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.
Recent Watch List Winners
One of the flashiest 2-year-old fillies of 2022 made her belated second start in a six-furlong allowance on Wednesday at Gulfstream Park, and wow, did she impress. Favored at 1-10, Munnys Gold overcame an awkward start to set fractions of 22.00 and 45.36 seconds on her way to an effortless 6 1/4-length victory in 1:10.78 seconds. The Todd Pletcher trainee was never asked for her best and looks like a stakes star in the making.
Talented turf mare missed the entirety of 2022, but shrugged off a 14 1/2-month layoff to win a $62,500 allowance optional claimer racing one mile over the Gulfstream Park turf course on Thursday. After tracking splits of 23.32 and 46.92 seconds from second place, White Frost unleashed a terrific finish (running the final two furlongs in 11.67 and 11.38 seconds) to score by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:33.85 seconds. Trained by Bill Mott, White Frost looks ready to return to the graded stakes ranks.
Arabian Knight trounced his debut sprinting seven furlongs on Breeders’ Cup Saturday at Keeneland, easily defeating future maiden and allowance winner Determinedly by 7 1/4 lengths. This Bob Baffert trainee looks like a star in the making and looms as the horse to beat in Saturday’s 10th race at Oaklawn, the Southwest (G3, post time 5:57 p.m. EST).
One of Arabian Knight’s key challengers in the Southwest is the undefeated Corona Bolt, whose 2-for-2 record includes a 6 3/4-length romp in the Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds. Hot trainer Brad Cox conditions the son of Bolt d’Oro, who is bred to stretch out around two turns.
Disc Jockey has won four straight races, including a trio of allowance events since being claimed by red-hot trainer Robertino Diodoro. The improving 6-year-old has every chance to snatch a fifth straight victory in Sunday’s eighth race at Oaklawn, a $62,500 allowance optional claimer (post time 4:53 p.m.).
Two starts, two victories. Faiza cruised in her debut sprinting at Santa Anita, then successfully stretched out over 1 1/16 miles to win the Starlet (G1) at Los Alamitos by a tenacious head. This Baffert trainee will seek to keep her unbeaten record intact in Saturday’s second race at Santa Anita, the Las Virgenes (G3, post time 4:00 p.m.).
Faustin impressed in his debut sprinting six furlongs at Santa Anita last month, rallying from behind a fast pace to win going away by 2 3/4 lengths. The son of Curlin is bred to run long and should appreciate tackling an extra furlong in Sunday’s second race at Santa Anita, the San Vicente (G2, post time 4:00 p.m.).
As a son of Curlin out of a Bernardini mare, Fort Warren is bred to run long. Yet he showed enough speed to wire his debut sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita, beating next-out winner Spun Intended by half a length. Fort Warrant has turned in sharp workouts for trainer Bob Baffert in recent weeks and looms as a logical contender while stepping into the graded stakes ranks for the San Vicente.
The 2021 Hopeful (G1) winner quietly won four sprint stakes in 2022 before finishing fourth against a strong field in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Cutting back to six furlongs for Saturday’s eighth race at Oaklawn, the King Cotton (post time 4:50 p.m.) should trigger a return to the winner’s circle.
Faiza’s key rival in the Las Virgenes is arguably Justique, who unleashed a terrific rally after a slow start to win the seven-furlong Desi Arnaz at Del Mar two months ago. Justique missed a slated start in the Santa Ynez (G3) after developing a temperature, but she’s posted two solid workouts since then and appears to have significant talent.
Fresh off a two-length victory in the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream Park, Skippylongstocking looms as a key win threat in Saturday’s 13th race at Gulfstream Park, the Pegasus World Cup (G1, post time 5:40 p.m.). Last year’s West Virginia Derby (G3) winner appears to be putting everything together just in time to challenge for a rich winter prize.
Strobe is 3-for-4 overall and 3-for-3 on dry tracks, a flashy record owed to his abundant speed. The Brad Cox trainee trounced a $50,000 allowance optional claimer at Fair Grounds last month and figures to win right back in Friday’s seventh race at Fair Grounds, an $80,000 allowance optional claimer (post time 5:15 p.m.). Remember, Strobe has already defeated 2022 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Elite Power.
White Abarrio is 4-for-4 at Gulfstream Park and 0-for-6 at all other tracks, so he figures to fire a strong shot while returning to Gulfstream for the Pegasus World Cup. White Abarrio won the 2022 Florida Derby (G1) over the track and distance of the Pegasus and enters off a close third-place finish in the Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct. Fast recent workouts at Gulfstream suggest White Abarrio is sitting on a big run.
Formerly an accomplished dirt sprinter, Wit has successfully transitioned into a turf router, winning the Better Talk Now and placing in the Hollywood Derby (G1), National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (G2), and Bryan Station (G3). The stretch-running 4-year-old will seek to give trainer Todd Pletcher a third consecutive victory in Saturday’s 12th race at Gulfstream Park, the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1, post time 4:40 p.m.).
Which horses do you have your eyes on?