off her acceleration winning the Regret S. (G3) on Saturday at Churchill Downs. After sitting off the frontrunner throughout the race, at the 1/4 pole she put her foes out of contention in 12 powerful strides.

After encountering trouble last time out, she got the perfect trip here and unleashed a run better than in any of her past races to record a big speed figure while bringing jockey Julien Leparoux home for his 1,00th career win at Churchill Downs.

Now 3-for-3 since making her first start on grass, this Twirling Candy three-year-old has a dangerous tactical edge putting her in position to have first run at frontrunners while leaving the closers too much to do to catch her.

Connections of three-year-old Strava would have loved to see him mature into a two-turn horse in the Lexington (G3), a Kentucky Derby prep race. Blinkers were added before that race, but that didn’t do the trick. Instead of facing fellow three-year-olds going 1 1/4 miles the first Saturday in May, Strava was entered into an OC80kn1x going Churchill Downs’ one-turn mile on the first Saturday in June.

And, well, you saw why trainer Dallas Stewart had high hopes for this Into Mischief colt. Chasing a trio of dueling speedsters, he had a great setup to pass those as they tried, which he did around the 1/8 pole, but it was the way he extended the lead so impressively that caught my eye. A powerful drive under first-time rider Johnny Velazquez, tallying his first win of the summer meet. Winning by six lengths surely makes you wonder if they should try two turns again, but it seems to me that he has found his niche.

Four-year-old colt Elite Power stalked nicely and took over in the stretch to win Sunday’s finale. The first foal to race for dam Broadway’s Alibi, this son of Curlin looks primed for a huge racing year after the seven-length maiden victory in his fourth career start.

Bought for $900,000 at the Keeneland 2019 yearling sale, Juddmonte Farms and trainer Bill Mott have to feel good about the patience they exercised preparing Elite Power for Sunday’s win. And the way he did it—wow. He earned an eye-popping speed figure after traveling seven furlongs to beat well-regarded Legionnaire and Cox’s first-time starter Concerted by nine lengths.