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
Could Greyes Creek be a monster miler in the making? You’d better believe it. Conditioned by four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, Greyes Creek performed only modestly as a juvenile in 2018, hitting the board in three dirt races without winning.
But after missing the entire 2019 season, Greyes Creek has returned a different horse on turf. His comeback effort in a 1-mile Gulfstream Park maiden race was encouraging; he gained 5 1/4 lengths through the final furlong (clocking the fraction in :11.34) to finish fifth in a race dominated for the most part by speed horses.
Greyes Creek hasn’t been defeated since. On June 12 he crushed a 1-mile maiden race at Churchill Downs, dashing the final quarter-mile in :22.86 to swoop past his rivals and score by 3 1/2 lengths. He demonstrated a similarly freakish turn-of-foot in a Wednesday allowance event over the same distance at Keeneland, exploding down the middle of the course to win by a neck with a :22.31 final quarter.
At this point, there’s no telling how high Greyes Creek might ascend. His blistering turn-of-foot could make him a breakout star during the second half of 2020, and I’ll be eager to play this $850,000 auction purchase wherever he runs next.
Trainer Wesley Ward has enjoyed strong success conditioning turf sprinters, and Maven could develop into a serious threat for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) after dominating his 2020 debut on Wednesday at Keeneland.
A son of American Pharoah produced by the three-time stakes-winning grass dasher Richies Party Girl, Maven showed promise as a juvenile, winning his debut on dirt at Keeneland before shipping to France and claiming the 5-furlong Prix du Bois (G3) in determined fashion.
But Maven elevated his game to another level at Keeneland earlier this week. Facing 10 rivals in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance race, Maven never gave his pursuers a chance to catch up. After carving out fast splits of :21.62 and :44.95 over a good course, Maven kicked away down the lane to score by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:03.02, a quick time over the damp going.
It can be difficult to dominate competitive sprints, but Maven was tons the best while posting a 90 Beyer. If Maven continues to progress throughout the season, his older rivals will have their work cut out to keep up.
An exciting son of Bernardini, Art Collector is 2-for-2 this season and joined my watch list after powering to an eye-catching triumph in 1 1/16-mile allowance race on June 13 at Churchill Downs. Almost any way you slice it, Art Collector turned in a huge performance, sprinting the final five-sixteenths in a terrific :28.89 to score by 6 1/2 lengths in 1:41.35, missing the track record by just 0.31. His strong performance was suitably rewarded with strong speed figures—a 100 Beyer and a 103 Brisnet rating.
Even better, Art Collector beat quality competition. Runner-up Shared Sense came right back to win the Indiana Derby (G3) on Wednesday, while third-place finisher Finnick the Fierce had previously placed in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and a division of the Arkansas Derby (G1).
Art Collector’s powerful turn-of-foot hints he has the potential to be something special, and I’m looking forward to playing him in Keeneland’s ninth race on Saturday, the $600,000 Blue Grass (G2, post time 5:30 p.m. ET). Though Art Collector’s allowance romp was achieved in gate-to-wire fashion, he’s also shown the ability to rate off the pace and rally strongly down the stretch, giving jockey Brian Hernandez plenty of options for working out a clean trip in this 1 1/8-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race.
At 5-1 on the morning line, Art Collector is my best bet of the week. If he performs as I expect, he could emerge as one of the favorites to win the Run for the Roses.
Which horses have caught your attention this week?
Here is Keeler's complete list of Horses to Watch: