In this biweekly series, racing analyst Keeler Johnson will share promising horses from his handicapping watch list, reviewing runners who have recently caught his eye and previewing horses scheduled to run back in the near future.
New to the Watch List
This widely-hyped $3.65 million auction purchase brought his career record to a perfect 2-for-2 with a comfortably victory on Thursday at Los Alamitos. Favored at 1-10 in a 1-mile allowance optional claiming race, the son of Curlin tracked splits of :23.03 and :46.24, advanced to take command through six furlongs in 1:10.63, and drew clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:35.99.
Cezanne actually led by three lengths at the eighth pole, but jockey Flavien Prat noted the colt eased up after striking the front. Cezanne appeared to do the same in his debut win at Santa Anita, so there’s no telling how fast an engine might actually lurk under the hood of this stoutly-bred youngster. One thing is certain—this Bob Baffert trainee is bred to improve with experience and maturity, stamping him as an up-and-coming runner to watch on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Easy winner of the 2018 Champagne (G1) as a 2-year-old, Complexity has been a delicate runner for trainer Chad Brown, racing only infrequently while disappointing in his three subsequent graded stakes tests. However, the son of Maclean’s Music looked sharp when returning from a six-month layoff in a 1-mile allowance optional claiming race on Thursday at Belmont Park.
With Jose Ortiz in the saddle, Complexity chased fractions of :23.01, :45.90, and 1:10.14, then sprinted home in a quick :24.30 to defeat 2019 Kentucky Derby veteran Win Win Win by 2 1/4 lengths in a snappy 1:34.44. This victory produced a solid 99 Beyer speed figure, and if Complexity stays sound, there’s probably a one-turn graded stakes race with his name on it out there somewhere.
A son of champion Honor Code, Creed joined my watch list following a powerful maiden victory at Belmont Park, and he’ll remain on my list after rallying to an eye-catching allowance score on Thursday at Belmont. The Shug McGaughey-trained sophomore was content to trail the field by better than seven lengths through splits of :22.75 and :45.88, but rallied resolutely down the lane under urging from Jose Ortiz, getting up to win by 1 1/4 lengths over the promising Mister Winston.
Creed completed the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:42.14 while giving the impression he was full of run and just getting started. Classic distances should be right up Creed’s alley, and I’m excited to see what his future holds.
Winner of the 2019 Travers (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), Code of Honor needs no introduction—he’s one of the most accomplished horses in training. But the son of Noble Mission has joined my watch list specifically because of his victory in the 1 1/16-mile Westchester Stakes (G3) at Belmont last month. While his margin of victory wasn’t anything to write home about—just half a length—Code of Honor was ridden confidently and appeared to win with something left in the tank, an impressive achievement off a seven-month layoff.
Code of Honor will make his second start of 2020 in Belmont’s ninth race on Saturday, the prestigious $500,000 Metropolitan Handicap (G1, post time 5:47 p.m. ET). He’s 3-1 on the morning line while facing fellow Grade 1 winners McKinzie and Vekoma, but assuming Code of Honor takes a step forward off his seasonal debut, he can vie for victory in the historic “Met Mile.”
Trained by Bob Baffert for the widely successful partnership of Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman, Uncle Chuck was tons the best in his June 12 debut traversing a mile at Santa Anita, leading all the way to dominate by seven lengths over his expensive stablemate Big Mel. Uncle Chuck’s final time of 1:36.78 produced an excellent 95 Beyer speed figure, and Baffert has subsequently praised the colt as a very gifted runner.
A late nominee to the Triple Crown, Uncle Chuck will join the Road to the Kentucky Derby in Saturday’s sixth race at Los Alamitos, the $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby (G3, post time 6:28 p.m. ET). Uncle Chuck is facing a quality field led by 2019 Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) 1-2 finishers Thousand Words and Anneau d’Or, but if Uncle Chuck runs back to his debut, the rest might be running for second place.
Which horses do you have your eye on?