Keepmeinmind, who was made the 2-1 favorite after a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I) 22 days ago, rallied down the middle of the stretch from last to run down Smiley Sobotka and win Saturday’s 94th running of the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs by three-quarters of lengths.
Keepmeinmind, owned by Kevin Moody’s Cypress Creek LLC and Arnold Bennewith, clocked 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:44.52, earned $119,040 and collected 10 points as part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve” series, which offered points on a scale of 10-4-2-1 to the Top 4 finishers as a “Prep Season” race.
It also was the first win of Keepmeinmind’s brief career.
David Cohen rode the winner for trainer Robertino Diodoro.
“He showed his talent today,” said Diodoro, who collected his first graded stakes win in the U.S. since Inside Straight won the 2017 Oaklawn Handicap (GII). “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.”
Smiley Sobotka, the less-accomplished half of the Albaugh Family Stables-owned and Dale Romans-trained entry with Iroquois (GIII) winner Sittin On Go, broke fastest of all and led the field of nine 2-year-olds into the first turn and down the backstretch through quarter-mile fractions of :24.11 and :48.24 with longshot Oncoming Train and King Fury in close pursuit. Keepmeinmind was last of all about eight lengths behind.
King Fury poked his head in front leaving the far turn but Smiley Sobotka cut the corner smartly and regained the lead in upper stretch. All the while, a patient Cohen had plenty of horse beneath him with a quarter-mile to run and he swung Keepmeinmind out from last for his late run. As Smiley Sobotka plugged away on the lead, Keepmeinmind closed with a rush while seven-wide and caught the eventual runner-up with about 50 yards to the finish.
“He’s had a lot of rough trips from the start of his career,” said Cohen, who won his first graded stakes race at Churchill Downs. “The slow pace today actually worked out for him; he didn’t seem to mind it at all. We saved ground going into the first turn and got into a nice rhythm. I let him gather himself up around the turn and didn’t want to swing too wide.”
Keepmeinmind paid $6, $3.20 and $2.60. Smiley Sobotka, under Julien Leparoux, paid $4 and $3. Arabian Prince was another 1 ¾ lengths back in third and returned $4.40 to show with Tyler Gaffalione aboard.
It was another two lengths back to Swill in fourth, who was followed by King Fury, Sittin On Go, Oncoming Train, Ultimate Badger and Inspector Frost.
Overall, Keepmeinmind has a record of 1-2-1 in four starts and earnings of $394,320. Three weeks ago at Keeneland, he rallied to run third two lengths back of winner Essential Quality and runner-up Hot Rod Charlie, in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI). Before that, he finished second to Essential Quality in the $400,000 Breeders’ Futurity (GI).
Overall, Keepmeinmind has 18 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard that will determine the preference list for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby (GI) on May 1.
After a brief break at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., Keepmeinmind will be shipped to Oaklawn Park in Arkansas for the winter to begin preparations for his 3-year-old campaign.
“He’s just growing into himself,” Cohen said. “I told Robertino this would be our Derby horse. Mentally he hasn’t grown up yet in his previous starts. He’s starting to put it all together.”
Keepmeinmind, a son of Laoban out of the Victory Gallop mare Inclination, was bred in Kentucky by Southern Equine Stables LLC.
The Kentucky Jockey Club is named in honor of the holding company that operated Churchill Downs at the time of the race’s inaugural running in 1920. In recent years, the Kentucky Jockey Club produced Kentucky Derby winners in WinStar Farm’s Super Saver, who won both races for trainer Todd Pletcher in 2009 and ’10, and Mike Pegram’s Real Quiet, the runner-up in the 1997 Kentucky Jockey Club who returned to win the Derby for trainer Bob Baffert the following spring.
Racing at Churchill Downs continues Sunday at 1 p.m. ET with an 11-race card for closing day of the Fall Meet. There will be a mandatory payout in the 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot (Races 6-11), which features a carryover of $52,666.
KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB QUOTES
David Cohen, jockey of KEEPMEINMIND (winner): “He’s had a lot of rough trips from the start of his career. The slow pace today actually worked out for him; he didn’t seem to mind it at all. We saved ground going into the first turn and got into a nice rhythm. I let him gather himself up around the turn and didn’t want to swing too wide. He’s just growing into himself. I told Robertino this would be our Derby horse. Mentally he hasn’t grown up yet in his previous starts. He’s starting to put it all together.”
Robertino Diodoro, trainer of KEEPMEINMIND (winner): “He showed his talent today. 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.”
Julien Leparoux., jockey of SMILEY SOBOTKA (runner-up): “We set a really nice pace on the lead and he fought hard through the stretch. I thought he ran a really good effort.”
Dallas Stewart, trainer of ARABIAN PRINCE (third): “I thought he ran a really good race but probably needs more ground than today. That’s a promising sign for his 3-year-old year.”