Big winners and up-and-coming horses are hyped daily as the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks trails head into 2018. However, recent history tells us that the lesser-known horses can sometimes jump up and surprise. Last year, Irap won the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes as a maiden, while last month, Good Magic pulled off a big victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile without recording a win before the race. Also, who can forget the 2016 Jim Dandy Stakes, where Laoban took the field wire to wire to win at big odds? The point being: this time of year, having talent can sometimes be more important than having a win on your resume. Keep your eye out for these five sneaky maidens who could impact the Kentucky Derby and Oaks trails if they continue to develop:
1. Midnight Bisou
Dream Tree took home the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes, but prior to that race, Midnight Bisou was twice within a nose of beating her. Both matchups came at sprint distances, and each time, Midnight Bisou galloped out in front after the wire. Logic dictates that Midnight Bisou should be very tough when stretching out for the first time. Dream Tree is now a top-10 Kentucky Oaks prospect, but Midnight Bisou could prove herself to be the better of the two when running at longer distance.
Transgress debuted on the same day at Churchill Downs as his stablemate Sporting Chance, and it was actually Transgress who was more impressive. In his debut, Transgress had a brutal trip but was not discouraged and kept trying, eventually finishing second behind a nice horse in Free Drop Billy. Transgress came out of his debut with a minor injury and missed the summer of racing, but he has had steady works at Churchill Downs and Oaklawn Park lately, and his Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is excited about this colt.
He was all the rage when making his debut at Del Mar over the summer after several sharp clockers raved about his workouts. He turned for home and looked like a winner in his first race, but he was over-confidently ridden and ended up getting caught at the wire, even though he looked to have plenty left in the tank if he’d been asked for more run. A small injury forced him to miss some training, but he’s been working out steadily, which could mean that he’s ready for a start soon. Trainer Bob Baffert is loaded with juveniles at this point, and it would not be surprising if this horse joined his already-stacked group.
4. He Takes Charge
This son of Tapit made his debut over the summer at Saratoga on the turf and showed some talent, but he really seemed to wake up in his dirt debut at Gulfstream Park. He finished second behind a nice Pletcher horse in Navistar, but he was closing like a horse that should like going longer. His race was a one-turn mile, and trainer Mark Casse should be excited to stretch him out to two turns in his next race. The foundation has been laid with this horse, and his breeding is something to get excited about.
You can expect to see him in Kentucky Derby prep races at Fair Grounds all winter long. Givemeaminit is zero-for-five, but he’s run just once in a maiden special weight. His other four starts came in graded stakes events, including a third-place effort in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. Recently, he seems to have lost a little bit of form, but that long Fair Grounds stretch run should suit his running style fairly well. Trainer Dallas Stewart will do everything he can to get this horse to the Derby, and Stewart has a knack for hitting the board with big prices in the Triple Crown races.