It’s never too early to be scouting Kentucky Derby contenders. In Southern California, maiden races begin in the spring and two of the last three Kentucky Derby winners had already started by this point on the calendar, with California Chrome debuting at 4 ½ furlongs on April 26, 2013 and Nyquist launching his racing career on June 5 last year.

Let’s take a look at some of the promising maiden winners out west so far.

MILTON FREEWATER captured one of the first maiden races of the season in Southern California, proving best by a nose in a 4 ½-furlong test for Cal-breds at Los Alamitos on April 22. The Patricia Harrington-trained colt is bred for longers distance on the top side of his pedigree as a son of multiple Grade 1 winner Creative Cause, who placed in the Preakness (G1) and is a full brother to narrow Belmont Stakes (G1) runner-up Destin, but Milton Freewater’s female side is more slanted toward speed. He’s out of a mare by Swiss Yodeler and related to Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Dancing in the Silks. Milton Freewater has been training steadily for his second career outing.

DUTT BART caught the eye first-time out, breaking his maiden by a 2 ¼-length margin at Los Alamitos on April 29. By freshman sire Empire Way, a full-brother to three-time champion Royal Delta, the Cal-bred colt has a number of stamina influences on the female side of his pedigree and is trained by Mike Harrington.

HOT PERFECTION flashed speed from the gate en route to a smart 3 ½-length debut score at Santa Anita May 6. Trained by John Brocklebank, the Cal-bred colt is by Unusual Heat and hails from a mare by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect. This is the female family of 2003 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Minister Eric.

MR ABILITY, another good-looking debut winner for Empire Way, scored at odds-on for Mike Harrington on May 20. The dark bay flashed to the front at the break and won the 4 ½-furlong race going away by nearly five lengths at Santa Anita. Still waiting for the speedy colt to return to the worktab.

Two-time Kentucky Derby winner Doug O’Neill unveiled SECRET HOUSE at Santa Anita on May 27 and the Tiznow colt stamped himself as one to follow in the 4 ½-furlong event, finishing full of run as he powered clear by 3 ¾ lengths. Out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare, the $125,000 yearling purchase is from the same female family of champion turf horse Tight Spot and is bred to relish longer distances. Secret House is very exciting, indeed.

GREEN WITH EDDIE isn’t bred for longer distances like his stablemate, but he was an impressive first-out winner nonetheless for O’Neill, drawing off by 3 ½ lengths in a 4 ½-furlong Santa Anita maiden on June 3. The California-bred son of Square Eddie could continue to make a major impact in stakes races.

RIGHT HAND MAN was fastest at the start and comfortably led all the way at Santa Anita on June 10, winning by 1 ½ lengths for Jeff Bonde. By Street Boss, the $120,000 weanling purchase is bred for turf on both sides but remains one to watch in upcoming main track engagements.

Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer sent out a potential nice one in SILVER ASSAULT, a front-running winner at Santa Anita on June 25. By freshman sire Maclean’s Music, a son of Kentucky Derby-winning sire Distorted Humor, the gray colt is out of the Deputy Minister mare Spooky Minister, who hails from Ashland (G1) winner Lunar Spook. Silver Assault repelled a serious challenge in upper stretch to win by 1 ¼ lengths and could be any kind going forward.

We’ll continue to monitor any promising 2-year-olds in Southern California.