Cohen: Keepmeinmind ‘One Of The Top Two I’ve Ever Sat On’

The only time David Cohen hasn’t ridden Keepmeinmind was the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 6 at Keeneland. Cohen was still in the race, though, choosing to ride another horse for his main client, 2019 Oaklawn training champion Robertino Diodoro.

Cohen was aboard Dreamer’s Disease, who was part of a torrid early pace in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile before tiring to finish sixth, 9 ¾ lengths behind powerful winner Essential Quality. Those same hot fractions helped Diodoro’s other entrant, Keepmeinmind, finish third, beaten two lengths, after being last of 14 through a half-mile in a lively :45.31.

In retrospect, Cohen recalled several months later, it was a case of zigging when he should have zagged.

“I did have the choice,” Cohen said. “I have amnesia when it came to that, really. We worked them against each other a couple of times and this guy (Keepmeinmind) couldn’t keep up with the other one. The other one was outworking him. Worked them both, rode them both.”

Cohen will be back aboard Keepmeinmind, when he makes his long-awaited 3-year-old debut in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) Saturday at Oaklawn. Keepmeinmind, a late-running son of Laoban, was among eight horses entered Tuesday for the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, Oaklawn’s third of four Kentucky Derby points races.

Cohen, Oaklawn’s leading jockey in 2019, rode Keepmeinmind three times last year, including a last-to-first maiden-breaking victory in the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs in his last start. Prior to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Keepmeinmind finished second, beaten 3 ¼ lengths by Essential Quality, in the $400,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at 1 1/16 miles Oct. 3 at Keeneland. Dreamer’s Disease, ridden by Cohen, punched his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup with a front-running allowance victory going a mile on the Breeders’ Futurity undercard.

“I’ve always loved Keepmeinmind, but he was never there mentally,” Cohen said. “In his races, he was sucking back and I knew there was more horse underneath me. And then in the morning, we worked these two against each other and the other one was outworking him. It was a tough decision. I had one speed horse, one coming from behind.”

Cohen said his Breeders’ Cup choice was made easier because both horses raced for their breeder, Southern Equine Stable LLC, adding it indicated he would ride both back – even if Dreamer’s Disease won.

“I think I told them that this horse is better today, but he won’t be in a month from now,” Cohen said, referring to Dreamer’s Disease. “He got burnt up on the front end. We had like four different waves of pressure. Once one stopped, another one came. Once he got tired, another one came. I was fine with my decision, but it had a lot to do with knowing that I wasn’t giving up a mount for good.”

Reunited with Cohen for the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, Keepmeinmind was last of nine late on the second turn before passing two rivals on the inside turning for home and the remainder of the field on the outside in the stretch to win by three-quarters of a length. Keepmeinmind was the 2-1 favorite after going off 52-1 in the Breeders’ Futurity and 30-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

“On paper, there wasn’t a lot of speed,” Cohen said. “I probably could have been a few lengths closer going into the (first) turn, but I just elected to get him to the back and let him relax and give us a few more options when it came to navigating where I wanted to go once I sat him down for his run. The issue that we were having with him in his first couple of starts was getting in tight and sucking out of there and then coming with a run. We threw blinkers on him and that seemed to really help that out. Before I sat him down for his run, I could have gone outside of some horses, but I still wanted to teach him something and let him do it the proper way. I probably had two, three extra gears there with him.”

Following the race, Keepmeinmind was sent to Kentucky’s WinStar Farm and remained in light training there, Diodoro said, until shipping to Hot Springs in late December.

Cohen has regularly breezed Keepmeinmind in advance of his 2021 debut, which was originally scheduled to come in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn before the race was postponed twice because of severe winter weather. Diodoro opted to pass the delayed Southwest (won Feb. 27 by unbeaten champion Essential Quality) and point for the Rebel after Keepmeinmind’s training schedule was interrupted by snow and brutal cold.

Cohen said Keepmeinmind has progressed mentally since the Kentucky Jockey Club and already ranks him with Grade 1-winning millionaire sprinter Proud Tower Too as the best horse he’s ridden in his career. Cohen rode his first winner in 2004 and guided Golden Ticket to victory (dead-heat) in the $1 million Travers Stakes (G1) for 3-year-olds in 2012 at Saratoga.

“Seeing him develop and being part of his early career, before he’s ever run, a lot of times you get on these horses when they’re already good,” Cohen said. “But the way he’s doing it, and does it so effortlessly, he’s still not even at his full potential. I’ve got to think he’s one of the top two I’ve ever sat on.”

The Rebel is one of five stakes races to be run Saturday at Oaklawn, the others being the $150,000 Temperence Hill for older horses at 1 ½ miles, $200,000 Hot Springs for older sprinters, $350,000 Azeri (G2) for older females at 1 1/16 miles and the $500,000 Essex Handicap for older horses at 1 1/16 miles.

Racing begins Saturday at noon (Central), with probable post time for the Rebel, the 11th of 12 races, 5:16 p.m. The infield will be open, weather permitting.

The projected Rebel field from the rail out: Caddo River, Florent Geroux to ride, 122 pounds; Big Lake, Ricardo Santana Jr., 117; Hozier, Martin Garcia, 117; Get Her Number, Javier Castellano, 119; Twilight Blue, Brian Hernandez Jr., 119; Keepmeinmind, David Cohen, 119; Concert Tour, Joel Rosario, 117; and Super Stock, Joe Talamo, 117.

The Rebel will offer 85 points (50-20-10-5, respectively) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby, which is limited to 20 starters. Keepmeinmind has 18 points to rank 12th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, according to Churchill Downs.

The Rebel is the final major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 10.

The post Cohen: Keepmeinmind ‘One Of The Top Two I’ve Ever Sat On’ appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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