Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Baffert’s Hozier prevails in route debut
But Hozier was far from the only eye-catching winner of the week. Let’s look back on the last seven days of racing and review a handful of the most notable newcomers to the Kentucky Derby scene:
It’s safe to say Hozier disappointed in his debut sprinting six furlongs at Santa Anita—sent off at 19-10, the son of Pioneerof the Nile weakened steadily to finish fourth by 14 lengths against stablemate Concert Tour.
But Hozier casually shrugged off this defeat when stretching out over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita. After tracking fractions of :23.92, :47.87, and 1:12.05 from third place, Hozier took aim at stablemate Fenway and resiliently wore down his companion to score by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:44.64. It was a night and day difference compared to Hozier’s debut.
Produced by the multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter Merry Meadow, Hozier boasts a pedigree combining speed with stamina, which was evident in his maiden-breaking performance. It remains to be seen where the $625,000 yearling purchase will run next, though a foray on the Road to the Kentucky Derby wouldn’t come as a surprise.
Although not a current Triple Crown nominee, Quantum Leap could certainly be bound for stakes company after battling to victory in a 1 1/8-mile maiden race on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
After failing to seriously threaten in his first two starts sprinting, the Ian Wilkes trainee appreciated the chance to stretch out around two turns at Gulfstream Park. After pressing controlled splits of :23.99, :48.28, and 1:13.20 while racing outside of rivals, Quantum Leap displayed impressive tenacity to run down pacesetting favorite Ghazaaly and prevail by a neck in 1:51.45.
Quantum Leap is a son of Pioneerof the Nile (the sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah) out of a mare by Distorted Humor, whose best runners include Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide and Belmont (G1) hero Drosselmeyer. It’s no wonder why Quantum Leap improved while tackling 1 1/8 miles—he’s bred to relish route racing.
After finishing third in a tough maiden sprint at Fair Grounds to kick off his career, Warrant graduated in determined fashion over the same track last Tuesday. The Brad Cox runner was always prominent while tracking splits of :22.74 and :46.31 set by front-running favorite Wild for Wycliff, and despite racing greenly down the lane—drifting out under urging—Warrant fought on to win the six-furlong sprint by a neck in 1:10.76.
A son of hot young sire Constitution, Warrant is a half-brother to Ms Locust Point, a durable graded stakes-winning sprinter. There’s quite a bit of speed in Warrant’s pedigree, so it remains to be seen how he’ll handle stretching out around two turns. But on talent alone, Warrant warrants respect.