Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Pletcher saddles two weekend winners

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

January 27th, 2020

Quick quiz:

What do Kentucky Derby winners Country House (2019), Justify (2018), and Always Dreaming (2017) have in common?

Answer: They all waited until Jan. 17 or later to secure their maiden victories.

Foundation is no longer necessary for a horse to vie for victory in the Derby. So long as you peak on the first Saturday in May, it doesn’t matter when you get started—Justify didn’t debut until Feb. 18.

If this trend continues, the 2020 Derby winner should be breaking his maiden about now. Not sure where to look? We’ve got you covered! In this new weekly series, we’ll examine recent maiden winners with the potential to make an impact on the Kentucky Derby.

Here are four names to add to your Kentucky Derby watch list:

Candy Tycoon: The fifth time was the charm for Todd Pletcher’s Candy Tycoon, who appreciated the chance to finally tackle two turns on dirt. With John Velazquez aboard in a 1 1/16-mile maiden event at Gulfstream Park, the son of Twirling Candy led all the way and put his stamina to good use in the homestretch, widening in the final furlong to beat stablemate Gimme Some Mo by four lengths in 1:45.09.

Echo Town: A half-brother to 2017 Kentucky Derby starter J Boys Echo, Echo Town delivered a sharp debut sprinting 6 furlongs on Jan. 18 at Fair Grounds. With Joe Talamo in the saddle for trainer Steve Asmussen, Echo Town settled behind a quick pace, then unleashed a final quarter in :23 1/5 to roar past the leaders and score by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:09.39. As a son of Speightstown, Echo Town has the pedigree of a sprinter/miler, but his fast finish at Fair Grounds bodes well for stretching out in distance.

Market Analysis: He had to work harder than expected, but Pletcher’s Market Analysis made his debut a winning one. Favored at 13-10 in a 7-furlong maiden dash at Gulfstream, this gray son of Honor Code tracked quick fractions of :22.44 and :45.53, sprinted to a clear lead at the top of the stretch, and dug deep to stem off late-charging Attachment Rate in the final strides. Owned by the high-profile partnership of China Horse Club and WinStar Farm, Market Analysis stopped the timer in 1:24.13.

Ready to Roll: Obliterated eight rivals in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race on Friday at Oaklawn, setting the pace before widening with authority in the stretch to win by 7 1/2 lengths. The track was very slow, so his time of 1:47.87—while unremarkable at first glance—is better than it appears. This son of City Zip has questionable breeding for 1 1/4 miles, but did improve while stretching out around two turns and appears to be on the rise for hot trainer Bret Calhoun.