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.
I typically feature only Triple Crown-nominated 3-year-olds in this space, but because I’ve already profiled San Felipe Stakes winner Life Is Good and the connections of both Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner Helium and Gotham Stakes winner Weyburn said they intend to supplement them to the Triple Crown for $6,000, I decided to break with tradition. Ultimately, I chose Weyburn over Helium because I believe he is the better candidate for the 2021 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.
Ability: A homebred of Chiefswood Stables, Weyburn delivered a breakout performance in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes March 6 at Aqueduct.
Making his stakes debut and overlooked at 46.75-1 odds, the Pioneerof the Nile colt pressed pacesetter Freedom Fighter from second and was passed near the top of the stretch by Crowded Trade on his outside. In only his fourth career race while fighting for a victory between horses, Weyburn was racing on the wrong lead until a little before the sixteenth pole when jockey Trevor McCarthy got him to switch leads. He then dug in determinedly and pushed his nose in front from the inside to spring the upset.
“He switched leads in that last eighth and that made him resurge,” McCarthy said. “He was really aggressive and he had a lot of fight in him.”
Weyburn earned a new career-best 105 Equibase Speed Figure and 95 Beyer Speed Figure – perhaps overshadowed by the gaudy numbers Life Is Good earned from both of those speed figure makers in the San Felipe – and BrisNet had him a point higher than Life Is Good with a 104 rating for Weyburn.
The speed figures are encouraging given you only have to go back and watch the Gotham to see Weyburn is far from a finished product with a lot to learn despite flashing both tenacity and potential in his 3-year-old debut.
“He’s kind of a quirky horse. The pony man takes him every morning because he’s tough and wants to wheel. He’s still a little kid,” trainer Jimmy Jerkens said after the Gotham win. “He doesn’t trust everybody. This is just really satisfying because it’s been a tough winter and we loved him from day one. He didn’t run first out and we didn’t know what to think. Thank God we stuck to our guns.”
Weyburn ran fifth in his career debut Oct. 10, 2020, at Belmont Park, where he faded late. He followed with an improved effort when second by 1 ½ lengths Nov. 14 at Aqueduct before earning his first win by 1 ½ lengths on a sloppy track Dec. 5 at Aqueduct. The 105 Equibase Speed Figure for the Gotham was a 15-point jump from Weyburn’s previous best despite coming off a layoff of three months.
Jerkens said the $750,0000, Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 3 would be an option for Weyburn’s next start, but the day after the win he remained noncommittal.
“He looked good and sound, and it looked like he ate up pretty well,” Jerkens said. “He might be a little subdued and tired, but he’ll bounce back quickly. … We’ll nominate to all of the obvious races, but we don’t know what we’re doing yet.”
Weyburn has yet to compete in a race around two turns and still has some mental maturation to do to be considered an elite Derby contender, but there is significant potential for growth in the hands of Jerkens, one of the best horsemen in the sport.
Running style: After a disappointing career debut when he dropped back to sixth early, Weyburn has pressed the pace in his next three races with two wins and a second to show for the new tactics. While the pace was not fast in the Gotham (half-mile in :48.03), the Ontario-bred colt demonstrated the ability to race close to faster fractions in his two previous two races, both in sprints. Weyburn’s combination of tactical speed and stamina, as we’ll discuss in the pedigree section, make him dangerous as the races get longer on the Derby trail.
Connections: Weyburn is a homebred of Robert and Mark Krembil’s Chiefswood Stables, a two-time winner of the Sovereign Award as Canada’s outstanding owner (2017, 2018). Chiefswood won its first Canadian classic race in 2004 when Robert Landry guided Niigon to victory in the Queen’s Plate. A Canadian Hall of Fame rider, Landry now serves as general manager for Chiefswood Stables.
Other Chiefswood standouts include 2013 Woodbine Oaks winner Nipissing and 2018 Breeders’ Stakes winner Neepawa as well as multiple graded stakes winners Tiz a Slam and Yorkton, the latter Weyburn’s older half-sibling.
Robert Krembil is the co-founder and CEO of Trimark Financial Corp.
Jimmy Jerkens is the son of H. Allen Jerkens, a Hall of Fame trainer known affectionately as “The Chief” and also often called “The Giant Killer” in reference to his runners defeating legends such as Kelso, Buckpasser, and Secretariat.
Jimmy Jerkens has carved out quite a career of his own since taking out his license in 1997, winning the Travers Stakes in 2010 with Afleet Express and in 2014 with V.E. Day. Jerkens has amassed 149 stakes wins, 78 graded stakes wins, and 14 Grade 1 wins through March 8.
Wicked Strong, Jerkens lone Derby starter to date, finished fourth in the 2014 run for the roses after winning the Wood Memorial Stakes. Jerkens also trained 2009 Florida Derby victor Quality Road, who most likely would have been favored in that year’s Kentucky Derby but missed the race with an injury. Thomas Jo finished third in the 1998 Belmont Stakes, which is Jerkens’ best finish in a U.S. classic to date. He has won a pair of Breeders’ Cup races with Artie Schiller in the 2004 NetJets Mile and Corinthian in the 2007 Dirt Mile.
Pedigree: Stamina seems to be in abundance in this pedigree as Weyburn is by multiple Grade 1 winner Pioneerof the Nile, runner-up in the 2009 Kentucky Derby and best known as the sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Pioneerof the Nile also is the sire of champion Classic Empire, the 2017 Arkansas Derby winner and Preakness Stakes runner-up.
Weyburn is out of unraced Sunday Affair, by 1992 Belmont Stakes winner and Horse of the Year A.P. Indy. In addition to Weyburn, Sunday Affair has produced multiple graded-stakes-winning turf sprinter Yorkton, by Speightstown, and multiple stakes-placed winner Nipigon, by Niigon. Weyburn’s grandam (maternal grandmother) is Million Gift, by 1989 Horse of the Year and dual classic winner Sunday Silence. Million Gift was winless in two starts.
The bottom half of Weyburn’s pedigree is anchored by third dam (maternal great-grandmother) Maplejinsky, by Nijinsky II. Maplejinsky won the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at 1 ¼ miles in 1988 and produced champion Sky Beauty as well as the dams of 2005 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home and Grade 1 winner Tale of Ekati. Other notable runners under Maplejinsky include Grade 1 winners Point of Entry, Pine Island, Guarana, and Violence.
Weyburn’s fourth dam (maternal great-great grandmother) is 1982 champion sprinter Gold Beauty, by Mr. Prospector, who produced, in addition to Maplejinsky, 1990 English Horse of the Year Dayjur.
Based on pedigree, I’d wager there is a very high chance Weyburn continues to improve at longer distances. In Jerkens’ capable hands, Weyburn is definitely a 3-year-old to keep an eye on as he continues to mature and figure things out.