Horses to Watch: 3 promising juveniles, 2 to keep, 1 to drop

Horses to Watch: 3 promising juveniles, 2 to keep, 1 to drop
Photo: Keeneland Sales

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

Extra Añejo

Extra Añejo cranked out an impressive series of fast workouts leading up to his Thursday debut at Keeneland, and the son of Into Mischief ran to those morning exercises with a powerful victory.

The Steve Asmussen-trained juvenile started as the favorite and never gave his rivals a fighting chance, carving out fractions of 22.57 and 45.19 seconds before surging away to dominate by 9 1/2 lengths, completing the seven-furlong and 184-foot maiden special weight in 1:27.17.

The Daily Racing Form assigned Extra Anejo an encouraging 92 Beyer Speed Figure, so look for this $1.35 million auction acquisition to make some noise on the road to the Kentucky Derby.

Signator

Speaking of road to the Kentucky Derby contenders, we have to acknowledge Signator as a possible Derby type after he rallied to an impressive Friday maiden special weight victory racing one mile at Belmont at the Big A.

Coming off a runner-up finish in his debut sprinting six furlongs, Signator relished stretching out in distance for his second start. The stoutly bred son of Tapit raced off the pace through modest fractions of 24.09, 48.73 and 1:13.93 over a muddy track, then unleashed a terrific burst of acceleration to run his final quarter-mile in about 23.71 seconds and surge to a 4 1/2-length victory in 1:37.89.

Signator has the pedigree to improve with maturity, and the fast finish he showed in his route debut suggests this Shug McGaughey trainee has serious talent.

Recent Watch List winners

Strobe

A fast debut winner at Churchill Downs during the spring, Strobe shrugged off a layoff to dominate a six-furlong allowance on Friday at Keeneland, winning like a stakes star in the making.

The Brad Cox trainee was favored at odds-on and ran to expectations, setting fractions of 22.92 and 46.55 seconds before accelerating the final quarter-mile in a quick 23.91 seconds to draw off and win eased up by six lengths.

Strobe’s final time of 1:10.46 was sharp, but the son of Into Mischief has enough stamina in his pedigree to suggest longer distances are within his wheelhouse. A bright future surely awaits.

Worth another try

Modern Games

Put up a gallant fight in the Queen Elizabeth II (G1) at Ascot, tracking the pace over good-to-soft ground before getting outkicked late by Bayside Boy, finishing second by 1 1/4 lengths. But Modern Games showed tenacity to narrowly catch pacesetter Jadoomi for runner-up honors, and he remains a key win threat for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Twilight Gleaming

Might have gone out a bit too fast during the early stages of the Franklin (G3) at Keeneland, dueling for the lead through fractions of 21.40 and 44.82 seconds before weakening in the final furlong to finish fourth by 2 3/4 lengths. We’ll give Twilight Gleaming a chance to bounce back next time.

Off the Watch List

Pizza Bianca

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner faltered when returning from a layoff in the Sands Point (G2) at Belmont at the Big A, rallying only mildly from behind a modest pace to finish fourth. Perhaps she needed a race off the break, but after two straight defeats, I’ll want to see a little more spark from Pizza Bianca before supporting her again.

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

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