Horses to Watch: These 7 merit attention this holiday weekend

Horses to Watch: These 7 merit attention this holiday weekend
Photo: Jessica Morgan/Eclipse Sportswire

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.

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Cody’s Wish

Just how good is Cody’s Wish? We’ll get a clearer picture when the stoutly bred son of Curlin starts as the probable favorite in Sunday’s 10th race at Churchill Downs, a one-mile allowance (post time 5:27 p.m. EST).

A Godolphin homebred conditioned by Bill Mott, Cody’s Wish has rattled off back-to-back blowout wins over this track and distance, including a 5 1/4-length score in a Nov. 6 allowance. If he prevails again on Sunday, he’ll surely be bounded for graded stakes company.

King Fury

King Fury might be a 12-1 longshot in Friday’s 11th race at Churchill Downs, the Grade 1 Clark (post time 5:56 p.m.), but I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe the son of Curlin can produce a competitive performance.

Trained by Kenny McPeek, King Fury is 3-for-4 at Churchill Downs, which includes a 13-length romp in the Bourbon Trail two starts back. He might not visit the Clark winner’s circle, but King Fury is bred to improve with maturity and a top-three finish isn’t out of the question.

La Dragontea

La Dragontea ran too good to lose in the 1 1/4-mile Grade 1 E. P. Taylor at Woodbine last month. After trailing the field through astonishingly slow fractions of 27.26, 54.46 and 1:20.84 seconds, La Dragontea rallied boldly through traffic, gaining 3 3/4 lengths through a rapid final quarter mile to finish second by a neck against pace-tracking stablemate Mutamakina.

La Dragontea and Mutamakina will get a rematch in Saturday’s ninth race at Aqueduct, the Grade 3 Long Island (post time 3:43 p.m.), and if La Dragontea gets a quicker pace to chase, I’m optimistic she can turn the tables.

Public Sector

It’s safe to say Public Sector has developed into a formidable sophomore turf star for trainer Chad Brown. The son of brilliant miler Kingman has rattled off consecutive victories in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, Grade 3 Saranac and Grade 2 Hill Prince, in the process emerging as the favorite for Saturday’s ninth race at Del Mar, the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby (post time 7:29 p.m.).

A full field has turned out to contest the Hollywood Derby, so victory isn’t necessarily guaranteed for Public Sector. But trainer Chad Brown has won three of the last five editions of this race, so you can bet Public Sector will be formidable at a short price.


Is Sandstone a Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks candidate in the making? The Kenmy McPeek trainee has certainly looked like one in her last two starts at Churchill Downs. After breaking her maiden over one mile by nine lengths, the daughter of Street Sense posted a gate-to-wire victory in the 1 1/16-mile Rags to Riches, dominating by 10 3/4 lengths.

These efforts stamp Sandstone as the filly to beat in Saturday’s 10th race at Churchill Downs, the Grade 2 Golden Rod (post time 5:27 p.m.). She has the tactical speed to work out a favorable trip, and a repeat of her Rags to Riches effort should be sufficient to visit the winner’s circle.

Speaker’s Corner

When half a dozen sophomores square off in Saturday’s eighth race at Aqueduct, the Discovery (post time 3:14 p.m.), you can bet all eyes will be focused on Speaker’s Corner. Victorious in three of his five starts for trainer Bill Mott, the son of Street Sense enters off a decisive allowance optional claiming win at Belmont, where he romped by 6 3/4 lengths with massive speed figures of 112 (Brisnet) and 109 (Beyer).

Based off these figures, Speaker’s Corner is one of the fastest horses in training. I’m excited to see if he can produce a similar effort in the 1 1/8-mile Discovery. A win could place him on a path to the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup.

Tiz the Bomb

There’s a reason why Tiz the Bomb is the 3-1 morning line favorite to win Saturday’s 11th race at Churchill Downs, the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club (post time 5:56 p.m.). And the reason is simple–he’s a genuine and versatile graded stakes star.

Tiz the Bomb has been a force to reckon with on turf, winning the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile and Grade 2 Bourbon before finishing second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. But he’s also proven on dirt, breaking his maiden over the Ellis Park main track by 14 1/4 lengths. Tiz the Bomb has been busy this year, but if he produces his A-game in the Kentucky Jockey Club, he’ll be a win threat.

Which horses do you have your eyes on this week?

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