Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Baffert, Pletcher saddle eye-catching debut winners
Trainers Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher have combined to win eight editions of the Kentucky Derby, and their respective stables appear to be packed with talented prospects for the 2021 “Run for the Roses.”
Baffert and Pletcher added to their arsenals by saddling eye-catching maiden winners last week; in fact, Pletcher sent out a pair of winners. Let’s take a look at the newest names on their Derby rosters:
Although Donegal Bay could only finish sixth in his debut sprinting at Saratoga during the summer, the Pletcher-trained gelding took a big step forward when stretching out over a mile on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. Favored at 3-2, Donegal Bay came out running under jockey Luis Saez, posting solid splits of :23.60, :46.52, and 1:10.99 before edging away to win by 4 1/4 lengths in 1:36.58.
Donegal Bay’s affinity for route racing is understandable since he’s a son of budding stamina influence Uncle Mo out of a mare by Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Empire Maker. Donegal Racing campaigns the Juddmonte Farms-bred youngster, who is surely bound for stakes company in the near future.
A son of Protonico out of a mare by Brilliant Speed, Medina Spirit is bred to be an honest and durable two-turn runner. He wasn’t popular at auction, selling for $1,000 as a yearling and for $35,000 as a 2-year-old in training, but the Baffert-trained colt definitely displayed talent when dominating his debut on Friday at Los Alamitos.
Overlooked at 34-10 in the wagering, Medina Spirit flashed speed with Abel Cedillo in the saddle, dueling for the lead through a quarter-mile in :22.20. Thereafter, Medina Spirit gradually edged away through a half-mile in :45.14 to defeat a strung-out field by three lengths, completing the 5 1/2-furlong sprint in 1:02.93.
Previously known as a workmate for Baffert’s early Kentucky Derby favorite Life Is Good, Medina Spirit now looms as a Kentucky Derby contender in his own right.
Sold for $900,000 as a yearling and owned by the partnership of CHC INC. and WinStar Farm, Pletcher’s Prime Factor ran out of his skin on debut at Gulfstream on Saturday. Sent off at 21-10 in a 6-furlong maiden race, the son of Quality Road pressed an opening quarter in :22.27, took command through a half-mile in :45.33, and powered clear under an easy hand ride from Irad Ortiz to score by 8 3/4 lengths.
Produced by the Bernardini mare Haylie Brae, Prime Factor stopped the timer in a quick 1:10.38. With a pedigree geared toward success around two turns, Prime Factor appears to have a bright future on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.