Trainer Ian Wilkes isn’t known for sending out ready-to-win first-time starters, which is why his 2-year-old #2 Letmeno looms as an intriguing contender in Sunday’s $100,000 TwinSpires Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes at Ellis Park.
According to the tote board, Letmeno wasn’t supposed to win his debut sprinting six furlongs at Ellis Park last month. The son of Twirling Candy was disregarded at 20-1, and when he broke slowly from the starting gate—dropping nearly 10 lengths off the pace—he certainly seemed to be on his way to an uninspiring finish.
But around the turn Letmeno steadily gained ground with an eye-catching rally, and in the homestretch he split horses smartly to roll past the leaders and win easily by a length. From a visual perspective, this was a huge debut. It’s uncommon to see an unraced juvenile overcome such a slow start to win going away, especially when the juvenile in question isn’t even fully cranked for a peak performance.
“He really put it together in the race,” jockey Calvin Borel told the Ellis Park publicity department after the win. “It was impressive—kind of unexpected maybe. … He’s got a big future ahead of him.”
Letmeno might not be the fastest contender in terms of Brisnet speed figures, but he should take a step forward in his second start, and the seven-furlong distance of the Ellis Park Juvenile should only help his chances. With the speedy trio of #1 Night Time, #4 Rowdy Yates and #5 Alec and Arthur likely to ensure a quick pace, Letmeno should also receive an ideal setup to enhance his late rally.
Another runner who could benefit from a fast pace is #3 Axiomo, a son of Tapiture who is undefeated in two starts. After he rallied to victory in his debut on turf at Churchill Downs (where he defeated next-out winner Field Pass by a half-length), Axiomo switched to dirt and produced another sharp rally to score by 4 1/2 lengths over fellow Ellis Park Juvenile contenders #6 Two Last Words and #7 Jersey Town Angel. Considering Two Last Words had previously finished a decent fourth in the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3), Axiomo’s dominant victory was a noteworthy performance.
$3 exacta: 2 with 1,3,4 ($9)
$3 exacta: 1,3,4 with 2 ($9)
$1 trifecta: 2 with 1,3,4 with 1,3,4 ($6)
$1 trifecta: 1,3,4 with 2 with 1,3,4 ($6)