Horses to Watch: 8 run during 4th of July weekend

Horses to Watch: 8 run during 4th of July weekend
Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA

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.

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Aloha West

Reigning Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Aloha West will attempt to get back on a winning track in Saturday’s ninth race at Churchill Downs, the Kelly’s Landing (post time 5:16 p.m. EDT).

The stretch-running 5-year-old faltered when facing tough company in his first two starts of the season, finishing third behind champion Jackie’s Warrior in the Churchill Downs (G1) before coming home fourth in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) over a one-mile distance possibly longer than his best. Cutting back in distance and dropping down into the ungraded stakes ranks might be all Aloha West needs to rebound.

Charge It

The beautifully bred Charge It failed to fire his best shot with a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1), finishing 17th by a wide margin. But the son of Tapit can bounce back to the winner’s circle in Saturday’s eighth race at Belmont Park, the Grade 3 Dwyer (post time 4:38 p.m. EDT).

Charge It showed plenty of promise during the winter at Gulfstream Park, winning a one-mile maiden special weight by 8 1/2 lengths before racing greenly to a runner-up finish in the Florida Derby (G1). Facing only five rivals in the Dwyer should suit Charge It just fine, and he enters off a pair of bullet workouts, suggesting a competitive effort is in the offing.

Cody’s Wish

The one-turn mile configuration of Monday’s eighth race at Churchill Downs, the Hanshin (post time 4:22 p.m. EDT) figures to be perfect for Cody’s Wish. The beautifully bred Bill Mott trainee is 4-for-4 in one-turn miles, with three of those victories coming at Churchill.

Cody’s Wish’s most recent start over a one-turn mile yielded a dominant five-length score in the Westchester (G3) at Belmont. That effort produced a career-best 106 Brisnet Speed rating, stamping Cody’s Wish as a formidable favorite while returning to Churchill.

Efficiency

Efficiency looked like a possible star in the making when dominating a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Belmont Park last month. The Chad Brown-trained son of Gun Runner powered clear down the homestretch to win by 11 lengths over a sloppy track.

Efficiency isn’t guaranteed to start in Saturday’s 10th race at Belmont Park, a one-mile turf allowance (post time 5:40 p.m. EDT); he’s a main-track only entrant who will only start if rain switches the race from turf to dirt. But with rain in the forecast for Saturday, it’s possible Efficiency will find a perfect opportunity to score his second career win.

Gulfport

Gulfport was a terrific debut winner sprinting five furlongs at Churchill Downs last month, pressing the pace before powering clear to win by seven lengths. This eye-catching effort produced a 92 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest figure in Monday’s sixth race at Churchill Downs, the Bashford Manor (post time 3:18 p.m. EDT).

As a son of Uncle Mo out of an Unbridled’s Song mare, Gulfport has the pedigree to improve with maturity and appears to have lots of upside. I’m excited to see how he performs while stepping into stakes company for the Bashford Manor.

Life Is Good

Freshened since weakening to finish fourth over 1 1/4 miles in the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 26, Life Is Good will return to action over a less strenuous seven-furlong trip in Saturday’s fourth race at Belmont Park, the John A. Nerud (G2) (post time 2:34 p.m. EDT).

Life Is Good’s only previous start over this distance yielded a runner-up effort in a strong renewal of the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) at Saratoga last summer, beaten only a neck by future champion Jackie’s Warrior. Life Is Good subsequently rattled off blowout victories in the Kelso Handicap (G2), Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and Pegasus World Cup (G1), so a typical effort from Life Is Good in the John A. Nerud would make him formidable.

Olympiad

Four starts, four victories. Olympiad has been a beast in 2022, with consecutive victories in the Mineshaft (G3), New Orleans Classic (G2), and Alysheba (G2) under his belt. The son of Speightstown combines tactical speed with a strong finishing kick, and his 4-for-4 record this year coincides with stretching out around two turns.

Olympiad’s improving profile stamps the Bill Mott trainee as a formidable win threat in Saturday’s 10th race at Churchill Downs, the Stephen Foster (G2) (post time 5:47 p.m. EDT). Don’t be surprised if Olympiad adds another victory to his resume, setting the stage for an ascent into Grade 1 company during the summer at Saratoga.

Speaker’s Corner

If anyone can challenge Life Is Good in the John A. Nerud, it’s surely Speaker’s Corner. Although he was beaten to third place in a tough renewal of the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) last month, Speaker’s Corner must be admired for setting an ambitious pace against the likes of undefeated superstar Flightline.

Speaker’s Corner previously dominated the seven-furlong Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct, earning strong Beyer and Brisnet speed figures. On his best day, Speaker’s Corner is fast enough to give Life Is Good a tussle in the John A. Nerud, especially if Life Is Good needs a race in his first start back from Dubai.

Which horses do you have your eyes on?

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