SARATOGA SPRINGS — The colt’s name is in the imperative form, without being pushy.
Just a friendly reminder not to forget about him.
Considering Keepmeinmind has just one victory from 10 career starts and none in six starts this year, he could be easy to overlook in the 152nd Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.
He keeps hitting all the big races, though, and although he was still a cut below 3-year-old colt division leader Essential Quality in the Jim Dandy on July 31, it was a pretty small cut. So his connections are rolling into the Travers still trying to find the winner’s circle for the first time since November, but confident that Keepmeinmind will be right there in contention as the field approaches the wire.
“His last two races have been his better races,” trainer Robertino Diodoro said on Monday. “He still needs to improve a couple more notches to beat a horse like Essential Quality, but ever since the Jim Dandy, he’s showing all the signs that there’s no reason he can’t. We’re pretty excited about Saturday, to be honest.”
The Travers field will be drawn at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday.
In the Jim Dandy, Keepmeinmind ran stride for stride with Essential Quality for much of the stretch and was on equal terms as they passed the sixteenth pole.
Essential Quality, whose victories usually come by small margins, found just enough momentum in the closing strides to hold off Keepmeinmind by a half-length.
Prior to the Jim Dandy, Keepmeinmind also lost by a half-length in the Ohio Derby while finishing third behind Masqueparade and King Fury, both of whom are expected to run in the Travers.
Jockey Joel Rosario replaced David Cohen, who had ridden Keepmeinmind for eight of his first nine starts going back to September of last year, for the Jim Dandy, and will get the mount again in the Travers.
“Yeah, I thought we had a big shot at the sixteenth pole,” Diodoro said. “The one thing that I like coming out of the race is that was the first time Joel had rode the horse, and he made comments right away that there were a couple things he would’ve done different if he had known the horse.
“I know he’s feeling pretty confident about the horse, and coming out of the race, we couldn’t ask for the horse to be doing any better. It’s funny how these horses go, sometimes they make a liar out of you, and sometimes they make you look like you’re half-smart.”
As a rider, getting to know Keepmeinmind is a challenge, Diodoro said.
The son of 2016 Jim Dandy winner Laoban is headstrong, so the trick is to find a balance between controlling him while letting him get into a comfortable stride.
He typically closes into finishes from the back of the field, but in the Jim Dandy, with Rosario riding for the first time, Keepmeinmind was closer to the front than he’s ever been.
“In the mornings and even in his works, not that he’s crazy or anything, but he’s probably the toughest, strongest horse I’ve ever trained,” Diodoro said. “I mean, this horse just pulls and pulls, and when you start pulling on him more, he pulls more.
“He’s not the easiest guy. And nothing against David Cohen, because I thought he did a really good job with this horse, especially in the mornings, up to when we decided to make a rider change. He was the guy that worked him all the time and did a heck of a job with him. But he’s the kind of horse that you don’t just throw anyone on him, to gallop or to work, or you could wind up with a disaster.”
As a member of Laoban’s first crop of foals, Keepmeinmind helped the stallion earn the No. 2 spot nationally in progeny earnings for freshman sires in 2020.
There will only be a few more crops, as Laoban died unexpectedly at WinStar Farm in May.
Keepmeinmind’s contribution to his father’s standing included a close third to Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, followed by his only victory, in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs three weeks after the Breeders’ Cup.
Diodoro ran him in the BC off just a second in a maiden race and a second in the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity — again, behind Essential Quality. He has run against Essential Quality a total of five times.
“He was just a big gangly horse,” Diodoro said. “And he still is, but he’s starting to turn the corner right now and starting to fill out and grow into the horse we were hoping him to be. That’s part of the reason it took us so long to get him going.
“I know it was a little bit of a crazy move running a maiden in the Breeders’ Cup, but we had a lot of confidence in the horse. It wasn’t like we were just going there to put a suit on.”
While still searching for that second career win, Keepmeinmind finished seventh by 8 1/2 lengths in the Kentucky Derby after trailing the 19-horse field and fourth by 9 1/2 in the Preakness after chasing the field from the back of the pack.
In his last two, the Ohio Derby and Jim Dandy, again, he was in last place early, but forced his way into the picture late.
“I always say it’s run on dirt and not on paper, that’s my famous saying, and, yeah, we definitely need a pace to run at, but at the same time, I hope he runs and doesn’t get 15, 20 lengths out of it like he was for awhile. His last race, he kind of surprised us, but, again, it was the first time Joel was on him, and the horse laid 10 lengths closer than he has in any race in his career. I really hope that continues on Saturday. Just need some racing luck. And we do need a little bit of a pace.”
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