Horses to Watch: Follow these 5 and add this 1 to your list

Horses to Watch: Follow these 5 and add this 1 to your list
Photo: Scott Serio / Eclipse Sportswire

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Fresh off a victory over 2022 champion male sprinter Elite Power in the seven-furlong Forego (G1) at Saratoga, Gunite will attempt to secure a ninth career stakes win in Saturday’s 10th race at Parx Racing, the Parx Dirt Mile (post time 4:04 p.m. EDT). Gunite has never won running farther than seven furlongs, though he did finish a respectable fourth against a deep field in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.


With decisive victories in the Brooklyn (G2), Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (G2), Birdstone and Cape Henlopen from his last five starts, Next is far and away North America’s leading long-distance dirt racer. He’ll have every chance to pick up another stakes score when he starts as the favorite in Saturday’s seventh race at Parx, the 1 1/2-mile Greenwood Cup (G3, post time 2:31 p.m.).

Roses for Debra

Roses for Debra has crossed the finish line first in eight of her nine starts and is 4-for-4 on turf, most notably winning the Caress (G3) and Smart N Fancy during the recently concluded Saratoga meet. She’s taking on males in Saturday’s eighth race at Parx, the Turf Monster (G3, post time 3:01 p.m.), but looks fast enough to take home top honors and is favored on the morning line. It helps that Roses for Debra is trained by Christophe Clement, who won four editions of this race between 2015 and 2019 with Pure Sensation.

Saudi Crown

Saudi Crown is 2-for-2 sprinting and 0-for-2 running one mile or farther, but it’s premature to call him a sprinter. His defeats running long came in fast editions of the Dwyer (G3) and Jim Dandy (G2), and on each occasion he finished second by a nose. Saudi Crown brings strong speed figures into Saturday’s 13th race at Parx, the Pennsylvania Derby (G1, post time 6:10 p.m.) and can’t be counted out of the win picture.


Another logical Pennsylvania Derby contender is Scotland, who wired the Curlin at Saratoga over next-out Smarty Jones (G3) winner Il Miracolo before fading from a pacesetting position to finish sixth in a deep renewal of the Travers (G1). The Pennsylvania Derby is shaping up as an easier spot, so don’t be surprised if Scotland bounces back with a big run.

New to the Watch List

Master of The Seas

Master of The Seas picked up his sixth graded or group stakes win in the Woodbine Mile (G1) at Woodbine last Saturday, and he did so impressively. The 4-year-old gelding settled at the back of a six-horse field before swooping past the leaders and finishing fast (final quarter-mile in approximately 22.67 seconds) to dominate by 3 3/4 lengths in the sharp time of 1:33.79 seconds.

The Breeders’ Cup Mile could be next on the agenda for Master of The Seas, whose trainer – Charlie Appleby – has won six Breeders’ Cup races in the last two years alone.

Recent Watch List Winners

Giant Mischief

Cutting back in distance in his return from a seven-month layoff worked wonders for Giant Mischief, who trounced a six-furlong $125,000 allowance optional claimer on Wednesday at Churchill Downs by 2 3/4 lengths. The son of Into Mischief defeated future Grade 1-winning sprinter Arabian Lion in a seven-furlong $100,000 allowance optional claimer at Keeneland last year, so it’s possible Giant Mischief is a sprint star in the making for trainer Brad Cox.

Off the Watch List


Last year’s Santa Anita Derby (G1), Pennsylvania Derby (G1) and Malibu (G1) winner has been retired from racing and will stand at stud at Spendthrift Farm.

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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