In the Money: 3-year-olds to Watch

ITM analysis of the top 3-year-olds to watch from Feb. 13 – 20 (* denotes a previous ITM Horse to Watch)



Elghayoor (filly, Ghostzapper - Hazimah by Gone West) - A maiden-breaking win in stakes company, this Kiaran McLaughlin trainee showed her progression in the Dearly Precious, her third start. She showed promise in both her runner-up showings and emerged victorious in her toughest challenge yet. She caught Kiss the Lady and held off Railtown Girl in the six-furlong test; time of 1:13.17 not noteworthy but average for Aqueduct standards.

Fair Grounds

Ante Up Annie (filly, Majestic Warrior – Always Annie’s by Regal Intention) - Tough stretch battle between this Dallas Stewart trainee and the valiant Mucho Mans Gold, a half-sister to Mucho Macho Man, in the one mile, 70-yard Sarah Lane’s Oates Stakes. The hard-fought win is the Louisiana-bred’s third straight. Nice run by Mucho Mans Gold, who can be successful on any surface but appears best on turf.

Golden Gate

*Dice Flavor (colt, Scat Daddy – Afleet Summer by Afleet) – A first start on synthetic, an outside post and a patient ride all added up to an El Camino Real victory for this Paddy Gallagher trainee. He’s the second straight Scat Daddy to win the race (Daddy Nose Best won in 2012). His prior race on turf at Hollywood indicated this was a contender with speedy late acceleration, and that helped him here as he sat off the pace set by Manando and waited until the stretch run to make his move. Final time of the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Derby prep is a fast 1:51.45. He’s yet to try dirt, so that remains the question mark, but projections show 1 1/4 against class is within his ability. Recap:


*Super Ninety Nine (colt, Pulpit – Exogenetic by Unbridled’s Song) - It seems even the racing gods honor the time-old tradition of Bob Baffert and 3-year-olds at Oaklawn. A heavy downpour just before the Southwest Stakes rendered the track sloppy, and that played right into this colt’s running style and pedigree. He handled it with ease and was never threatened, winning by 11 1/4-lengths in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Derby prep. The win comes off the heels of his eye-catching allowance win at Santa Anita over stablemate Code West, who is slated for the Risen Star Saturday. Did the surface bolster Super Ninety Nine? It certainly helped – there were many front-running winners Monday, even before track conditions changed - but it wasn’t the only reason he won. He’s obviously classier than this set of foes. He was flattered by Shakin It Up’s win in the San Vicente, having defeated him in his debut and finishing ahead of him in the Hollywood Prevue. He’s been his best since stretching out to a mile or more and added distance shouldn’t be a problem, although he lands in the questionable category for 1 1/4-miles and his dosage is 4.09. One of many Baffert prospects, and could even be mid-tier. His next race is undetermined; he will return to California and could go back for the Arkansas Derby. Keep an eye on Big Lute, a son of Midnight Lute who was seventh; it could’ve been a case of too much, too soon. Recap:

Sam Houston

*Worldventurer (gelding, Wimbledon – Better Than Most by Elusive Quality) – Consistent Bret Calhoun runner is now four of 10 and has posted two straight stakes wins.

*Makeshift (filly, Too Much Bling – Red Cell by Geri) - A big climb from state-bred maidens to open-company stakes proved no problem for this Steve Asmussen runner, who changed it up and came from off the pace for a solid win in the Two Altazano Stakes. She covered the mile in 1:40.04.

