In this bi-weekly series, race analyst Keeler Johnson shares promising horses from his handicap watch list, reviews runners he recently spotted, and previews horses that will return in the near future.
Dr. Schivel never got out of the Trifecta in eight starts and is only a nose length away from a winning streak of six races in the 10th race on Sunday in Santa Anita, the Malibu (G1, post time 6:49 p.m. EST).
As a two-time winner of grade 1 over distances of six to seven stages, Dr. Schivel after a narrow defeat against older rivals in the Sprint des Breeders’ Cup in Malibu. On this occasion, Dr. Schivel set a hot pace and took command on the home straight before succumbing to the deeply closing Aloha West with his nose.
Dr. Schivel will meet other three-year-olds in Malibu and is one of the most important competitors in a deep and competitive field.
Dr. Schivel would be an obvious favorite to win the Malibu if Flightline weren’t there. This incredibly talented son of Tapit is unbeaten and undisputed in two starts and wins the maiden and admission sprints with an average advantage of 13 lengths.
Sold for $ 1 million as a yearling, Flightline has done a variety of dazzling workouts in preparation for his stakes debut. The hot jockey Flavien Prat will lead the John Sadler trainee, who achieved enormous speed figures of 114 (Beyer) and 117 (Brisnet) in his latest victory. If Flightline brings his A game to Malibu he will be hard to beat.
Hot Rod Charlie
With seven launches in 2021, Hot Rod Charlie was an image of talent and persistence. Winner of the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G2), Hot Rod Charlie finished an excellent fourth place in the Breeders’ Cup Classic where he challenged the speed winner Knicks Go before flattening out in the final furlong.
With five straight three-digit Brisnet Speed Ratings under his belt, Hot Rod Charlie is the horse to beat in Sunday’s sixth race in Santa Anita, San Antonio (G2, after 4:40 p.m.). The resilient 3-year-old will drop his blinkers as he enlists the services of Flavien Prat and sets the stage for a close win in his second run against older rivals.
Seven starts, six pole wins, five ranked wins. Going Global was sensational this year, and the constant second filly will try to achieve a second Grade 1 victory as the favorite at the 11th race on Sunday in Santa Anita, the American Oaks (G1, after 7:20 pm).
As the winner of the Del Mar Oaks (G1) in the summer, Going Global recently conquered a successful field of older rivals with the Goldikova (G2). Strong target stretch acceleration is Going Global’s best weapon, and if it gets its signature kick while stretching over 1 1/4 miles it can end the year on a good note.
Undefeated 1st class winners usually attract a lot of attention, but Lady Speightspeare is an exception. The savvy filly flies under the radar and isn’t even the morning line favorite in Sunday’s fifth race at Gulfstream Park, Tropical Park Oaks (1:54 p.m. overtime).
Underestimating Lady Speightspeare could be a mistake. Lady Speightspeare, winner of the Natalma (G1) one-mile race at Woodbine last year, has not seen a defeat in four starts. She kicks off in Bessarabia (G2) over the Woodbine Tapeta course in four lengths and shouldn’t have much pace at Tropical Park Oaks, which opens the door to a fast-paced win.
Although Private Mission last came 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, it is difficult to see this achievement in a negative light. After all, Into Mischief’s daughter was burned out with glowing fractions of 21.84, 44.97 and 1: 09.70 seconds, which meant that deep approaches took the first five places.
Private Mission had previously scored three straight wins, including triumphs in the Torrey Pines (G3) and Zenyatta (G2). The La Brea (G1, after 5:44 pm) should make Private Mission under Flavien Prat an impressive achievement.
Although Brad Cox’s trainees often improve their debuts, Rocket Dawg looked really quick on his first run at Churchill Downs last month. After Rocket Dawg equalized the pace in a seven-meter-long first special weight, a wide rally started to beat next winner Grantham by 5 1/2 lengths.
This effort made Rocket Dawg a main contender in Sunday’s 11th race at the Fair Grounds, the Gun Runner (6:06 p.m. post time). Cox wins at 29 percent the first time horses run long, so the 11/16 mile distance shouldn’t be an issue for Rocket Dawg, who has a classic pedigree. If he improves in his second run, Rocket Dawg can join the Gun Runner winners circle and earn 10 qualifying points en route to the Kentucky Derby.
Tobys Heart, a three-time stakes-winning sprinter, is the favorite on the morning line to beat Lady Speightspeare at Tropical Park Oaks. The question is, can Toby’s Heart cover the 1 1/16 mile distance?
Toby’s Heart brings a fascinating résumé to the table. Clearly talented, she placed at Lake George (G3) that summer who rode a mile in Saratoga.
But Toby’s Heart is 4-for-4 sprints of 6 1/2 stadiums or less and 0-for-5 races of seven stadiums or more, so shorter tours could be her real strength. Her talent and persistence should put her on the hunt for a top-three finish on Sunday, but catching Lady Speightspeare may require a perfect setup.
Although Triple Tap was not quite as conspicuous as Flightline, the chestnut stallion is also undefeated and unchallenged in two starts. Triple Tap, a noticeable first winner who sprinted seven stadiums in Santa Anita last winter, recently returned from an eight month hiatus to win a six stadia allowance by 2 1/4 lengths at Del Mar.
Triple tap is versatile when it comes to running style, but seems to be most effective when riding off-pace. He used a destructive pace to recover from seventh in his win and expects to use similar tactics in the Malibu.
When a fast pace unfolds, this half-brother of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah can exceed expectations and fight for an accurate finish – or maybe even for victory.
What horses do you have your eye on this week?