LOUISVILLE, KY – Much like his sire Laoban, Keepmeinmind waited for a major graded stakes to break his maiden when he rallied to win Saturday’s $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs.
Most recently seen finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Keepmeinmind was the 2/1 favorite as he broke from post 4 under David Cohen and took up his usual spot at the rear of the field.
Smiley Sobotka dueled up front with King Fury and Oncoming Train through opening fractions of :24.11, :48.24, and 1:12.81, then shook free of the latter two as they hit the 1/4 pole.
Tipped out at the same point to run wide and in the clear, Keepmeinmind gobbled up ground down the middle of the course and challenged near the 1/8 pole.
Smiley Sobotka fought back but the Robertino Diodoro trainee proved too tough, crossing 3/4 of a length the better while completing the 1 1/16-mile fast dirt route in 1:44.52.
“He’s had a lot of rough trips from the start of his career,” Cohen said. “The slow pace today actually worked out for him; he didn’t seem to mind it at all. We saved ground going into the first turn and got into a nice rhythm. I let him gather himself up around the turn and didn’t want to swing too wide. He’s just growing into himself. I told Robertino this would be our Derby horse. Mentally, he hasn’t grown up yet in his previous starts. He’s starting to put it all together.”
Smiley Sobotka remained 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Arabian Prince, who fought his way up to third after lingering with the eventual winner earlier in the race.
Swill, King Fury, Sittin On Go, Oncoming Train, Ultimate Badger, and Inspector Frost completed the order of finish.
The Kentucky Jockey Club is part of the Road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Keepmeinmind earned 10 points for the win, with Smiley Sobotka receiving 4 for second, Arabian Prince 2 for third, and Swill 1 for fourth.
Keepmeinmind’s win improved his record to 4-1-2-1 with $394,320 earned for co-owners Cypress Creek and Arnold Bennewith.
“He showed his talent today,” Diodoro said. “He’s had some tough trips previously and even though he was a maiden, we knew he’d fit with this field. I think he’ll be a horse that’ll run all day.”
Keepmeinmind returned $6 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.60 to show. Smiley Sobotka brought back $4 to place and $3 to show, while Arabian Prince paid $4.40 to show.