Prospect Watch: 8 intriguing runners at Churchill, Belmont

Prospect Watch: 8 intriguing runners at Churchill, Belmont
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

The first two days of July are shaping up to be epic as far as high-class maiden special weights are concerned.

Churchill Downs and Belmont Park both have carded exciting events packed with promising first-time starters, including a close relative to fan favorite Zenyatta.

Let’s dig in and highlight eight of the most interesting names to know:


Churchill Downs Race 4: Maiden special weight (five furlongs, 2:13 p.m. EDT)

No. 5 Sparkling Rose

Age: 2

Pedigree: Violence–My Limit, by Wagon Limit

Purchase price: $55,000

Trainer: Joe Sharp

Although Sparkling Rose sold for only $50,000 earlier this year, she has the pedigree of a promising prospect. Sire Violence won the CashCall Futurity (G1) as a juvenile and sires 18 percent winners from first-time starters, while dam My Limit previously foaled La Brea (G1) winner Birdatthewire. With Churchill’s leading jockey Tyler Gaffalione aboard, Sparkling Rose warrants respect on debut.

No. 7 Mystical Fire

Age: 2

Pedigree: Ghostzapper–On Fire Baby, by Smoke Glacken

Purchase price: N/A

Trainer: Ian Wilkes

It’s fitting to see Mystical Fire debuting at Churchill Downs, considering that her dam – On Fire Baby – was a Churchill standout who won the La Troienne (G1), Golden Rod (G2), and Pocahontas (G2) over Louisville’s legendary oval. Mystical Fire won’t necessarily be geared to win on debut (trainer Ian Wilkes strikes at only a 6 percent rate with first-time starters), but Mystical Fire is one to keep an eye on down the road.

Belmont Park Race 6: Maiden special weight (6 1/2 furlongs, 3:34 p.m.)

No. 1 Emmylou

Age: 3

Pedigree: Mastery–Last Full Measure, by Empire Maker

Purchase price: $220,000

Trainer: Chad Brown

It’s safe to say Emmylou has the pedigree to be something special. She’s a daughter of Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) winner Mastery out of Madison (G1) winner Last Full Measure, in turn a daughter of Belmont winner Empire Maker. Last Full Measure has already struck broodmare success as the dam of Spinster (G1) winner Valiance, so Emmylou is eligible to develop in a positive direction for four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown.

No. 3 Empire Hope

Age: 3

Pedigree: Empire Maker–Ideal Image, by Hennessy

Purchase price: $240,000

Trainer: Chad Brown

Chad Brown is also slated to saddle Empire Hope, a daughter of the above-mentioned Belmont winner Empire Maker out of the Hennessy mare Ideal Image. More than a decade ago, Ideal Image achieved renown as the dam of Sassy Image, winner of the Princess Rooney Handicap (G1), Derby City Distaff (G1), Golden Rod (G2), Pocahontas (G3), and Winning Colors (G3) during a decorated career. Only time will tell whether Empire Hope can follow in the footsteps of her accomplished half-sister, but she’s put together a solid work tab at Monmouth Park and will be guided on Friday by hot jockey Flavien Prat.

No. 5 Mattapoisett

Age: 3

Pedigree: Curlin–Fly to the Stars, by Giant’s Causeway

Purchase price: $775,000

Trainer: Bill Mott

It’s no wonder why Mattapoisett sold for $775,000 as a weanling. She’s a daughter of two-time Horse of the Year and elite sire Curlin out of Fly to the Stars, a daughter of three-time leading North American sire Giant’s Causeway. Fly to the Stars already has foaled Iroquois (G3) winner The Tabulator, and Mattapoisett has Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott in her corner, so in the long term this chestnut filly could be a good one.

No. 6 Twilight Dreams

Age: 3

Pedigree: Curlin–Whatdreamsrmadeof, by Graeme Hall

Purchase price: N/A

Trainer: Bill Mott

Mattapoisett isn’t the only Bill Mott-trained daughter of Curlin debuting in this deep maiden heat. Stablemate Twilight Dreams fits the same bill. If her pedigree (by Curlin out of Whatdreamsrmadeof) sounds familiar, that’s because Twilight Dreams is a full-sister to Curalina, winner of the Acorn (G1), Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), and La Troienne (G1). Twilight Dreams has been working steadily since early April and can’t be dismissed as a win threat under jockey Luis Saez.

Churchill Downs Race 7: Maiden special weight (five furlongs, 3:50 p.m.)

No. 9 Personal Pursuit

Age: 2

Pedigree: Tapit–Maddie's Odyssey, by Kitten's Joy

Purchase price: $500,000

Trainer: Mark Casse

It’s clear why Personal Pursuit sold for half a million dollars as a yearling. She’s a daughter of three-time North American leading sire Tapit out of Maddie’s Odyssey, a daughter of two-time leading North American sire Kitten’s Joy. Maddie’s Odyssey placed against stakes company and has previously foaled All American (G3) winner Grecian Fire, Echo Eddie winner Smuggler’s Run, Great Lady M (G2) heroine Sneaking Out, and multiple stakes winner Been Studying Her. With this elite pedigree in tow, Personal Pursuit warrants lots of respect under jockey Tyler Gaffalione.


Churchill Downs Race 3: Maiden special weight (six furlongs, 1:43 p.m.)

No. 3 Confidence Game

Age: 2

Pedigree: Candy Ride–Eblouissante, by Bernardini

Purchase price: $25,000

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

There’s a lot to like about the pedigree of Confidence Game. Sire Candy Ride has foaled a bevy of high-class runners through the years (including champions Gun Runner, Shared Belief and Game Winner), and Confidence Game’s dam is Eblouissante, a half-sister to the legendary Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Classic-winning mare Zenyatta. Confidence Game has assembled an encouraging work tab capped off with five furlongs in 1:00.2 at Churchill, suggesting he has talent and potential.

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