Can Keepmeinmind Stay in the 2021 Kentucky Derby Picture?

Keepmeinmind, with David Cohen up, won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 28 to earn 10 qualifying points for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. (Coady Photography)

Making the Grade, which will run through the 2021 Triple Crown races, focuses on the winners or top performers of the key races, usually from the previous weekend, who could make an impact on the Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey), and pedigree.

This week we take a closer look at Keepmeinmind, winner of the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs.

One start after running third in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, Keepmeinmind earned his first career win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and solidified his credentials as a contender for the 2021 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. Let’s take a closer look at this promising colt.


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Sire (Father): Laoban

Dam (Mother): Inclination, by Victory Gallop

Owners: Cypress Creek and Arnold Bennewith 

Breeder: Southern Equine Stables (Ky.)

Trainer: Robertino Diodoro

Ability: Never off the board in four career starts and twice Grade 1-placed, Keepminmind was nonetheless winless entering the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs. That changed in about 30 seconds as Keepmeinmind rallied from last after three-quarters of a mile to win the 1 1/16-mile race by three-quarters of a length as the 2-1 favorite.

The Kentucky Jockey Club win followed a debut runner-up finish going one mile Sept. 2 at Churchill, a second at 52.70-1 odds in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity Oct. 3 at Keeneland, and his third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Keepmeinmind earned a career-best 100 Equibase Speed Figure and 92 Beyer Speed Figure for his top-three finish in the Juvenile. Equibase had him regressing to a 91 for the Kentucky Jockey Club with his Beyer an even less inspiring 79. Based upon those numbers, Keepmeinmind has some improving to do in the coming months to be a major player on the Triple Crown trail.

On the bright side, the Laoban colt owns a graded stakes win on the track that hosts the Kentucky Derby, he’s yet run a bad race in four starts, and thus far stamina seems to be no issue as he continues to finish well.

“He showed his talent [in the Kentucky Jockey Club],” winning trainer Robertino 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.”

Provided he stays happy and healthy, I would expect Keepmeinmind to continue to pick up points and cash checks in races on the road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby by passing horses late. He has a chance to win a big race or two along the way and with a step or two of progress could develop into a serious 3-year-old.

Running style: Keepmeinmind is a deep closer who prefers rate near the back of the field and then make one sustained late rally. That running style has not been especially effective in the Derby as the only winner to rally from well off the pace in the last seven editions was Country House in 2019, and he won via the disqualification of front-running Maximum Security who crossed the finish line first. Each of the other six winners was third or better after the first quarter-mile. That’s not to say closers can’t win, but it’s easier to control your own fate and avoid traffic with a trip near the front, while closers often are left to pick up a minor share as was the case with recent runners-up Commanding Curve (2014), Exaggerator (2016), and Lookin At Lee (2017).

Winning connections at Churchill. (Coady Photography)

Connections: Keepmeinmind is owned by the partnership of Cypress Creek and Arnold Bennewith and is the first graded stakes winner for both owners.

Trainer Robertino Diodoro has amassed more than 2,500 victories since taking out his trainer’s license in 1995. Keepmeinmind gave him his ninth graded stakes win in the Kentucky Jockey Club and first since Sky Promise won the British Columbia Derby in September 2018. A native of Canada, where he began his training career, Diodoro comes from a racing family and has amassed 172 stakes wins through Nov. 30.

Jockey David Cohen earned his first Churchill Downs graded stakes in the Kentucky Jockey Club. He has won more than 1,500 races since taking out his jockey’s license in 2004, including a dead-heat victory aboard Golden Ticket in the 2012 Travers Stakes. He also won a pair of Grade/Group 1 races with Proud Tower Too. Cohen won 114 races to earn’s Comeback Jockey of the Year in 2018; he had been away from racing for three years after a 2014 leg fracture and the deaths of his father and sister.

Keepmeinmind would be the first Kentucky Derby starter for his connections.

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Pedigree: Keepmeinmind is from the first crop of 2016 Jim Dandy Stakes winner Laoban, by Uncle Mo. Laoban is off to a nice start with Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes winner Simply Ravishing, stakes winner Laobanonaprayer, and Grade 2-placed Ava’s Grace from his first crop to hit the track.

Keepmeinmind is out of unraced Inclination, by 1998 Belmont Stakes winner and champion Victory Gallop. Inclination has produced eight winners from 10 starters to date, including Grade 2-placed sprinter In Jack’s Memory, by Malibu Moon. His grandam (maternal grandmother), Lady Blockbuster, won a stakes sprinting and finished third in the 1991 Fair Grounds Oaks at 1 1/16 miles. Lady Blockbuster produced a pair of stakes winners, including graded stakes winner Mellow Fellow.

While this pedigree feels a bit light when it comes to stamina, it’s pretty clear that Diodoro viewed Keepmeinmind as a two-turn horse from the outset. He started out in a one-mile race and he’s now a Grade 2 winner at 1 1/16 miles. In rewatching his starts, Keepmeinmind does not look like a horse who should have any trouble as the races get longer on the Derby trail. The bigger hurdle at this point is he needs to prove he can take another step and run significantly faster than he has to date.

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