Santa Anita

*Shakin It Up (colt, Midnight Lute – Silver Bullet Moon by Vindication) - Where does this Bob Baffert runner rank after he emerged from the pack to win the San Vicente? The Hollywood Prevue is coming up strong with his and Super Ninety Nine’s victories. A return to dirt helped, and possibly jockey David Flores’ rapport with the colt, as he returned after being replaced by Martin Garcia for the Prevue. Pedigree leans to middle distance, but the Midnight Lute progeny remain a question mark and our early indications are many of them will do fine up to 1 1/8 (depending on dam side). Superb dosage of 1.67. Good battle in the San Vicente, but he’s faced mostly very short fields in his career and still needs a full-field test. Odd tactics on Belvin, a son of Empire Maker who appeared one of the leading contenders in the race; instead of stalking, he was guided to the lead past the swift Caballo del Cielo, posting blazing early fractions and fading. He looked energetic on the gallop out; this one is better coming from off the pace. Treasury Bill, son of Lemon Drop Kid, ran a strong second with a wide run, but was very green in the stretch, bumping Mudflats. Shakin It Up was much the best on the gallop out compared to Treasury Bill, and although he’ll like added distance, taking a wait-and-see approach with the Ron Ellis runner. Toss race for Baffert’s War Academy, a son of Giant’s Causeway who checked sharply in traffic and was bottled up. More on Midnight Lute’s big weekend:

*Judy in Disguise (turf) (GB) (filly, Elusive City – Tomorrow’s World (IRE) by Machiavellian) – We tabbed her as a top filly to watch after her eye-catching U.S. debut, so it was no surprise when this Simon Callaghan trainee dominated on the downhill turf in the Sweet Life Stakes. Keep an eye on this one; multi-surface talent with a lot of promise.



Secret Union (filly, Dixie Union – Barney’s Mistress by Dynaformer) - After a rough start hampered her debut, this Kiaran McLaughlin runner bounced back with a much improved effort against a small field going one mile, 70 yards. A very professional performance as she rated off the pace and made a well-timed move before drawing off by more than five lengths. She’s half-sister to Deputiformer, a multiple stakes winner and a warrior who made 57 starts.

*Mr. Palmer (colt, Pulpit – In Truth by Quiet American) – The always late-closing Bill Mott runner tried a different approach that resulted in success in his sixth start. He grabbed the lead early and just held off Incognito going one mile, 70 yards; has a pedigree that suggests stretch-out, but is he better off with his new sprinting tactics?

Fair Grounds

*Lattin Devil (gelding, Latent Heat – By the Belle by Geri) – Speedy, consistent Louisiana-bred was third to Mylute in an open company allowance, and followed up with a fast, front-running win by six lengths. Time of 1:04.50 for the five-and-a-half furlongs.

Golden Gate

*Havoc (gelding, Exchange Rate – Itsayatesthing by Saratoga Six) – Last-to-first rally up the rail put this William Morey trainee back in the winner’s circle after his debacle at Hollywood Park in the King Glorious Stakes. He’s three of four with wins on dirt and synthetic.


Emollient (filly, Empire Maker – Soothing Touch by Touch Gold) – Bill Mott’s consistent Kentucky Oaks prospect, second to Unlimited Budget in the Demoiselle, overcame a troubled trip for an allowance win in her 3-year-old debut. She was shuffled back when trying to make a move on Majestic River from the rail, and had to force her way out to make a stretch rally. It appears she’s a tough filly to handle – the sloppy surface might have played a role – as she often lugged in and turned her head while being guided by Joel Rosario. She was much the best out of this race despite the troubles, and covered the 1 1/16-miles in 1:46.37.

The Candidate

The Candidate

The Candidate (Bernardini - Fortyniner Fever by Forty Niner) - Sharp closing kick from this Nick Zito trainee, who fell just shy in trying to catch pacesetter Abraham, a son of Distorted Humor for Todd Pletcher, in a 1 1/8-mile maiden race. This is a late closer who often starts at the back of the pack before mounting his rally; route-loving pedigree and he’s improving with each race. Abraham appeared to spook at something along the inside rail and was green throughout the race. Final time of 1:52.91; route dirt times were on the slow side for this sloppy surface Saturday.

Middleburg (turf) (colt, Lemon Drop Kid – Rum Charger by Spectrum) – We pegged this Christophe Clement trainee as one to watch after his debut, in which he was just getting accustomed to the track. The half-brother to millionaire Winchester followed up with a notable win from off the pace at a mile. Gutsy in his second start as he split horses to get through. Promising.

