Horses to Watch: Follow stakes standouts and a rising grass star

Horses to Watch: Follow stakes standouts and a rising grass star
Photo: Tim Sudduth / Eclipse Sportswire

New to the watch list

Apollo Ten

Christophe Clément juvenile disappointed in his dirt debut at Saratoga, but thrived when switching to grass for a six-furlong maiden special weight at Belmont at the Big A on Friday. After tracking a runaway leader through splits of 22.17 and 44.70 seconds, Apollo Ten wore down the pacesetter to prevail by three-quarters of a length in 1:08.08 seconds. The son of Violence looks like a talented 2-year-old in the making.

Recent watch list winners


Standout stayer obliterated his rivals in the 1 1/2-mile Greenwood Cup (G3) at Parx Racing, leading all the way over a sloppy track to trounce a quality field, including defending Greenwood Cup winner Ridin With Biden, by 25 lengths. Next remains far and away the best long-distance dirt racer in North America and should be tough to beat in the Nov. 4 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (G2) at Santa Anita, a race he dominated when it was held at Keeneland in 2022.

Saudi Crown

After narrow defeats in fast editions of the Dwyer (G3) and Jim Dandy (G2), Saudi Crown picked up a big win in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx, carving out fractions of 23.16, 47.27 and 1:12.17 before turning back a challenge from longshot Dreamlike to prevail by half a length in 1:50.62 seconds. Saudi Crown received a flashy 105 Beyer Speed Figure from Daily Racing Form and appears bound for the Breeders’ Cup, with the Classic and Dirt Mile both viable options.

Worth another try


Accomplished sprinter tried to stretch out over one mile for the Parx Dirt Mile at Parx, but after tracking the pace and taking over early in the homestretch, Gunite weakened in the final furlong to finish second by 1 3/4 lengths behind the talented Nimitz Class. Returning to sprint distances should help Gunite return to his winning ways.

Roses for Debra

Squared off against males over a yielding Parx grass course in the five-furlong Turf Monster (G3) and ran below expectations as the 3-5 favorite, finishing third by five lengths. But the course was incredibly slow (the winning time was 1:01.40 seconds off fractions of 23.80 and 48.46 seconds), and Roses for Debra had never previously raced over a yielding course. I won’t judge her defeat too harshly.

Off the watch list


Ran off the board for the second straight time in the Pennsylvania Derby, fading from a pace-tracking position to finish 10th by 26 1/2 lengths. I’ll want to see Scotland bounce back with a sharper run before backing him again.

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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