Q-Racing Blog: Given a Second Chance

The Maiden Stakes often offers a window to future top runners.

Q-Racing Journal

The Maiden Stakes often offers a window to the future’s top runners.

The $111,000 Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes on February 21, despite its name, is not actually a stakes race. Yet it is still an important race because it gives a lot of promising 3-year-olds another chance to race at a sizable purse. More importantly, it reveals horses that may become horses to watch in future stakes.

The conditions of the race are written so that the 350-yard race is limited to horses that were maidens on December 1 of their 2-year-old season.

If a horse had physical issues that needed attention, then that horse’s connections can take care of the issue and the horse may still be able to come back and compete in the Maiden Stakes trials. If a horse just took a longer time than his peers to mature and figure out this racing thing, then the horse may be pointed at the Maiden Stakes.

The Maiden Stakes has produced winners that have gone on to impact stakes races, proving the Maiden Stakes model works.

Donna King’s homebred LDS Dash For Dylan, who won the 2005 running, was a big –
make that very big – gelding that went on to win that years Bayer Legend Derby Challenge Championship (G1) and finish fourth in that year’s Champion of Champions (G1) behind Ocean Runaway, Like Frankie And Me and Apollitical Time.

The following year he was second by a nose to Be A Bono in the $110,200 Go Man Go Handicap (G1) and third to Apollitical Time and Strawkins in the $200,000 Los Alamitos Invitational Championship (G1) before traveling to Lone Star Park to notch his third-straight Grade 1 placing in the MBNA America Challenge Championship.

LDS Dash For Dylan won six stakes races and competed in more than 20 stakes races for trainer Bret Vickery.

Royal Proclamation won the 2009 Maiden Stakes for owner/breeders J. Garvan Kelly and Nancy Yearsley. The Maiden Stakes win started a three-race winning streak that concluded with his win in the $192,300 El Primero Del Ano Derby (G2). Trainer Paul Jones then took him to Ruidoso Downs and he qualified for the $480,857 Rainbow Derby (G1) and finished a close third in the $625,130 All American Derby (G1).

Jones is back this year with three of the four-fastest qualifiers. He sends out co-fastest qualifiers Dunright Corona and Flay along with fourth-fastest qualifier Girls On Fire. They all fit the typical Maiden Stakes runner’s profile.

Dunright Corona and Flay each were timed in :17.463 on a night with a strong, yet consistent, tailwind of about 35 miles per hour.

Thomas Bradbury and Lila Bradbury’s Dunright Corona made his sixth start in the Maiden Stakes trials and won his maiden with a three-quarter-length trial win. He drew the outside post position, stayed clear of any problems and won with a strong hand ride from Oscar Peinado.

“He is starting to mature now,” Jones said.

Owned by Jones with Thompson Racing, Flay is a half brother to champion and $1.6 million-earner Foose, who thrives as an important sire. Flay was impressive in his Maiden Stakes trial when he flew down the rail to win by 1 1/4 lengths. He is sired by the Favorite Trick (TB) son Favorite Cartel and looks like added distance will fit his style.

“I think he can finish better than Foose,” Jones said. “He needed time. He has a really good kick on the end and is a nice looking horse.”

Flay made his debut on December 4, just after the December 1 Maiden Stakes deadline, and scored by one-half length over 300 yards as the odds-on choice. He was then a troubled second in his next start before dominating his Maiden Stakes trial.

Mimi Wells’ homebred Girls On Fire made three starts by July and then needed some time off. Upon her return, she won her maiden by 1 1/4 lengths on January 2 and was second to Dunright Corona in their trial.

“She is a filly that is maturing. We gave her a little time off and she has come back,” Jones said.

Jones, the 14-time champion trainer, likes the Maiden Stakes. “It really gives good horses a second chance. It always has good horses,” Jones said.

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