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
The British-bred 3-year-old Public Sector has been on a roll for trainer Chad Brown. After nabbing the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) and Saranac (G3) during the summer at Saratoga, the son of Kingman picked up a third graded win when battling to victory in the Hill Prince (G2) at Belmont last Saturday.
Facing a deep field of 10 rivals, Public Sector was content to settle in third place through the opening six furlongs, trailing pacesetter Never Surprised by as many as 5 1/2 lengths through slow fractions of 24.35 seconds, 49.71 and 1:14.13. But once Public Sector got going, there was no stopping him. According to Trakus, Public Sector blazed the fourth quarter mile in 22.65 seconds and the final furlong in 11.31 to beat Never Surprised by a neck.
The way Public Sector is progressing, a Grade 1 win might be in his future. The Hollywood Derby (G2) at Del Mar next month has been announced as Public Sector’s next target.
Simplification never really fired in his Oct. 1 debut over the Gulfstream Park Tapeta track, running evenly to finish fifth in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight. But the 2-year-old son of Not This Time absolutely freaked when switching to dirt for a six-furlong dash against fellow Florida-breds last Saturday.
Favored at 9-5 for trainer Antonio Sano, Simplification broke a hair slowly from the rail before battling his way up the inside to press the pace through an opening quarter-mile in 22.59 seconds. Then, with a bold move, Simplification shot to the front and pulled away steadily to smash his rivals by 16 3/4 lengths.
Simplification was full of run down the lane, sprinting the final two furlongs in 11.83 and 12.26 seconds to complete the six-furlong sprint in a snappy 1:09.81 seconds. The future looks bright for Simplification, who has the pedigree to stretch out in distance. Could the Road to the Kentucky Derby be in his future?
Off the Watch List
We overlooked Wild Beauty’s fifth-place finish in the Oct. 8 Group 1 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket in England, which came during a busy week of stateside Breeders’ Cup qualifiers. We had hoped to see Wild Beauty use her Natalma (G2) victory as a springboard to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, but since it sounds like Wild Beauty will pass on a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup, I will drop her from my watch list.
At first glance, Elle Z looks like a key contender for victory in Thursday’s sixth race at Keeneland, a 5 1/2-furlong turf allowance (post time 3:40 p.m. EDT). But will she find the course conditions she needs to thrive?
Elle Z has done her best running over dirt and firm (or close to firm) turf. She is a pure front-runner who tends to weaken over softer ground. But given her preferred conditions, Elle Z can be a force to reckon with, as she proved when wiring a 5 1/2-furlong turf allowance at Keeneland last year.
Elle Z hasn’t run since finishing second in a fast-paced renewal of the Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Sprint on Aug. 8. The weather is tricky for Thursday, with rain in the forecast. But if the rain holds off (or if so much falls that Thursday’s allowance is transferred to the main track), Elle Z figures to vie for victory regardless of the layoff.
Here is my complete, updated list of Horses to Watch.