Horses to Watch: 12 race this weekend in U.S. and Dubai

Horses to Watch: 12 race this weekend in U.S. and Dubai
Photo: Candice Chavez. /Eclipse Sportswire

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Botanical has been a beast over the Turfway Park Tapeta track, winning three starts (including the Cincinnati Trophy on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks) by a minimum of 4 1/2 lengths. The Brad Cox trainee should be tough to beat while sticking to the Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail in Saturday’s 11th race at Turfway, the Bourbonette Oaks (post time 5:43 p.m. EDT).

Coffee in Bed

Coffee in Bed impressed in her debut for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, rallying to win a six-furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita by 1 3/4 lengths. Mandella has won with only 11 percent of his first-time starters since 2000, so Coffee in Bed’s debut triumph was noteworthy. She’s eligible to move forward and win right back while making her second start in Monday’s seventh race at Santa Anita, a $100,000 allowance optional claimer (post time 7:00 p.m.).

Country Grammer

Fresh off a fast-closing runner-up finish in the $20 million Saudi Cup (G1), Country Grammer looms as the horse to beat in Saturday’s ninth race at Meydan in Dubai, the Dubai World Cup (G1, post time 12:35 p.m.). The Bob Baffert trainee won the 2022 Dubai World Cup against a strong field and has every chance to defend his title. A top-two finish will make Country Grammer the richest horse to ever race in North America.


A dominant maiden winner at Saratoga last summer, Disarm recently returned from a long layoff to run second in a $100,000 allowance optional claimer racing one mile at Oaklawn. Off this encouraging comeback effort, Disarm is stepping up in class for Saturday’s 12th race at Fair Grounds, the Louisiana Derby (G2, post time 6:42 p.m.). Perhaps it’s not too late for this Steve Asmussen trainee to join the Kentucky Derby picture.


Remember Eda? She was on a roll during the fall and winter of 2021-22, winning the Anoakia, Desi Arnaz, Starlet (G1) and Santa Ysabel (G3) in succession. Eda hasn’t run in over a year, but the Bob Baffert-trained filly is heavily favored to win her comeback in Sunday’s ninth race at Sunland Park, the Harry Henson Handicap (post time 6:14 p.m.). She’s the best horse on paper and should be difficult to beat if she brings her A-game off the layoff.


Gunite couldn’t quite keep up with champion and Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Elite Power in last month’s Riyadh Dirt Spring (G3) in Saudi Arabia, finishing second by 3 1/4 lengths. But Gunite pulled clear of the rest, so in the absence of Elite Power he’s a formidable win threat in Saturday’s sixth race at Meydan, the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1). Japanese raider Lemon Pop is a talented challenger, but his signature victory came in the February (G1) racing one mile. The Golden Shaheen distance (1,200 meters, or about six furlongs) may lend an advantage to Gunite.

Hoosier Philly

Hoosier Philly was unstoppable as a juvenile, compiling a 3-for-3 record highlighted by blowout victories in the Rags to Riches and Golden Rod (G2). But she disappointed in her 2023 debut, finishing a distant third in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) behind Pretty Mischievous, the third-place finisher from the Golden Rod. The two fillies will meet for a third time in Saturday’s 11th race at Fair Grounds, the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2, post time 6:08 p.m.), and their battle ranks among the most interesting matchups of the weekend.

Instant Coffee

Winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and Lecomte (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, Instant Coffee is the 2-1 morning line favorite to win the Louisiana Derby. The stretch-running Brad Cox trainee has been targeting this race for a couple of months and is the horse to beat based on accomplishments to date.

Munnys Gold

Two starts, two effortless victories. Munnys Gold trounced a five-furlong maiden special weight at Monmouth Park last spring, beating future stakes winner Alma Rosa by 14 1/2 lengths with a 103 Brisnet Speed rating. Then, following a long layoff, Munnys Gold returned on Jan. 25 to wire a six-furlong allowance at Gulfstream Park by 6 1/4 lengths, earning a 95 Brisnet Speed rating. Anything close to a repeat of those efforts should land Munnys Gold in the winner’s circle following Sunday’s seventh race at Tampa Bay Downs, the Sophomore Fillies (post time 3:32 p.m.).

New York Thunder

New York Thunder has shown an abundance of talent sprinting at Gulfstream Park. He obliterated his debut in a five-furlong maiden special weight on Tapeta, carving out the pace and finishing fast to win by 6 1/2 lengths. Then he survived an intense duel to win a $75,000 allowance optional claimer sprinting five furlongs on turf by 1 3/4 lengths. These efforts stamp New York Thunder as a logical win choice while returning to Tapeta for Saturday’s seventh race at Turfway Park, the Animal Kingdom (post time 3:43 p.m.).


Touchuponastar has developed into a monster among Louisiana-bred dirt runners. He’s won his last four starts by margins ranging from 2 1/2 lengths to 8 1/4 lengths and was particularly impressive in the 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Champions Day Classic at Fair Grounds, leading all the way to win eased up by 4 3/4 lengths. Touchuponastar is hands-down the horse to beat while sticking to the Louisiana-bred ranks for Sunday’s 13th race at Fair Grounds, the Star Guitar (post time 5:48 p.m.).

West Will Power

West Will Power boasts lots of early speed and put it to good use when winning the Fayette (G2) and finishing second in the Clark (G1) and Razorback Handicap (G3). The Brad Cox trainee is taking on tough rivals in Saturday’s ninth race at Fair Grounds, the New Orleans Classic (G2, post time 5:04 p.m.), including Pegasus World Cup (G1) winner Art Collector. But West Will Power’s speed and consistency shouldn’t be underestimated.

Which horses do you have your eyes on?

In this biweekly series, racing analyst J. 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.

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