Curlin is gone so the search for a successor begins. Zenyatta is the obvious one to take up the mantle and of course the Triple Crown stars are always a big draw but what of the lesser known horses in other divisions? Every division has suffered the loss of a star of some kind and there is a vacuum that needs to be filled. Below is a list of ten horses that I'll be keeping a close eye on next year.
Zambezi Sun - Another Juddmonte import to Frankel's barn. He was a G-1 winner in Europe but he suffered through a generally disappointing four year old season. At his best he's 5 lengths better than Champs Elysees. He may well be the best Turf horse in America in 2009.
Desert Key - Freakishly fast but needs to mature a bit. He reminds me a bit of Fabulous Strike as a three year old. If he puts it all together he could be the best sprinter by a mile. He's got the ability to go sub :44 and still be around to fight at the finish.
Tybalt - A Frankel trained Stonerside horse who was imported for the 2008 season. Frankel only got three starts into him. He was never worse than second in those three efforts and finished a fast closing second in the Oak Tree Mile behind Hyperbaric. That was his Graded Stakes debut. Godolphin will likely take over for Frankel so his campaign may not be exclusively American. But this son of Storm Cat and Tuzla has the world at his feet.
Seaspeak - An unlucky headcase of a horse who just might have what it takes to be a top class miler. His antics in his last two races likely cost him the victory but he's shown remarkable consistency in terms of producing a solid effort. He is never well beaten and should really have more wins than just a maiden. He ought to be a dual Graded Stakes winner already.
Ginger Brew - The next in a long line of top class Stronach fillies. Ginger Brew handles all three types of surfaces and is effective from 7f to 10f. Much of her career has been in Canada so far but watch for her to head south of the border for 2009. She might be the best filly in the east.
Into Mischief - He's had a ton of problems in his career but producing big efforts has never been one of them. I don't know if he's a real 10f type but certainly anything from 7f to 9f will be right up his alley. He's got class and good tactical speed. A major player in the handicap division.
Georgie Boy - I was very disappointed to see his 2008 campaign shortened by injury. He was one of the few really exciting three year old prospects. His quick turn of foot should make him able to stretch out further than his breeding might suggest.
Gio Ponti - Another miler, I guess I'm attracted to them. Gio Ponti might be my favorite horse in training after the retirement of Wait A While. I loved him since the Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland when he showed such promise as a two year old. He's a killer. I don't think he is best served by attempting races beyond 8f. His results are far more varied at those distances. They should develop him into a specialist. If someone would like to book action on the winner of the 2009 Makers Mark Mile I'd love to play him.
Storm Play - Undefeated in three starts and still virtually unknown. He recently won a minor stakes at Aqueduct in his first try at two turns. He's received some huge figures and he's got an exciting future.
Lantana Mob - This late running sprinter might actually be set for a big year. He loves 6f and is better than you think. He's had a bit of poor fortune in his races but what I like about him is that unlike many other eastern sprinters he has shown ability on a synthetic surface. His closing style is also well suited for success in big Sprint events.