Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Amani’s Eagle thrives with distance at Churchill Downs
A weekly series analyzing recent maiden winners poised to join the Road to the Kentucky Derby:
Stamina doesn’t appear to be an issue for Amani’s Eagle. A son of Triple Crown champion American Pharoah out of the Chilean-bred mare Amani, Amani’s Eagle showed promise in his first three starts—hitting the board each time—but improved when stretching out over 1 3/16 miles in a Saturday maiden race at Churchill Downs.
With Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the saddle, Amani’s Eagle sprinted straight to the front, carved out modest fractions of :24.10, :48.35, and 1:13.19, and widened steadily down the lane to score by two lengths in 1:57.64. Though many of American Pharoah’s foals have thrived on turf, Amani’s Eagle appears to be emulating his sire with an affinity for the main track. If his maiden win is any indication, Amani’s Eagle has turned a corner and can keep progressing for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Sumaya U.S. Stable.
A Gelfenstein Farm homebred, Summer Kid ran deceptively well in his debut going a mile at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 11, flashing tactical speed in a fast-paced event before weakening slightly to finish fourth. Following a 5-month layoff, Summer Kid returned a stronger horse, dominating a similar one-mile maiden race at Gulfstream on June 21.
With Edgard Zayas in the saddle for trainer Gustavo Delgado, Summer Kid was always prominent through splits of :23.23 and :45.73 before sweeping decisively to the front through 6 furlongs in 1:10.43. He continued to maintain a strong pace down the stretch, flying to the finish line in a snappy 1:35.71 despite being eased through the final sixteenth of a mile.
Considering Summer Kid’s sire (Lemon Drop Kid) and damsire (Summer Bird) both won the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes (G1), Summer Kid figures to show further improvement when stretching out around two turns. A Triple Crown nominee, this chestnut colt is poised to enjoy a strong summer.
After finishing sixth in his debut sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, Vertical Threat showed significant improvement while transitioning to the Los Alamitos dirt track on Saturday. Facing half a dozen rivals in a 6-furlong dash, Vertical Threat settled two lengths behind an opening quarter in :21.63, moved up strongly to take command through a half-mile in :44.37, and drew clear with authority to score by six lengths in 1:08.71.
Trained by Richard Baltas on behalf of MyRacehorse.com and Slam Dunk Racing, Vertical Threat is a son of Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) runner-up Tapiture out of Viola Blew By, a daughter of the graded stakes-winning sprinter Omega Code. It’s easy to see why Vertical Threat improved while trying dirt, and though his pedigree is geared toward sprints and miles, raw talent can overcome a lot and Vertical Threat clearly has some speed.