The 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park surprisingly became a negative key race, one generating few follow-up winners, but already the 2020 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance from Keeneland is productive.
Juvenile third-place finisher Keepmeinmind returned victorious Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs in the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, rallying past the entire field with a late charge to suggest a bright future on the Triple Crown trail next spring. The 2-year-old son of Laoban caught frontrunning Smiley Sobotka with a sixteenth of a mile remaining for a three-quarter-length victory in the Grade 2 race.
Though the time was moderate — 1 1/16 miles under David Cohen in 1:44.52, slower than Travel Column’s 1:43.98 in the Golden Rod Stakes for 2-year-old fillies an hour earlier — it came under less-than-ideal circumstances.
Slow into stride leaving the gate, as he was in the Juvenile, Keepmeinmind caught little pace to aid his rally. Quarter-mile fractions of :24.11, :48.24, and 1:12.81, mostly set by Smiley Sobotka, left a congested field with few openings to close the five-length gap he spotted the leaders.
So, Cohen waited on favored Keepmeinmind ($6) before angling him out to the center of the track for the stretch. Then the colt did the rest, recording the first victory of his four-race career, only one of which was an actual maiden race. He earned $119,040 to push his career total to $394,320 for his owners, Kevin Moody’s Cypress Creek and Arnold Bennewith.
Following a debut second at Churchill Downs Sept. 2, the Robertino Diodoro trainee was the runner-up in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland behind Essential Quality. He was 3 1/4 lengths behind Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Futurity, a margin cut to two lengths in the Juvenile.
“I told Robertino after his first start that he was going to be our Derby horse. It’s nice when they don’t prove you out to be a liar,” Cohen said. “He was a horse that had the ability but mentally didn’t grow up yet. But he’s finally figured things out.”
The Kentucky Jockey Club was the first stakes victory in Kentucky for Cohen and Diodoro, who have increased their participation in the state in recent years. Both have had considerable success in other regions. Diodoro was the leading trainer at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas this year, and Cohen topped the standings there in 2019 after previously riding successfully in California and New York.
After a short freshening, Keepmeinmind will resume training in Arkansas, most likely aimed toward the stakes series for 3-year-olds at Oaklawn Park or Fair Grounds, Diodoro said this week.
“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.”
Arabian Prince, Swill, King Fury, Sittin On Go, Oncoming Train, Ultimate Badger, and Inspector Frost rounded out the finish in the nine-horse field.
“He was traveling very comfortable, and I think today we were just second-best,” said Smiley Sobotka’s jockey, Julien Leparoux. “He’s improving, so I think he’s a nice horse.”
Sittin On Go, an Albaugh Family Stables runner who was coupled with Smiley Sobotka, lost by five lengths after racing in the rear half of the field along the inside. He won the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes in September at Churchill before a ninth-place finish in the Juvenile.
With the Kentucky Jockey Club a qualifying race on the 2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby, the top four finishers earned points on a 10-4-2-1 scale toward next year’s run for the roses. Keepmeinmind has 18 points after earning four points each in the Breeders’ Futurity and Juvenile.