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.
Edgeway: Never off the board in eight starts, Edgeway displayed an affinity for Del Mar when battling to victory in the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap. She wasn’t a match for Filly & Mare Sprint favorite Gamine when beaten to fourth in the Grade 2 Great Lady M two starts back, but Edgeway suffered a troubled start that day and has been firing off fast workouts in advance of the Breeders’ Cup. A stronger effort should be in the offing under hot jockey Joel Rosario.
Bella Sofia: If anyone can defeat heavy favorite Gamine, it’s probably the 3-year-old Bella Sofia, who has rattled off blowout wins in the Grade 1 Test and Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap on the New York circuit. The daughter of Awesome Patriot has speed coupled with the ability to finish strongly down the homestretch. Throw in the fact she’s run faster than Gamine on the Brisnet Speed rating scale, and Bella Sofia can’t be counted out of the mix for victory.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
Fast Boat: Victorious in the Grade 2 Twin Spires Turf Sprint and Grade 3 Troy this season, Fast Boat suffered a difficult trip when fourth in the Grade 3 FanDuel Turf Sprint last time out. The stretch-running gelding encountered a slow pace and had to fight for racing room down the homestretch, so the fact he missed second place by a nose and a head is encouraging. He should get enough pace to produce a competitive effort at Del Mar.
Golden Pal: The reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner is favored to add the regular Turf Sprint to his accomplished resume. The Wesley Ward trainee is 4-for-5 in the U.S. and brings an abundance of pacesetting speed to the table. He’ll seek to become only the fifth horse to win two different Breeders’ Cup races.
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
Ginobili: Entering off back-to-back wins at Del Mar, including a decisive score in the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien, Ginobili looks like a prime contender to win the Dirt Mile. He smashed a summer allowance over this track and distance by 9 3/4 lengths and has the speed to be a factor from the outset.
Silver State: You can argue the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap winner might be a little better racing around one turn than two (the configuration at Del Mar), though his two-turn form includes a victory in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap and a third-place effort in the Grade 1 Whitney. Coming off a troubled runner-up effort in the Parx Dirt Mile, Silver State does his best work from off the pace and may benefit from a fast pace on Saturday.
Life Is Good: A neck away from being undefeated in five starts, three-time graded stakes winner Life Is Good is the 4-5 morning line favorite after cruising to a 5 1/2-length victory in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap. The flashy 3-year-old figures to set the pace at Del Mar, so they’ll have to catch him to beat him.
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf
War Like Goddess: After rattling off consecutive victories in the Grade 3 Orchid, Grade 3 Bewitch, Grade 2 Glens Falls and Grade 1 Flower Bowl, War Like Goddess ranks as the leader of the home team in the Filly & Mare Turf. The daughter of English Channel has repeatedly produced winning rallies from behind slow fractions and may be capable of giving the international raiders a tussle on Saturday.
Breeders’ Cup Sprint
Aloha West: 4-year-old son of Hard Spun has made rapid progress in recent months, winning a pair of allowance events at Saratoga before finishing second in the Grade 2 Phoenix at Keeneland. The latter race saw Aloha West gain 2 1/4 lengths through the final furlong to finish second by a neck, and he’s trained sharply in the interim, suggesting he can vie for a top-three finish at Del Mar.
Following Sea: Although Following Sea couldn’t match strides with Jackie’s Warrior and Life Is Good when third in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial, he had no trouble beating older rivals in the Grade 2 Vosburgh last month, leading all the way to score by 4 3/4 lengths. He did benefit from setting a slow pace, but with the right trip on Saturday, Following Sea can produce a competitive effort.
Jackie's Warrior: Three-time Grade 1 winner is a heavy favorite after beating Life Is Good in the H. Allen Jerkens and following up with a smashing 6 3/4-length score in the Grade 2 Gallant Bob. The son of Maclean’s Music is 8-for-9 in one-turn races and should be tough to beat in his debut against older rivals.
Breeders’ Cup Mile
Mo Forza: Fast pace or slow pace, it doesn’t make much difference to Mo Forza, who has prevailed in eight of his last nine turf runs. Mo Forza managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a huge rally in the Grade 2 City of Hope Mile last month, and the fact he’s won three graded stakes at Del Mar suggests he’ll be a dangerous Breeders’ Cup Mile contender under top turf jockey Flavien Prat.
Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Malathaat: Only a head defeat in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks separates Malathaat from an unblemished 7-for-7 resume. As it stands, the daughter of Curlin is an elite sophomore with stretch-running tallies in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, Grade 1 Alabama and Grade 1 Ashland under her belt. If a fast pace unfolds in the Distaff, she can fight for victory.
Breeders’ Cup Classic
Max Player: No Classic contender boasts a better record over 1 1/4 miles than Max Player, who relished this trip when employing tracking tactics to win the Grade 2 Suburban and Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup during the summer. Max Player is also versatile enough to rally from off the pace if necessary, so his combination of stamina and tractability should be well-suited to a fast-paced renewal of the Classic.
Hot Rod Charlie: Versatility is also a strong suit for Hot Rod Charlie, who is capable of excelling with a variety of running styles. The 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up has gotten better throughout the year and enters off a fast win in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby, suggesting he’ll be a key contender for victory on Saturday.
Other Saturday Entries
Cody’s Wish: Fresh off a fast maiden win racing one mile at Churchill Downs, Cody’s Wish looms as a logical favorite in Saturday’s 11th race at Churchill Downs, a one-mile allowance (post time 7:58 p.m.). A beautifully bred son of Curlin out of Grade 1 winner Dance Card, Cody’s Wish has drawn well in post six and brings steadily improving Brisnet Speed ratings to the table. The Godolphin homebred might be a stakes star in the making.
Going Global: Victorious in five of her six stateside starts, including the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks, Going Global figures to be tough in Saturday’s third race at Del Mar, the Grade 2 Goldikova (post time 2:25 p.m.). The one-mile turf trip should suit Going Global just fine, and her strong turn-of-foot will give her every chance to out-kick accomplished older rivals Princess Grace and Zofelle down the lane.
Which horses do you have your eyes on this week?