Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Grainger County shows tenacity in Gulfstream debut
A weekly series analyzing recent maiden winners poised to join the Road to the Kentucky Derby:
A Jacks or Better Farm homebred, Grainger County showed impressive tenacity to win his debut sprinting 6 furlongs on Thursday at Gulfstream Park. The lone first-time starter in a maiden race for Florida-breds, Grainger County flashed speed from the start with Emisael Jaramillo in the saddle, carving out fractions of :22.79 and :46.14 while being pressed by 7-10 favorite Victory Town.
Grainger County was headed at the top of the stretch and appeared to be on his way to defeat, but the Ralph Nicks trainee battled back gamely down the lane, reassuming command despite weaving around and carrying his head a bit high. The chestnut son of Fort Loudon hit the wire 1 1/2 lengths clear in the time of 1:11.42, a promising effort indicating Grainger County could have a bright future.
Bred by John D. Gunther of Justify fame, Talako wasn’t expected to win his debut traveling a mile on turf at Tampa Bay Downs last Wednesday. Bettors disregarded the son of Karakontie at 22-1, but after settling well off the pace through splits of :24.20, :48.50, and 1:12.94, Talako unleashed a powerful rally under jockey Wilmer Garcia to win going away by three lengths.
Nor was Talako’s late surge an illusion. According to data from Trakus, he flew home the final quarter-mile in a rapid :23.40, with the final furlong elapsing in just :11.57. Conditioned by Jorge Abreu, Talako’s pedigree is slanted strongly toward turf at first glance, though the possibility for success on dirt does exist. Karakontie is the sire of Sam F. Davis (G3) winner Sole Volante, while Talako’s dam Sobinka previously produced Valiancy, a two-time stakes-placed runner on dirt.
Racing for the partnership of John D. Gunther and Eurowest Bloodstock Services, Talako might ultimately prove to be a multi-surface threat. Don’t be surprised if Talako makes the transition to dirt down the road, with the classics a possible goal for this clearly talented colt.