It seems hard to believe, but last year at this time, Triple Crown winner Justify was still a week away from his career debut.
Perhaps emboldened by the extraordinary success of the colt who shattered the “Apollo Curse,” seventy unraced horses have been nominated to the 2019 Triple Crown, including three who haven’t even been named yet.
If you’re in the mood to look for the second coming of Justify (or the third coming of Apollo, depending on your viewpoint), Saturday’s third race at Fair Grounds is a great place to start. No less than four unraced Triple Crown nominees—namely, Seclusive, Get the Prize, Into Morocco, and Hitch—are entered in the six-furlong sprint, representing such well-known trainers as Joe Sharp, Al Stall Jr., Dallas Stewart, and Steve Assmussen.
In the meantime, here are eight other unraced Triple Crown nominees who could potentially make some noise during the coming months….
The three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown could join the Apollo fray with Bandon Woods, a $700,000 yearling purchase owned by OXO Equine. The son of Uncle Mo has posted a solid series of workouts at Palm Meadows in recent months, including a pair of five-furlong breezes to kick off February, and he looks ready to run in the near future.
Purchased as a 2yo-in-training for $550,000, Fort Worth hails from the barn of Todd Pletcher and has been working steadily at Palm Beach Downs since December 10. From a pedigree perspective, you can question whether he wants to run classic distances—as a son of City Zip out of an Indian Charlie mare, he might wind up being more of a miler—but with two recent breezes from the starting gate under his belt, he should turn up in the entries soon and start showing us what he can handle.
A half-brother to the three-time graded stakes winner and 2014 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Commissioner, this stoutly-bred son of Tapit brought $750,000 as a 2yo-in-training and has put together a solid, consistent work tab at Palm Beach Downs over the last two months. Trained by Pletcher, Intrepid Heart could be an interesting longshot Kentucky Derby hopeful if he debuts soon, though considering his pedigree, the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes is where he’s truly bred to shine.
Trainer Bob Baffert achieved the seemingly impossible with Justify—can he do the same with Martial Eagle? This colt has been breezing roughly once every two weeks, which isn’t a typical pattern for a Baffert trainee, but he’s been clocking fast times and recently shipped from Los Alamitos to Santa Anita, where he threw down a bullet half-mile in :46.60 on February 12. A half-brother to the graded stakes winner Great Stuff, this well-bred son of Curlin was purchased for $725,000 as a yearling and will race in the silks of Juddmonte Farms.
Next Gen’s half-brothers Governor Malibu and Rieno Tesoro were both accomplished runners going a mile or farther on dirt, and as a son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, there’s every reason to believe that Next Gen could be a capable classic runner if given the chance. Trained by Richard Mandella, Next Gen’s work tab at Santa Anita has been solid in recent weeks and he ought to turn up in the entries soon.
Another runner owned by OXO Equine, Oggonis has posted a nice series of stamina-boosting workouts at Los Alamitos since the beginning of January. As a son of Animal Kingdom, his future might be on turf, so it will be interesting to see where (and when) trainer Jerry Hollendorfer chooses to debut this $750,000 yearling.
As a yearling, Oxburger sold for $900,000 in large part because of his pedigree—he’s a son of Tapit out of Comedy, who is already the dam of three stakes winners, including the 2016 Humana Distaff (gr. I) winner Taris. Only time will tell if Oxburger can follow in the hoofprints of his talented siblings, but he’s been training steadily at Fair Grounds under the care of Steve Asmussen and bears watching this winter.
Trainer Murat Sancal might not be a household name, but that could all change if Shared Legacy lives up to his $1.9 million buy-back price from the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale. A full brother to champion Shared Belief, Shared Legacy is bred like a classic winner and recently returned from time off to resume breezing at Palm Meadows, where he’s worked five times since January. Perhaps Shared Legacy is too far behind schedule to make the Kentucky Derby field, but in terms of pedigree and potential he remains an exciting colt to keep an eye on.