In this biweekly series, racing analyst Keeler Johnson shares 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
Made a great impression in the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland, chasing hot fractions of 22.75 and 46.00 seconds before pouncing to the front and drawing off to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Juju’s Map was the only speed horse to crack the top four in a race otherwise dominated by deep closers, a testament to the strength of her performance. The Brad Cox trainee is 2-for-2 in route races and looms as the main challenger to Echo Zulu in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Catching up on an eye-catching winner from Oct. 3, Sandstone was as impressive as could be in a one-mile maiden special weight at Churchill Downs, pressing splits of 22.84 and 46.43 seconds before taking command and powering clear to win by nine lengths. The 2-year-old daughter of Street Sense finished strongly, running the final two furlongs in 12.62 and 12.47 seconds, and I am optimistic she can develop into a stakes-caliber filly for trainer Kenny McPeek.
Slipstream had every excuse to lose the Futurity (G2) at Belmont after getting bumped at the start and shuffled back to last place while racing in traffic. But despite these obstacles, Slipstream unleashed a bold rail rally around the turn before fighting his way between rivals to get up and win by one length. His final time of 1:08.36 seconds for six furlongs was quick, and trainer Christophe Clement has mentioned the son of More Than Ready as a contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
Recent Watch List winners
Switching from dirt to turf proved to be no obstacle for Averly Jane in the Indian Summer at Keeneland. The Wesley Ward-trained filly left no doubt about her superiority in the 5 1/2-furlong sprint, dashing to the lead through fractions of 21.64 and 44.50 seconds before pulling away to beat stablemate Kaufymaker by three lengths in 1:02.65 seconds. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint is surely on the horizon for Averly Jane, a three-time stakes winner who is undefeated and unchallenged in four starts.
He squared off against three rivals in the Grade Vosburgh (G2) at Belmont Park and had no trouble posting a convincing victory. The Todd Pletcher trainee dashed to the front through controlled fractions of 22.59 and 45.24 seconds, then sprinted home nicely (final two furlongs in 11.69 and 12.27 seconds) to win by 4 3/4 lengths under a hand ride. His final time of 1:09.20 for six furlongs was solid.
Shrugged off a disappointing trip to Europe to dominate Keeneland’s Woodford (G2) by 2 1/4 lengths. The speedy son of Uncle Mo carved out fast fractions of 21.51 and 44.53 seconds, then turned back a challenge from Firecrow to kick clear down the homestretch and complete the 5 1/2-furlong sprint in 1:03.12 seconds, reiterating his status as a key Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint contender.
Capitalized on a quick pace to rally and win the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland in decisive fashion. Unleashing a sudden burst of acceleration around the far turn, Rattle N Roll blew past the leaders before surging clear to win the 1 1/16-mile event by 4 1/4 lengths in 1:43.78. This Kenny McPeek trainee is developing into a promising player for the 2022 Kentucky Derby, with the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs looming as a likely autumn target.
You have to admire the adversity Tiz the Bomb overcame to win Keeneland’s Bourbon (G2). Despite breaking through the gate and running off pre-race, the Kenny McPeek-trained colt showed no signs of a diminished performance, settling a few lengths off the early pace before rallying gamely to win by three-quarters of a length. Tiz the Bomb finished fast over a good course to complete 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.69, cementing his status as a logical stateside contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
Worth another try
Ran strongly in the Phoenix (G2) on opening day at Keeneland, gaining 2 1/4 lengths through the final furlong to fall a neck short of catching 6-5 favorite Special Reserve. Considering the son of Hard Spun was sprinting only six furlongs (arguably a furlong shorter than his best), this was an encouraging effort. I am optimistic Aloha West soon will nab a graded win of his own.
Although Penny Saver weakened to finish seventh in the Alcibiades, she was beaten only 1 3/4 lengths for second place despite enduring a challenging trip. The daughter of Super Saver was hung very wide around the first turn before launching a meaningful rally around the far turn to reach contention. The fact that she flattened out late can be viewed as a testament to how hard she ran during the first seven furlongs.
Off the Watch List
• Baby Yoda
• Great Escape
• Sir Alfred James
Here is my complete, updated list of Horses to Watch.