Horses to Watch: Cox unveils promising juvenile in Indiana

Horses to Watch: Cox unveils promising juvenile in Indiana
Photo: Gary Johnson / Eclipse Sportswire

New to the Watch List


Durante has been on fire since switching from turf to dirt, rattling off four consecutive victories by daylight margins. Three of those wins have come under the care of owner/trainer David Jacobson, including a decisive score in a $62,500 allowance optional claimer at Belmont at the Big A last Saturday. Favored at 9-5, the 4-year-old gelding set fractions of 22.47 and 45.82 seconds before kicking clear to dominate the 6 1/2-furlong sprint by five lengths in 1:16.48. At this rate, a foray into stakes competition could be in Durante’s future.


Trainer Brad Cox has been known to debut quality horses at Horseshoe Indianapolis, including Arkansas Derby (G1) winner and Kentucky Derby (G1) third-place finisher Angel of Empire. Lightline might be the next after obliterating a one-mile maiden special weight at Horseshoe Indianapolis on Thursday. The 2-year-old colt vied for command through slow splits of 24.84, 49.64 and 1:14.66, then finished fast (running the final two furlongs in 12.47 and 12.14 seconds) to win by a stunning 13 3/4 lengths in 1:39.27. Don’t be surprised if Lightline turns up on the Road to the Kentucky Derby before 2023 is over.

Private Desire

Durante wasn’t the only impressive winner sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Belmont at the Big A last Saturday. The Todd Pletcher-trained 2-year-old Private Desire ran nearly as fast in a maiden special weight, carving out fractions of 22.81 and 45.98 seconds before turning back a challenge from heavy favorite Hurricane Nelson to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:16.68. Private Desire displayed impressive tenacity to re-rally after being headed in the homestretch, and Hurricane Nelson pulled 11 1/2 lengths clear of the rest, so any way you slice it Private Desire ran a big race. Keep a close eye on this son of Constitution.

Recent Watch List Winners

V V’s Dream

Trounced five rivals in the Pocahontas (G3) racing one mile at Churchill Downs, settling in midpack before charging away under a hand ride in the homestretch to prevail by 8 3/4 lengths. V V’s Dream reached the finish line in the strong time of 1:36.45 seconds, significantly faster than the 1:37.28 seconds required by males to complete the Iroquois (G3) about one hour later. V V’s Dream looks like a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies contender in the making.

Worth Another Try

Risk It

Flashy Saratoga debut winner put up a good try when stepping up in class and distance for the one-mile Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs, finishing second by 1 3/4 lengths after tracking an intense pace from third place. Risk It raced closer to the hot tempo than eventual winner West Saratoga, so I’ll view Risk It’s performance as something he can build on.

Off the Watch List

American Rascal

Recorded a second straight off-the-board finish when coming home sixth in a $100,000 allowance optional claimer on Friday at Churchill Downs, beaten 16 lengths after pressing the early pace. I still believe this beautifully bred son of Curlin out of Lady Aurelia has talent, but I’ll want to see American Rascal bounce back to the form of his debut win at Keeneland before supporting him again.


Trailed for the first half of the Iroquois, then passed a few tired rivals to finish fifth by six lengths. It was the second straight fifth-place finish for Edified following a troubled trip in the Saratoga Special (G2), so I’ll want to see more sparkle before backing him again.

Upcoming Entries

Giant Mischief

Giant Mischief showed promise as a juvenile. He overcame trouble to win his debut at Horseshoe Indianapolis, then beat future Grade 1 winner Arabian Lion in a Keeneland allowance optional claimer before coming home second with a poor start and a wide trip in the Remington Springboard Mile. Giant Mischief has only run once at age 3, finishing sixth in the Rebel (G2) back in February, but perhaps the Brad Cox trainee can get back on track while dropping in class for Wednesday’s eighth race at Churchill Downs, a $125,000 allowance optional claimer (post time 4:22 p.m. EDT).

Roses for Debra

After rattling off four consecutive victories on turf, including the Caress (G3) at Saratoga, Roses for Debra will switch to Tapeta for Monday’s seventh race at Presque Isle Downs, the Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2, post time 5:42 p.m.). That shouldn’t be an issue since Roses for Debra crossed the wire first by daylight margins in all four of her starts over the Presque Isle Tapeta last year.

Which horses do you have your eyes on?

In this biweekly series, racing analyst J. 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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