Horses to Watch: Impressive performances add 2 to list

Horses to Watch: Impressive performances add 2 to list
Photo: Benoit Photo / Santa Anita

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

Spirit of Makena

Spirit of Makena didn’t debut until August of his 4-year-old year, but since then the son of Ghostzapper has developed into a classy sprinter, winning four of five starts while finishing second by a head in his lone defeat.

In March, Spirit of Makena beat a quality field by 1 1/2 lengths in the seven-furlong, Grade 2 San Carlos at Santa Anita. He was even stronger in the Triple Bend (G2) over the same track and distance Saturday, tracking the early pace before drawing clear to beat two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up C Z Rocket by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:23.07.

Spirit of Makena is still improving and looks ready to jump into Grade 1 company. A race such as the July 29 Bing Crosby (G1) at Del Mar could be a perfect fit.

The Wine Steward

As a son of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Vino Rosso out of a mare by Woodward (G1) winner To Honor and Serve, The Wine Steward is bred to improve with maturity and thrive running long. Nevertheless, the 2-year-old colt was sharp enough to dominate a five-furlong maiden special weight at Belmont Park on Sunday, rallying from mid-pack to trounce five New York-bred rivals by six lengths.

The Wine Steward finished fast (running the final furlong in 11.91 seconds) to complete the race in 58.68 seconds. He looks like a possible stakes horse in the making, especially if he improves as expected when stretching out in distance down the road. I’m excited by his potential.

Recent Watch List winners

Echo Zulu

Winner of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and runner-up in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Echo Zulu kicked off her 4-year-old season on a powerful note in the Winning Colors (G3) at Churchill Downs, leading all the way through splits of 21.75 and 44.62 seconds to power clear and score by 5 3/4 lengths. Echo Zulu stopped the clock for six furlongs in a snappy 1:08.99 and appears poised for another big year.

Worth another try


Louisiana-bred sensation stepped into the graded-stakes ranks for the Steve Sexton Mile (G3) at Lone Star Park and ran gamely in defeat, dueling for command through splits of 23.13, 46.17 and 1:11.51 before weakening in the final furlong to finish second by 1 1/2 lengths. This was a fine try while stepping up sharply in class.

Off the Watch List

Eyeing Clover

Eyeing Clover ran well in the Texas Derby at Lone Star Park, tracking the pace before battling on to finish third by a neck in a three-horse photo finish. But at this point, Eyeing Clover’s form lines suggest he’s plateaued at the ungraded stakes level, so I’ll want to see him jump forward with a graded stakes-caliber performance before supporting him again.

Here is my complete, updated list of Horses to Watch.

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