Catching My Eye: Across the country Aug. 13-14

August 16th, 2022

Below are a handful of runners who caught Kevin Kilroy's eye at Del Mar, Churchill Downs, and Ellis Park over the weekend.

Del Mar: Saturday, Aug. 13

The Irish-bred Dandy Warhol won against a strong field of "n1xers" (horses that have not won more than one other race) at Del Mar on Saturday. Circling the field of three-year-olds, what impressed me most was the power of his stride, extending through the final stages to nail Handy Dandy at the wire.

And there is upside here for this gelding whose next start will only be his fourth. Showing a touch of greenness turning for home, he shifted in before Umberto Rispoli corrected him, seeming to have no turn of foot, but as soon as he got out a path further and the coast was clear, his talent poured through. In his prior race, just his first North American start, he encountered trouble bumping early and clipping heels late. Mark Glatt has this gelding moving forward, and with a touch more maturity, he could prove formidable against stakes foes.

Twenty races on the turf, Glatt’s six-year-old City Rage has proven the dirt is his best surface. Making just his fourth start on the main track on Saturday in an optional claimer, he won his second in a row and again demonstrated all the bells and whistles of a dangerous dirt sprinter.

Breaking toward the front, he relaxed nicely for a midpack stalk following odds-on Bob Baffert favorite Rhetoric before putting away that foe in the stretch, dueling an inner foe and holding off a closer’s charge. Scoring his highest speed figure by nearly 10 points, this City Zip gelding will surely test non-graded stakes waters soon.

Churchill Downs: Saturday, Aug. 13

Making his debut at Churchill Downs on Arlington Million Day, the three-year-old gelding Pro Oxidant made a jaw-dropping move to put away a grab-bag field of seasoned and first-time starting maidens.

Going seven furlongs was the key—the last furlong he ran nine lengths faster than the favorite, Engrave, who had the lead at the stretch call and held on for second. A half to A.P. Indian, this Medaglia d’Oro son had been firing bullets for trainer Eddie Kenneally coming into the race. Rafael Bejarano took him back near the rear, stayed wide, let him stare all his foes in the eyes one by one, and as soon as he got him past Engrave, he hit the rocket boosters. Tab this fella—there’s definitely more to come from him.

Ellis Park: Sunday, Aug. 14

Top Recruit proved his mettle fighting back on the inside against Tom Amoss’ Curly Jack to win the $125,000 Juvenile at Ellis Park on Sunday.

Those two locked in late and pushed each other to the bottom of their tanks putting 15 lengths on the rest of the field. Going seven furlongs, Top Recruit pressed and took the lead into the stretch, but Sanford S. (G3) fifth-place finisher Curly Jack was following on his outside and passed him at the stretch call. Mike Maker’s Midshipman two-year-old colt locked eyes, dug in, and found a way to win, taking a huge step forward in speed figures. He had faced another impressive two-year-old, finishing third to Tyler’s Tribe in his prior race, and flattered that ultra-impressive Sharp Azteca colt even more with this win. 

The Amoss barn won the $125,000 Groupie Doll later on the Ellis Park card, sending out the four-year-old filly Li’l Tootsie. Typecast as a sprinter for most of her 16-race career, Amoss stretched her out to one mile in here—going one and half turns out of the Ellis Park chute.

The race set up nicely for her with two leaders dueling for most of it, and Li’l Tootsie stalked early and made an aggressive move in the stretch to pull away from the competitive field. Earning her career best speed figure and finding this new identity verging on two turns, it will be interesting to see what owner Joel Politi and Amoss plot for her next.