Toasting (filly, Congrats – Ponderway by Prized) – Not a staunch test with the small field, but she had no trouble on the off track and proved she’s ready for her 3-year-old campaign. The race was originally scheduled for turf, and it would be interesting to see her try grass as the dam side leans that way in her pedigree.

Capo Bastone (colt, Street Boss – Fight to Love by Fit to Fight) - A triumphant return in his first start for Todd Pletcher, and his first victory since his debut win at Del Mar in August. He was challenged by the pesky Offlee Fast on the rail and was all out to win by a head. Not a strong race time-wise with a final 1:48.16 for the 1 1/16-miles, and a final split of 7:36. Pletcher said the Rebel Stakes is possible, but no decision has been made on his next start.

Pontiff (colt, Giant’s Causeway – Preach by Mr. Prospector) – In both his starts, this Dale Romans runner has been hampered by stumbling starts. It really cost him in his debut, but on Saturday, he was able to make quite a rally to finish a close second behind Midnight Aria going 1 1/8-miles. It’s not easy to make up substantial ground on this surface when it’s sloppy, plus he was very wide. This is a runner with a nice pedigree who likes longer distances and, if he can get past his troubled starts, will soon be a maiden no more.

Iroquois Girl (filly, Indian Charlie – Lake Huron by Salt Lake) – One of impressive debut winner Calistoga’s victims, she returned with a solid run for second on the stretch out to seven furlongs. Manuka Honey caught her in the stretch, but this half-sister to Salty Strike, trained by Ralph Nicks, won’t be a maiden long.


Silver Morgan (gelding, J Be K – Stylish Talent by Forty Niner) – Consistent sprinter found his footing on the muddy surface and extended his lead at the wire of the five-and-a-half furlong test. Solid time of 1:05.58 for the off track. Sprinter’s win flatters Forty Tales, the Todd Pletcher trainee who beat him at Parx.


Carve (gelding, First Samurai – Apt by A.P. Indy) - Astute claim by Steve Asmussen, who brought this gelding back off his maiden win for a surprise victory in a tough allowance. He came from off the pace to reel in the pacesetter, Bob Baffert’s heralded Title Contender, who was coming off the layoff in the 1 1/16-mile test. Final time of 1:45.87. Intriguing pedigree.

Transylvania Flash (gelding, More Than Ready – Lasting Code by Lost Code) - Heads-up ride by Luis Quinonez to get this Donnie von Hemel runner to the front from his outside post, where he repelled early challengers and drew off by more than eight lengths. He covered the 1 1/16-miles over a fast track in 1:46.56. Note he was fourth to Big Lute, who was seventh in the Southwest. This was his first stretch-out to two turns.

Sam Houston

*Explosive Argument (filly, Closing Argument – T.N.T. Red by Explosive Red) - We tabbed this Florida-bred as one to watch after her impressive maiden-breaking win last month, and she followed up with another gutsy victory at six furlongs. This Dallas Keen runner had to squeeze by Falling Star on the rail, and despite bumping with Falling Star, continued to rally at full run to the wire.

Santa Anita

Midnight Lucky (filly, Midnight Lute - Citiview by Citidancer) - What a way to kick off the Midnight Lute weekend party. While the colts and geldings were supposed to take center stage in their Derby preps, this newcomer filly stole the spotlight with a jaw-dropping debut for trainer Bob Baffert and the connections of Lookin at Lucky. A very bold move to pass leader Swimmin Insunshine, and with powerful strides to the wire, she won by 7 1/4-lengths. Superb time of 1:15.25 for the six-and-a-half furlongs. Stakes race likely next. Although the pedigree reads middle distance, visually, she looks like a special filly who could outrun the pedigree indications.

Govenor Charlie (colt, Midnight Lute – Silverbulletway by Storm Cat) – Yet another Midnight Lute with the Silverbulletday cross, this performance was the most impressive among the colts on Sunday. A victim of super sprinter Let Em Shine in his debut, he bounced back with a powerful performance in a strong one-mile race. Hustled up to stalk Syndicated, he tracked a very swift pace before making his move at the three-quarters pole. When Footbridge challenged on the rail, he didn’t flinch; Footbridge gained a full neck advantage on him late in the stretch, but he fought back to regain the lead and sustained it on the gallop out. Solid time of 1:36.28. Another one to watch out of the race is Pure Loyalty, a son of Simon Pure who is improving and prefers dirt.

