OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Marc Keller’s Kentucky homebred Daunt will look to make the grade in Saturday’s Grade 3, $1 million Caesars Jockey Club Derby Invitational, the 12-furlong final leg of the Caesars Turf Triple series for sophomores at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
Trained by Robert Ribaudo, the Nyquist colt showed promise in his juvenile campaign, graduating at second asking last September at Belmont Park ahead of a close third in the Awad in November.
Daunt attended a slow pace set by gate-to-wire winner Emmanuel in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Pennine Ridge in June while making the second start of his sophomore campaign, settling for fifth while defeated just 2 1/2 lengths. He then made a trio of off-the-board starts at Saratoga Race Course in which he was twice hampered at the gate in double-digit fields before making a late run. The dark bay enters from a close fifth in a 1 3/16-mile allowance test on August 25 at the Spa.
Ribaudo said he is looking forward to stretching out Daunt, who is out of the Artie Schiller mare Promotional – a half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning and $2 million earner Marketing Mix.
“A mile and a half was always our intent, if not this year then next year,” Ribaudo said. “His mother was a distance specialist – she was stakes-placed at a mile and a half [2nd in the 2017 Grade 3 Dowager at Keeneland] and his dad won the Derby at a mile and a quarter. He’s definitely bred to go long, so if you’re going to take a shot this is as good a place as any.
“We bought the mare in foal to Nyquist and I’ve got a 2-year-old filly [Quarrel, by Speightstown] out of the mare that’s doing very good. She’s going to run next week,” added Ribaudo, who teamed up with Keller to capture a trio of turf Grade 1s with Grand Couturier [2007-08 Sword Dancer; 2008 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic]. “I think as far as the family goes, we’re in good shape.”
Ribaudo said Daunt hasn’t developed as quickly as he would have hoped.
“Last year, this horse gave me a better feel and I was impressed when he broke his maiden and was third in the stake,” Ribaudo said. “I put him away for the winter thinking Pennine Ridge was the intent and from there he’ll tell us. He didn’t quite mature as much as I was hoping. I still think he’ll be a better 4-year-old but at least we’ll get to see what the mile and a half does for him.”
Daunt will be piloted for the first time Saturday by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, exiting post 5-of-6 at a morning-line assessment of 15-1.
Ribaudo noted that Daunt can be a tricky horse to ride.
“The mid-summer races at Saratoga, the distances weren’t quite suited to him. He had minor issues in those races that most horses might have overcome,” Ribaudo said. “He seems to take it to heart at times when he’s in traffic or in between horses. He’s not the bravest horse in the world, so the smaller field here might help us a little bit.”
The Grade 3 Caesars Jockey Club Derby is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race card, which also features the Grade 3, $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational in Race 7. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
NYRA Press Office