6 to follow, 2 to give up at the beginning of August


In this bi-weekly series, racing analyst Keeler Johnson shares promising horses from his handicap watchlist, reviews riders who have recently caught his eye, and provides insight into which horses are expected to return in the near future.

New to Watchlist


Is Amadevil an Ohio breed sensation in the making? You better believe it! The 3 year old filly has been spectacular in her first two starts against a state-restricted company in Thistledown. After clearing a special maiden weight of five stages by 24 1/4 lengths, Dominus’ daughter moved up to class for a six-stage allowance and quickly won by 11 3/4 lengths.

Both Amadevil’s victories were won against older rivals, and both were achieved virtually effortlessly. She seems destined to win more than her fair share of high-stakes races in Ohio, and it’s possible Amadevil has the knack to step up and challenge an open company.


Although Dynamic One never shot finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby, the Wood Memorial (G2) finalist looked like a different horse when he returned to action in the Curlin S. at Saratoga.

One afternoon when the main track was drying out and speed horses largely dominated, Dynamic One managed to rally the last to win the Curlin by 1 3/4 lengths. Belmont Stakes (G1) winner’s son Union Rags was full of racing around the far corner and the home stretch, sprinting the final three stages in: 37.26 (according to Trakus), and his rivals defeated included the Dwyer Stakes (G3). ) First Captain winner.

With the exception of his backhand in the Kentucky Derby, Dynamic One has made steady progress this season. Todd Pletcher’s trainee is now shaping up to be a serious contender for the Travers (G1) at Saratoga next month.

Limited liability

When Hall of Fame coach Shug McGaughey wins with a newbie for the first time, it’s wise to sit down and take note. They often prove to be stake horses, with Grade 1 Code of Honor and Code of Honor winners among the best examples of the past decade.

Could limited liability evolve in the same direction? It certainly seems possible after Kitten’s Joy’s well-behaved son scored an eye-catching debut victory on Saturday at Saratoga. Running 1 1/16 miles on turf, the gray colt ran close to the back of the field through gaps of: 24.35,: 49.14 and 1: 14.36 on a good run, then tripped strong acceleration to sweep the leaders and score by 2 3/4 lengths in 1: 45.12.

Visually, it was an eye-catching performance, and the limited liability was full of racing on the track. Its future looks bright, with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) looming as a possible goal for the end of the year.

Worth another try

First captain

Failed to produce the solid finish I expected by stretching 1 1/8 miles in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga, flattening along the last stretch to finish third at 8 3/4 lengths. The first captain doesn’t seem ready to take on Rank 1 yet, but Shug McGaughey’s trainee still has the pedigree to improve with time and maturity. I’m not going to take this three-time winner off my watch list just yet.

Venetian port

Didn’t quite see 1 1/16 miles in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar, where she set fractions of: 23.30,: 47.21 and 1: 11.77 before to weaken in the stretch to finish second by 3 1/4 lengths. But the winner was 2020 Kentucky Oaks champion Shedaresthedevil, and Venetian Harbor finished 3 1/4 lengths ahead of the rest, so I won’t judge his loss too harshly. The sprinting is probably the real highlight of Venetian Harbor, and I think it will be effective if it cuts the distance for the rest of the summer and fall.

Entries to come


Fresh out of a fourth-place match in the 1 1/4 mile (G2) suburb, Moretti will stretch on a more favorable 1 3/4 mile trip in Thursday’s ninth race at Saratoga, the Birdstones. Stakes (time after 5:39 a.m. EDT).

Moretti did his best job in long marathons and won the 2020 Birdstone 1 1/2 lengths on quality terrain featuring You’re to Blame and Rocketry. These two are back for a rematch on Thursday, with runaway Brooklyn Stakes (G2) winner Lone Rock, but a peak effort from Moretti should be enough to compete for another victory.

Off the watch list

Over time

The winners of Santa Margarita (G2) and Santa Maria (G2) fell back into the Clement L. Hirsch, stumbling at the start and unusually deviating pace before losing ground in the lane to finish fourth by 14 lengths. We had a great run with As Time Goes By, but I want to see it bounce back before I put it back on my watch list.

Vertical threat

Failed to shoot on his debut in 2021, fading steadily to finish eighth and final in the Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) at Del Mar. Although he is eligible to rebound in his second round of the season , I want to see a more encouraging performance from last year’s Steel Valley Sprint winner before I play it again.

Here is my complete and updated list of horses to watch out for.

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