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
Fresh off a victory in the Longacres Mile Handicap (G3) on dirt, Anothertwistafate ran gallantly while switching to turf for Saturday’s Seabiscuit Handicap (G2) at Del Mar. After vying for the lead through fractions of :24.03 and :48.27, Anothertwistafate was passed with a rush by long shot Blitzkrieg, only to re-rally tenaciously down the lane and finish fourth by 2 1/2 lengths behind a trio of deep closers.
In a race thoroughly dominated by stretch runners, Anothertwistafate was the only pace player to hang around for a respectable finish. Returning to dirt should help Anothertwistafate rebound next time out.
Since returning from a 10-month layoff in October, Forza Di Oro has seemed like a star in the making for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The son of Speightstown was particularly impressive in Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile Discovery (G3) at Aqueduct, tracking the pace from third place before drawing away to win by 3 3/4 lengths over stakes winner Monday Morning Qb, two-time Grade 3 winner Shared Sense, and Kentucky Derby starter Attachment Rate.
By stopping the clock in 1:50.03 over a slow track, Forza Di Oro earned an encouraging 101 Beyer speed figure, suggesting this late-maturing 3-year-old is ready to make some noise during the winter.
Bill Mott’s successful week continued on Sunday when the 2-year-old Lovestruck brought her record to a perfect 2-for-2 with a sharp victory in the Tepin Stakes. Racing 1 1/16 miles over the Aqueduct turf course, Lovestruck saved ground early on while covered up behind fractions of :24.05, :50.50, and 1:16.21, then shifted out for the stretch drive and rallied strongly to win by a length.
A Godolphin homebred, Lovestruck has raced greenly in her first two starts and drifted in down the homestretch of the Tepin. But it’s clear the daughter of Tapit has serious talent and a strong turn of foot, stamping her as an exciting turf filly to follow in 2021.
Stretching back out over a mile worked magic for Hunka Burning Love, who parlayed pace-tracking tactics into a four-length victory in Saturday’s Delta Mile Stakes at Delta Downs. The 6-year-old son of Into Mischief is now 6-for-6 running long on dirt since being claimed in April by trainer Karl Broberg, and Hunka Burning Love figures to keep winning as long as he sticks to his preferred conditions.
After saving ground a few lengths behind slow fractions of :26.10, :52.62, and 1:19.76 over a good turf course, Mutamakina unleashed a wicked turn of foot to win Saturday’s Long Island (G3) at Aqueduct. Dashing the final furlong in an excellent :11 2/5, Mutamakina boldly charged through tight quarters along the rail to win by 3/4 of a length over pacesetter Traipsing.
Taking into account the pedestrian nature of the early pace, this was a deceptively strong effort from Mutamakina, who should enjoy even greater success in 2021.
Favored at 3-10 in a 1-mile maiden special weight on Saturday at Del Mar, Parnelli delivered as expected with a powerful performance. After tracking quick fractions of :22.72 and :46.82, the John Shirreffs trainee seized command and pulled clear under hand ride to score by 5 3/4 lengths in 1:38.58.
This former Road to the Kentucky Derby participant continued his re-emergence as a sprinter with a strong allowance victory dashing 7 furlongs at Churchill Downs on Friday. After tracking modest early splits of :23.08 and :46.26, Silver State unleashed a sharp burst of acceleration, rocketing the third quarter in :23 1/5 and the final furlong in :11.94 to score by 2 3/4 lengths.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Silver State hit the finish line in 1:21.58, earning a strong 100 Beyer speed figure. A return to stakes company figures to be next on the horizon for this improving son of Hard Spun.
Worth Another Try
The Belmont Derby (G1) winner narrowly failed to catch fellow stakes winners Domestic Spending and Smooth Like Strait in the Hollywood Derby (G1) on Saturday at Del Mar, gaining 4 1/4 lengths in the final furlong to miss by a neck in a three-horse photo finish. Considering Gufo was cutting back to 1 1/8 miles, a distance probably shorter than his best, this was an admirable effort. I expect Gufo to keep progressing and enjoy a productive season in 2021.
Never got a clear path down the homestretch of Sunday’s Matriarch (G1) at Del Mar and actually steadied while trying to rally up the rail. Despite these obstacles, Maxim Rate was beaten only two lengths over a 1-mile distance arguably shorter than her best. Maxim Rate appeared to have something left at the finish, and I’m optimistic she’ll bounce back to the winner’s circle with a clean trip next time.
Off the Watch List
Turned in a gallant race in the Clark (G1) on Friday at Churchill Downs, saving ground before battling his way along the inside to finish fourth by 2 1/4 lengths. This was a solid effort from a 15-1 shot, and Coastal Defense may nab a graded stakes win this winter if he drops down to the Grade 2 or Grade 3 level. But he’s bound to be a shorter price next time, and I don’t have any particular reason to believe he’ll improve off the Clark, hence his removal from my watch list.
Ran below expectations in the Concern Stakes on Saturday at Laurel Park, weakening from a pace-tracking position to finish seventh by 11 lengths.
He didn’t get the best trip racing wide in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), but the son of Curlin also weakened more than I expected after racing forwardly through slow splits, finishing fifth by five lengths.
Seemed to regress at the tail end of a busy campaign, fading to finish fourth by four lengths in the Golden Rod (G2) after taking command at the top of the stretch. I still believe Simply Ravishing is capable of winning big races in 2021, but I’ll want to watch her first run of the new season before returning her to my watch list.
A wide trip didn’t help Tamahere’s chances in the Matriarch (G1) on Sunday at Del Mar, but ultimately the stretch-running 3-year-old couldn’t produce the needed acceleration while stepping up against older rivals. Despite receiving a quick pace to work with, Tamahere rallied only mildly to finish sixth by 2 1/2 lengths.
Here is my complete, updated list of horses to watch: