LOUISVILLE — In this day and age, John Oxley's Uncaptured is an old-school sort, a juvenile who already has as many starts under his belt as some modern standouts rack up in a career.
The son of Lion Heart found himself in a less than desirable spot, stuck on the rail with a game rival at his throat in the stretch of Saturday's Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. But the experience he got in his six prior outings came through in a way that could bode especially well in about six months.
If it's never too early to start bantering about Kentucky Derby contenders, then Uncaptured will be mentioned a lot in the coming months. In his seventh start, the dark bay colt got his sixth triumph and second graded stakes win when he prevailed by a neck in a gritty stretch duel over Frac Daddy to take the $177,150 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs.
Having won the Grade III Iroquois at Churchill on October 28 in his first race on dirt, Uncaptured is allowing his connections to discuss plans for the first Saturday in May with a realistic tone.
They already knew he was a cut above when he took his first four starts over the Polytrack at Woodbine. Now that Uncaptured has rebounded from a fifth-place run in the Grade III Grey Stakes to become the seventh horse to complete the Iroquois-Kentucky Jockey Club double, how — rather than if — they are going to get back to Louisville for May 4 is the main focus.
"(The experience) was very important," trainer Mark Casse said. "Honestly, at the eighth pole I thought he was beat. Very seldom does a 2-year-old get headed, be inside and come back and win. Good horses can win when things don't go perfectly.
"From the day we buy one or look at them, we're wanting to win the Kentucky Derby. So everything we do surrounds the Kentucky Derby."
Sent off as the 9-to-5 favorite with Miguel Mena aboard, Uncaptured sat a stalking trip on the outside in second as Track Rocker rolled through a pedestrian half mile in :49.16.
As Uncaptured surged up to front with about three furlongs to go, Frac Daddy, trained by Kenny McPeek, was joining the fray on the outside under jockey David Cohen, setting the stage for the two-horse showdown.
"My horse is a very nice horse; he never gave up," said Mena, who was also rode the colt in the Iroquois. "They can get intimidated (being on the inside) and my horse got a lot of pressure, a lot of bumping, but he's so good."
Uncaptured hit the wire in 1:44.97 for 11⁄16-miles.
"I'd like to see that other horse back in two or three starts," McPeek said. "I'm as excited as I've ever been with a young horse in my career."
Before booting Uncaptured home in the day's feature race, Mena gave trainer Bernie Flint a reason to think he could have an Oaks filly come May when he guided 31-to-1 longshot Seaneen Girl to a half-length win over favored Gal About Town in the Grade II, 11⁄16-miles Golden Rod Stakes for juvenile fillies.
Flint made a trip from Canada to purchase the daughter of Spring At Last on behalf of Naveed Chowhan following her second-place finish in the Grade III Mazarine at Woodbine on October 6.
The chestnut filly had Flint beaming when she came to Gal About Town in the lane and edged clear late in her first race on dirt, stopping the clock in 1:44.95.
"If she stays the way she is, she'll come on in the spring really good," the 72-year-old Flint said. "I loved her from the minute I saw her."