Horses to Watch: 4 to keep and 2 to drop

Horses to Watch: 4 to keep and 2 to drop
Photo: Benoit Photo

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


A speedy daughter of Munnings conditioned by Bob Baffert, Eda has shown gradual improvement across five starts this year, culminating with a flashy victory in Saturday’s Desi Arnaz at Del Mar.

Favored at 1-5 to win the 6 1/2-furlong dirt dash for juvenile fillies, Eda was always prominent, pressing fractions of 22.22 and 45.38 seconds under jockey Flavien Prat. Then the bay filly turned on the afterburners, sprinting the final five-sixteenths of a mile in an excellent 30.15 seconds to power clear and win by 4 1/4 lengths.

Produced by a daughter of Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid, Eda has enough stamina in her bloodlines to suggest stretching out around two turns won’t be an issue. The Starlet (G1) at Los Alamitos three weeks from now is Eda’s next target.


Granted, Messier received a ton of pace to chase in Sunday’s Bob Hope (G3) at Del Mar. The race unfolded in extremely fast early/slow late fashion, so Messier—rallying from last place in a field of four—enjoyed a picture-perfect setup.

But Messier capitalized on his advantage in resounding fashion. The Bob Baffert trainee rallied wide to take command inside the eighth pole and drew off with authority from there. Under a confident ride from jockey Flavien Prat, Messier strolled home on top by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:22.74 seconds.

A son of Empire Maker out of a Smart Strike mare, Messier is bred to improve with maturity and distance, so the fact he’s shown such promise sprinting bodes well for his chances of long-term success. The Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) next month looms as a logical target.

Worth Another Try

Forbidden Kingdom

Ran strongly under challenging circumstances in the Bob Hope. After stumbling at the start of the seven-furlong sprint, Forbidden Kingdom briefly fought his rider and wound up dashing to the lead through intense fractions of 21.40 and 43.23 seconds.

Forbidden Kingdom understandably weakened down the homestretch, but not as much as one might have expected from the strength of the pace. He managed to hold second place by a clear margin and has upside for improvement if he learns to ration his abundant speed a bit better.

White Frost

Produced a strong effort off a long layoff in Sunday’s Winter Memories at Aqueduct. Running for the first time since January, White Frost settled a few lengths behind increasingly slow fractions of 23.77, 49.72 and 1:15.28 seconds, then launched a game rally through tight quarters along the rail to finish second in the 1 1/16-mile turf test.

White Frost was only beaten one length at the finish by graded stakes winner Plum Ali, who capitalized on the slow pace to lead all the way. According to Trakus, White Frost sprinted the final five-sixteenths of a mile in a strong 29.66 seconds, suggesting the daughter of Candy Ride will be a good one in 2022.

Off the Watch List

Elle Z

Carved out the pace in Saturday’s six-furlong Dream Supreme at Churchill Downs, but couldn’t keep pace when the real running began, weakening to finish fourth by seven lengths. A drop in class can help Elle Z rebound next time, but at this point in her career, I’m not necessarily expecting any major moves forward.


Ran below expectations as the 3-10 favorite in an allowance optional claimer on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. After dueling for the lead through fractions of 22.31 and 45.95 seconds, Simplification weakened down the homestretch to finish third by 5 1/4 lengths. I’ll want to see his next race before returning him to my watch list.

Which horses caught your eye last week?

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