Iotapa (filly, Afleet Alex – Concinnous by El Corredor) – Astute claim by John Sadler off the head-turning easy debut win, as she follows up with another scintillating performance at the allowance level. Great dirt pedigree that suggests longer distances, and she likes to come from off the pace.

Kid Dreams (colt, Lemon Drop Kid – Dreams by Silver Hawk) – Fifth to Flashback in his debut on synthetic, this Neil Drysdale runner got away from the gray powerhouse – and got on dirt – for an eye-catching win at a mile. Solid stalking run and a bold move made in tandem with Aleander, who couldn’t match strides as this colt drew off by more than three lengths. Final time of 1:37.75, but good final split of 12:92. Midnight Lute progeny making waves, but so are the Lemon Drop Kid runners.


Fair Grounds

*I Jus Wana Have Fun (filly, Private Vow – If It’s Meant to B by David) - Merrill Scherer’s Louisiana-bred was happy to get back to Fair Grounds and it showed with an allowance win. She just held off a closing Mohijo and Rosie Napravnik.


Native Bombshell (filly, War Front - Flat Screen by Pulpit) - Two starts, two sloppy tracks for this Tony Dutrow runner, who snatched the lead and never looked back going 1 1/16-miles in a race originally scheduled for turf. Outstanding pedigree for grass when she gets there. A definite for the virtual stable.

Do the Roar (turf) (colt, Leroidesanimaux (BRZ) – Fair Advice by Cozzene)  – The vision of his grassy pedigree, this gray stuck his long neck out and wouldn’t be denied at the wire in his third start. It looks like he’s starting to find his stride.


She’s a Gold Mine (filly, Smart Strike – In the Gold by Golden Missile) – Graham Motion has a nice prospect for this circuit in this Live Oak-bred filly. She won by three lengths in her second start, a seven-length test in which she came from off the pace, rallied wide and drew off.


Cruzette (filly, Wat Pass – Summer Cruise by Vicar) - Chris Hartman’s runner is now two for two at Oaklawn after a sprint win in an allowance race.


Zenzara (filly, Medaglia d’Oro – Enduring Will by Arch) - It took her a few races to get acclimated, but she showed improvement with each start and put it all together in her fourth try at Parx for trainer Jason Servis. She cruised to a 7 3/4-length win over a muddy track going one mile, 70 yards. Lovely pedigree suggests the added distance is her game.

Sam Houston

Hopelands (turf) (filly, Curlin - Myrtle Beach by Kingmambo) - A move to turf proved beneficial for this Michael Stidham trainee, as she held off several challengers into the turn to win going a mile. Time a bit slow (1:43.73), but she showed late acceleration to pull away from the field.

Tampa Bay

Sweet on You (turf) (filly, Candy Ride (ARG) – New Edition by Stormy Atlantic) – Notable debut by this Christophe Clement trainee who boasts an outstanding grass pedigree. She handled the 1 1/16-miles first time out with ease.

Night Warden (turf) (colt, First Defence – Euphonize by Seattle Slew) - Now that’s a classy pedigree. After showing little in his Gulfstream debut, he moved to Tampa Bay and dominated in a 1 1/16-mile off-turf event for Bill Mott. The second nice prospect for Mott by First Defence (Fire Guard).

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  1. J. J.,

    I agree that Big Lute bears watching. He probably should have been given one or two more preps and then entered in Arkansas Derby which has 100 points for qualification in the Derby.

    • J.J. Hysell says:

      Agree Calvin. I think he was boosted even more when Transylvania Flash came back to win so impressively. Super Ninety Nine was quite impressive, but I am concerned about him at the Derby distance. I mentioned at the end of last year I thought the California stock looked to be the best, but we’ll have to see how they stack up against the strong Florida contingent.

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