The top 3-year-old horses to know beyond the Triple Crown

June 22, 2018 11:47am

With Justify having swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, it’s time to consider the colts who could test his Triple Crown dominance the second half of the season. Even American Pharoah proved a bit vulnerable, finishing second in the 2015 Travers Stakes to Keen Ice. Who could similarly challenge the 2018 Triple Crown winner?

First, we’d be remiss not to mention the late Montauk. The Todd Pletcher trainee recently broke down in a workout but likely would have targeted top races for this crop to close the year. Co-owner Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Aron Wellman had a habit of calling the colt “the goods.”

Among those in training, here are the names to know who didn't run in a Triple Crown race:

1. McKinzie — Well, duh. Of horses that missed the Triple Crown series due to physical setbacks, he tops the list. A Grade 1 winner at 2, he returned to beat Bolt d’Oro across the wire in the San Felipe (G2) before being disqualified from that win due to bumping. A muscle strain set off a sequence of events that changed Bob Baffert stablemate Justify’s final Derby prep from the Arkansas to Santa Anita Derby. While McKinzie won’t be ready in time for a race such as the Haskell, Baffert is known to send strong runners to the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby.

2. King Zachary — Trainer Dale Romans said this Curlin colt gained confidence May 5 with an allowance victory to close Churchill’s Kentucky Derby card. It showed last weekend when King Zachary returned to win the Matt Winn (G3) by 4 3/4 lengths, and over two last-out stakes winners. Romans is eyeing Saratoga’s July 28 Jim Dandy (G2) or Monmouth Park’s July 29 Haskell (G1) for the $550,000 purchase’s next start.

3. Telekinesis — Trainer Mark Casse has always thought highly of this Ontario-bred son of Ghostzapper. He won on debut, ran third against older competition second out and was edged by My Boy Jack in Keeneland’s Lexington (G3) in the move up to stakes. Without such a towering rival last out, Telekinesis rolled to a win on synthetic in Woodbine’s Plate Trial Stakes. Next is the June 30 Queen’s Plate, in which he’ll take on stablemate Wonder Gadot.

4. Draft Pick — This Peter Eurton-trained son of Candy Ride took six starts to break his maiden, but immediately moved into graded stakes company second out. On June 10, he made easy work of an Affirmed Stakes (G3) field that included Kentucky Derby runner Solomini, with the victory never in doubt. There aren’t many spots on the West Coast for 3-year-olds, but the Los Alamitos Derby (G3) would make sense for Draft Pick.

5. Explorer — This Baffert runner made it to the races May 18, winning his six-furlong debut by four lengths as the favorite. We’ll find out a bit more about the son of Orb on Saturday when he continues progressing through conditions on the West Coast, going in Santa Anita’s seventh race, an allowance, as a 9-5 morning line favorite. Upping the distance to a mile, he also picks up Mike Smith after Drayden Van Dyke rode on debut. The same jockey switch happened with Justify for his second start…

6. Core Beliefs — Also trained by Eurton, he made a name for himself by going from maiden win to third behind only Justify and Bolt d’Oro back in April in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Core Beliefs, by Quality Road, didn’t quite punch his ticket to the Belmont Stakes, finishing second to Blended Citizen after traveling East for the Peter Pan (G3). His next test comes Saturday in the Ohio Derby (G3) against Triple Crown runners Flameaway, Lone Sailor, and Diamond King.

7. Mr Freeze — He’s 2-for-2 for Romans following a debut win at Keeneland and allowance score at Churchill Downs. In the latter, Mr. Freeze went off at 9-1. Don’t expect quite as high of a price when he goes next, likely in the Iowa Derby (G3) on July 6. "This horse is the real deal,” Romans said. “He was a little late to come along but is proving to be a really nice horse."

8. Reride — Third in the UAE Derby (G2) behind Mendelssohn, this one is surprisingly high at 6-1 on the morning line for Saturday’s Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Park. Before traveling overseas, the Candy Ride colt won a pair of black type stakes to open his sophomore campaign. Of course, owner and breeder Winchell Thoroughbreds has campaigned another well-known late developer by this sire, Horse of the Year Gun Runner.

On the shelf: Runaway Ghost (Sunland Derby) and Avery Island (Withers) both won graded stakes on the Derby trail but haven’t recorded works since their setbacks. We’re also waiting to see a pair of well-regarded Asmussen trainees, Copper Bullet and Principe Guilherme, make their returns. Baffert-trained Talent Scout, who appeared on the Derby radar with a debut win last Octobert, is back on the work tab and one to watch.


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