Horses to Watch: Follow these 5 to start 2022

Horses to Watch: Follow these 5 to start 2022
Photo: Joe Labozzetta / 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.

New to the Watch List

Untreated

Aqueduct played kindly toward speed horses last week, but no one told that to Untreated. The son of Nyquist shrugged off a troubled start to rally and beat pacesetter Pioneer Spirit in a one-mile allowance optional claimer on Friday, prevailing by three-quarters of a length in the quick time of 1:36.49 seconds.

This triumph marked Untreated’s second straight allowance score since returning from a 7 1/2-month layoff. The Todd Pletcher trainee turned 4 years old on Saturday and has the potential to develop into an accomplished older horse. Don’t forget, Pletcher thought enough of Untreated to run him in the Blue Grass (G2) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Wharton

Sold for $475,000 as a yearling, Wharton earned back a chunk of his lofty purchase price when romping to victory in his debut on Friday at Santa Anita. And if his impressive performance is any indication, Wharton might earn back the rest of his price tag before long.

From start to finish, Wharton ran strongly in the 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight. After tracking an opening quarter mile in 22.11 seconds, Wharton took over the lead and kicked clear to score by 5 1/4 lengths in 1:17.52 seconds over a good track.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Wharton was ridden to victory by John Velazquez and looks like a promising colt. I’m excited to see what he can accomplish in the future.

Recent Watch List winners

Edgeway

The accomplished sprinter kicked off her 2022 campaign in fine fashion with a sharp victory in Sunday’s Kalookan Queen at Santa Anita. Sprinting to the front through splits of 22.15 and 44.96 seconds, Edgeway kicked away nicely down the homestretch to beat graded-stakes winner Merneith by 1 3/4 lengths, stopping the timer for 6 1/2 furlongs in a solid 1:16.85. Another strong season should be in the offing for Edgeway, who ran second in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint to conclude 2021.

Newgrange

The Bob Baffert trainee brought his record to 2-for-2 with a flashy victory in the Sham (G3) racing one mile at Santa Anita. The son of Violence didn’t receive a challenging trip by any means, racing along on the front end through modest fractions of 24.46, 48.95 and 1:12.84. But he was also clearly best down the homestretch, kicking clear of stablemate Rockefeller to win by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:38.32. He’s developing into a very nice prospect.

Worth another try

Got Thunder

Although Got Thunder finished behind Wharton when second in Friday’s maiden heat at Santa Anita, I won’t judge his effort too harshly. True, Got Thunder was beaten 5 1/4 lengths while favored at 7-10. But the son of Arrogate is bred to run long and improve with maturity, so there’s a chance Got Thunder can still come to hand in a big way for trainer John Sadler.

Off the Watch List

Full Impact

In his first start back from a 13 1/2-month layoff, Full Impact failed to fire in a Sunday allowance optional claimer sprinting six furlongs at Oaklawn Park. The previously unbeaten 5-year-old gave way around the turn to finish last, so I’ll want to see Full Impact show more spark next time before returning him to my watch list.

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

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