3 Up-and-Coming Horses to Follow

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

Every year, after the Breeders' Cup, I like to take a week on Unlocking Winners and highlight a handful of horses I'm excited to follow in the months ahead.

Usually, I focus on up-and-coming Kentucky Derby contenders. But this year, I'm going to take a different approach and share thoughts on exciting horses from any division.

The three horses I'm featuring have yet to win at the graded stakes level, but I'm optimistic they all have the talent and potential to do so in the near future.

Let's dig in and explore their credentials!


I'm surprised there hasn't been more talk about Amadevil. Granted, the three-year-old daughter of Dominus hasn't been facing the toughest competition—so far, she's been squaring off against Ohio-bred sprinters at Thistledown.

But Amdavil is also undefeated and completely unchallenged in five starts. After winning her debut by 24 1/4 lengths, she trounced a pair of allowance events by 11 3/4 and 5 1/2 lengths before nabbing the Michael G. Mackey Memorial Angenora S. and Scarlet and Gray H. by 6 3/4 lengths apiece.

To put it another way, Amadevil has won her first five starts by a combined 55 lengths. All of her victories have come against older rivals, and she'd led gate-to-wire on four occasions. Along the way, she's thrown dome some solid Beyer and Brisnet speed figures.

I fully expect Amadevil to secure a sixth victory in Saturday's six-furlong First Lady S. at Mahoning Valley, where she looms as a clear standout on paper. And who knows? If Amadevil posts another unchallenged victory, perhaps her connections will ship her to Santa Anita for the Dec. 26 La Brea S. (G1), where Amadevil could have a legitimate chance to win or place against Grade 1 company.


Speaking of talented fillies... have you seen the eye-catching performances put forth by Sandstone in her last two starts at Churchill Downs?

A two-year-old daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Street Sense, Sandstone surely wasn't cranked for a peak performance in her May 28 debut at Churchill, where she settled for fifth place in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint won by future stakes winner Behave Virginia. But after taking four months off, Sandstone looked like a completely different filly in a one-mile maiden special weight on Oct. 3.

Indeed, Sandstone obliterated her pursuers, pressing quick fractions of :22.84 and :46.43 before powering clear to win by nine lengths. She was equally impressive (maybe more so) when stretching out around two turns for the Oct. 31 Rags to Riches S., carving out the pace before turning back a challenge from heavy favorite Yuugiri to romp home an uncontested winner.

In the Rags to Riches, Sandstone went from 1 1/2 lengths in front at the eighth pole to 10 3/4 lengths clear at the finish line. She'll surely be tough to deny in the Golden Rod S. (G2) at Churchill Downs next week, and looking ahead, and I believe Sandstone has the potential to vie for victory in the 2022 Kentucky Oaks (G1).

Speaker's Corner

I'll be the first to admit Speaker's Corner wasn't among my most successful selections of 2021 when he finished a distant sixth in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1). But the son of Street Sense clearly ran below form at Parx, and he's since rebounded and reiterated his standing as one of the most exciting horses in training.

Certainly Speaker's Corner was impressive in a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claimer on Oct. 29 at Belmont Park. Dashing to the lead through splits of :23.36, :46.48, and 1:10.20, Speaker's Corner was full of run down the homestretch, drawing clear to trounce his pursuers by 6 3/4 lengths. Even better, his snappy final time of 1:41.83 translated to a massive 109 Beyer speed figure. Only Knicks Go and Hot Rod Charlie have posted higher figures in races longer than one mile this season.

All told, Speaker's Corner has won three of his five starts, with his maiden victory at Belmont Park last year coming at the expense of future stakes winners Caddo River, Greatest Honour, Bourbonic, and Original. I'm not sure why Speaker's Corner misfired in the Pennsylvania Derby, but I don't believe that performance is indicative of his true potential. To the contrary, I believe this speedy sophomore has the talent to win at the graded stakes level (and perhaps even the Grade 1 level) before his career is over.

Now it's your turn! Which horses are you excited to follow for the foreseeable future?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.

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