I came up with a lot of additions to the “Horses to Watch” list from this past 6-day week of racing so let’s get to it. There are eight from Aqueduct and two more from Gulfstream:
Wild Finish (January 16, 5th race) – This three year-old broke very slowly but really outran his odds to come charging late and nearly run them all down. He finished fourth, beaten less than a length, but took a huge step forward and showed that he would very tough in a similar spot next time.
Privatize (January 17, 6th race) – This second time starter had been badly compromised by the rail bias on December 26th and entered this race with a clean slate if you forgave that effort. He was sent hard into the first turn had to go five and six-wide before tucking in for the run down the backstretch. He ranged up to take the lead on the far turn, but a fast pace and wide trip had taken its toll. It appeared that he might fade in the stretch, but he battled back gamely to be second behind the deep closing winner. This horse very may well have serious talent.
The Brothers Rap (January 17, 8th race) – Some people on Twitter were chattering about the odd ride Alcolite got in this race, but I thought this horse had the worst trip of anyone. After getting off slowly, his rider sensed that the pace was slow and tried to thread his mount through a tight opening on the rail going into the far turn. It closed up and he had to check out of there losing several lengths. He re-rallied mildly in the stretch, but his fate had been decided at the half-mile pole. He has good route pedigree on his dam’s side and deserves another chance going two turns.
Saltamontes (January 18, 5th race) – This mare looked like she might be the main speed of this race, but she broke a step slowly and found herself in last early on the rail. Her rider tried to do the right thing and be patient, but she ended up chasing three and four-wide around the far turn at the back of the pack before passing some tired horses in the stretch. Saltamontes is better than this and provided there’s no suspicious drop, I trust Rudy Rodriguez to get her back in form next time.
Run Run Forrest (January 18, 6th race) – Maggie Wolfendale had really liked this son of Dixie Union in the paddock but thought that he might need more distance to show his best. After watching the race, I’d agree, but his best may be a lot better than the $50,000 price tag he was dangled for in this race would suggest. After getting clobbered at the start, he overcame a slow pace to run down everyone in the field with nearly no encouragement from Cornelio Velasquez, who was more concerned with preventing him from lugging in from greenness. I expect him to show up in a protected spot next time with perhaps two turns in his future.
Winter Wish (January 19, 6th race) – George Weaver sent out this first time starter, who was well-backed at the windows. If you thought Run Run Forrest’s start was bad, go check out the head-on replay of the mess this horse got into at the break. He was hit hard from the both sides and completely steadied out of the race. I don’t think the field was very good since a crazy long shot wired the race, but nevertheless Winter Wish had to do quite a bit of running to get back into the race and close to finish second. Given Weaver’s training style, this horse should improve next time.
In Todd We Trust (January 20, 3rd race) – Sometimes Todd Pletcher can give up on his young horses a little quickly if they haven’t shown enough precocity in the morning. This one is bred to run all day and even though Pletcher gave him a shot to go two turns before this, he sure dropped this expensive son of Tiznow in for a claiming price very quickly. It looked like a lightbulb really went on inside the eighth pole of this race as In Todd We Trust had been passed and was clearly beaten, but resolutely tried to re rally on the rail and nearly came back to nail the winner on the line. David Jacobson claimed him out of this race and I think he’s getting a pretty good horse who’s just figuring things out and may still be able to compete against open company.
Socialsaul (January 20, 7th race – TurnoftheCentury Stakes) – Once Brigand was allowed to run his first quarter in 24 and change, this race was essentially over, but I believe Cornelio Velasquez was far too passive on Socialsaul. This horse has 45 and change half-mile speed, but was taken back to run from off the pace in here. He found himself trying to keep up as the pace picked up going into the far turn and was last at the top of the stretch. Once Velasquez steered him outside in the stretch he started coming on again and nearly ran up into second. I think he could have contended for the win here with a more aggressive ride, but more importantly, this race coupled with his strong second to Saratoga Snacks two back suggests that he’s in career form and should be feared in any sort of stakes next time.
Let’s go down to Gulfstream for two more trips from this past weekend:
Scanning (January 18, GP 7th race) – Anytime Shug McGaughey enters one of his Phipps or Janney homebreds to go five furlongs first time out, you have to wonder if he’s seriously trying to win. That was probably not the case with Scanning, a half-sister to Data Link, who clearly needed this race. She broke slowly, started to mount a rally coming into the stretch, but then was interfered with when she had to swerve to avoid a drifting rival. She finished in the middle of the pack, but showed enough to suggest she has some speed and should take a big step forward next time when stretched out to two turns.
Bodacious Barb (January 20, GP 8th race) – It hurts to even talk about this one. I had bet Bodacious Barb at 40-1 in here based on her turf pedigree as she stepped on that surface for the first time. The ride was utterly ridiculous. After breaking on top and having a clear lead entering the clubhouse turn, Fernando Jara inexplicably drags her back into a stalking position so that he’s stuck in a pocket on the rail. Bodacious Barb is obviously full of run around the far turn, but Jara can’t get her out and is forced to bull his way between horses at the top of the stretch. She got bounced around between horses and took the worst of the trouble, but still came on to finish a game second as obviously the best horse. The stewards immediately looked at it and took her down. I was disqualified out of the exacta, but was more angry at the ride than the stewards since she should have won. She won’t be 40-1 next time, but she belongs on this list since she clearly is a very good turf filly whose past performances don’t quite reflect that yet.