Lost in the wash of Keeneland’s opening day of its Spring Meet and Saturday’s three key Kentucky Derby preps across the country was a milestone on the racing calendar. Keeneland opened its 2021 Spring Meet with the first 2-year-old race of 2021.
That honor went to Gulfstream Park last year. As one of the few tracks open during the depths of the pandemic, it played host to the year’s inaugural 2-year-old race on April 16. And like those races last year, the two 4 ½-furlong dashes featured two Wesley Ward youngsters as favorites.
Ward is considered one of the top 2-year-old trainers in the country and a fixture at Keeneland’s Spring Meet. There, he holds court turning his early juveniles loose for their career debuts. During the pandemic last spring, he moved his base to Gulfstream.
And like those two 2020 Gulfstream races, Ward’s charges wound up beaten favorites in the first 2-year-old races. In Keeneland’s first race, for 2-year-old fillies, Bohemian Frost (9/5) beat Ward’s 4/5 favored Dream Fly by 3 ½ lengths. Bohemian Frost – a daughter of three-time Grade 1 champion Frosted – paid $5.80.
First 2-year-old race cooks up an upset
Trained by John Ennis, Bohemian Frost earned a respectable 88 Equibase Speed Figure and $36,000 for her role as the first 2-year-old winner of 2021.
Two races later, in another 2-year-old maiden fillies sprint, Magniloquent and Joel Rosario went off as the 7/5 favorite. Not only didn’t this Ward charge hit the board, but Magniloquent finished a well-beaten seventh – 15 ¼ lengths back.
“Magniloquent tracked the pace early three wide, was in the three path into the lane and was empty in the stretch,” read the Equibase chart.
American Bound became winner’s circle-bound
Instead, 13/1 American Bound joined Bohemian Frost as debut maiden breakers. The daughter of American Freedom held of Bode by You by 1 ½ lengths, clocking an 86 Equibase along the way. Jockey Luis Saez brought American Bound home in 52.01 seconds, slightly faster than Bohemian Frost’s 52.15 seconds for the same 4 ½ furlongs.
He and trainer Joe Sharp also brought home a heftier payday for bettors. American Bound paid $27.80 on a $2 win wager.
The first juvenile races are slight bellwethers for races down the line. Ward does send juveniles to Royal Ascot and this could be a glimpse of who gets the nod. But these early juvenile races are likely to bear more fruit and attention at the fall juvenile stakes races at Del Mar, Belmont Park and Santa Anita.
Age plays a significant factor in early juvenile races
One key point needs mentioning here. Every 2-year-old you see now is an early foal, one born in the first quarter or change of 2019. While all Thoroughbreds turn a year older on January 1, all 2-year-olds must have reached their actual second birthday to race. Therefore, every filly in both races was foaled by at least April 2, 2019. This means you’re seeing an early crop of 2-year-olds.
For example, American Bound was foaled Feb. 19, 2019. Bohemian Frost entered the world March 1, 2019. Many horseplayers consider this when betting Kentucky Derby favorites, giving the edge to older 3-year-olds foaled in the first quarter due to maturity.
Later, however, Ward did hit the board with a flourish. His Chasing Artie and Twenty Carat scored a nice daily double when they went back-to-back in a pair of stakes. Chasing Artie won the Palisades Turf Sprint, followed by Twenty Carat capturing the Grade 3 Beaumont Stakes.