2016 Three-Year-Olds To Watch

With 2015 coming to a close, it's on to the new year -- which means new crops of three-year-olds. We've been lucky in the past year to have seen an abundance of talent worldwide among the juveniles and we're focusing here not on which juveniles accomplished the most, but which of them appear to have the potential for greater success in 2016.

Note: For Southern Hemisphere-bred horses, we have only included those which turned three on August 1, 2015.

1. Minding (Galileo - Lillie Langtry, by Danehill Dancer)
IRE 2yo, Aidan O'Brien

Considering the connections, it is no surprise that Minding is as well-bred as they come. She is by top stallion Galileo out of Little Langtry, a top class racemare who was a G1 winner, taking both the Coronation Stakes and Matron Stakes. A winner of her second career outing at Leopardstown, she finished behind her more-fancied stablemate Ballydoyle in the G2 Debutante Stakes, but always looking the more unexposed and progressive type. Not only did she reverse that form with Ballydoyle next time out in the G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes, but she emphatically won the G1 Dubai Fillies' Mile, relishing every bit of the distance when stepped up to that trip for the first time. Of all the juvenile champions trying to win three-year-old classics, she appears far and away the most likely to accomplish that feat.

2. Leontes (King Kamehameha - Cesario, by Special Week)
JPN 2yo, Katsuhiko Sumii

Those who remember Cesario's romp in the 2005 American Oaks at Hollywood Park will recognize her son straight away. A spitting image of his mother, Leontes is a big strapping son of Deep Impact who towers over his peers in terms of size and strength. Still very raw, he fought his jockey throughout his entire debut run while wide and at times without cover and yet when asked, he burst four wide around the bend en route to an easy victory. A half brother to 2014 Japan Cup winner Epiphaneia, Leontes was the first horse to win Japan's two-year-old feature Asahi Hai Futurity at only his second start since the beginning of the graded stakes system in Japan in the mid-1980s. The scary part is that he clearly has more development in him, both physically and mentally, which should lead to further improvement over time.

3. Songbird (Medaglia d'Oro - Ivanavinalot, by West Acre)
US (KY) 2yo, Jerry Hollendorfer
United States

While American Pharoah was clearly the best horse in America (and the world) this past year, no American runner dominated their division quite like Songbird. Stylistically, she harks back to her dam Ivanovinalot, a speedy Florida runner who won the G2 Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream Park over one and one eighth miles. Being able to sustain front-end speed over a distance is one of the greatest weapons a dirt runner can possess and it shows in her results, as she has never won by less than 4.5 lengths. The combined margin of her four victories? 22 lengths. Connections have indicated they don't plan to run her against the males, so expect her to head towards the G1 Kentucky Oaks.

4. Jameka (Myboycharlie - Mine Game, by General Nediym)
AUS 3yo, Ciaron Maher

A daughter of young breakthrough stallion Myboycharlie, Jameka showed potential from the start, but often found a few too good before her maiden victory in the G2 VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington at her fourth career start. A versatile filly, she can be ridden off the pace and yet when pushed forward in the G1 Oaks over 2500m at Flemington, her trademark turn of foot was as good as demonstrated despite being ridden on the pace. While she may not offer the potential progression of others on this list, a horse who has her speed and stamina (having shown her real potential at 2,000+ meters) is going to win races.

5. Hartley (Deep Impact - Wickedly Perfect, by Congrats)
JPN 2yo, Takahisa Tezuka

It seems every year Deep Impact has a few good ones and this year is no exception. The influx of classy international racemares has only further strengthened his already outstanding books and Hartley is the product of such a mating. Out of former Doug O'Neill trainee Wickedly Perfect -- a daughter of Congrats who won the G1 Alcibiades Stakes -- Hartley is every bit the classy two-year-old he was bred to be. With a superior closing kick, Hartley figures to fit right in with the typical large Japanese fields with races run at moderate tempos. There is every reason to believe Hartley is the best Japanese juvenile, but while he possesses obvious class, he perhaps doesn't offer the extent of improvement of his compatriot Leontes.

6. Swipe (Birdstone - Avalanche Lily, by Grand Slam)
USA (KY) 2yo, Keith Desormeaux
United States

While Nyquist may have beaten him countless times now, as the distances increase along the three-year-old Kentucky Derby trail, there is every reason to believe this son of Birdstone will reverse that form. Looking every bit a router physically, Swipe has clearly improved for each step up in trip he has had and the way he finished off the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile -- fastest of all and over three-tenths faster than Nyquist in the final sectional -- there's reason to believe that the step up to nine furlongs will be ideal. With tactical versatility, stamina and mental soundness on his side, Swipe has all the markings of a top Kentucky Derby contender.

7. Ami's Mesa (Sky Mesa - Victorious Ami, by Victory Gallop)
ON 2yo, Josie Carroll

A winner of both of starts to date, Ami's Mesa possess a turn of foot unmatched by this year's juvenile crop. She has both the speed to stay in touch over the all-weather and the breeding and sharp turn of foot necessary in quality turf events, should she be tried over the surface. A half-sister to G3 Grey Stakes winner Ami's Holiday, Ami's Mesa looks to be still figuring things out, but with a bit more seasoning she should reach new heights.

8. Air Force Blue (War Front - Chatham, by Maria's Mon)
USA (KY) 2yo, Aidan O'Brien

A winner of four from five, Air Force Blue hasn't done much wrong in his career to date. Clearly the best of the Ballydoyle charge, Air Force Blue still shows signs of greenness, but should he become more professional in nature in the offseason, he'd be extremely difficult to beat in the 2000 Guineas. While at times, progeny of War Front have been criticized as being merely precocious types, Air Force Blue physically appears to have quite a bit of scope about him. His full sister Bugle won over one and one sixteenth miles at Churchill Downs and the American influences of Maria's Mon and Seeking The Gold in his pedigree should result in him seeing out a mile no problem.

9. Mohaymen (Tapit - Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union)
USA (KY) 2yo, Kiaran McLaughlin
United States

So often those who have big reputations as a result of their breeding fail to live up to expectations, but that is not the case for Mohaymen, a son of leading American sire Tapit and a half to Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner New Year's Day. Purchased for $2.2 million in the 2014 Keeneland September sale, he was workmanlike in his maiden victory over six furlongs. He's another on this list who has improved for added distance, however, and in doing so he completed the G2 Nashua - G2 Remsen double, getting Lasix for the first time in the latter. In a year where the juvenile crop has lacked many who look like true Derby contenders, Mohaymen's tactical versatility and the ease with which he passes runners (inside and out) stands out. His effortless win over the one and one eighth trip of the Remsen also makes him one of very few who have the look of a true "classic distance" horse.

10. Xtravagant (Pentire - Axiom, by Zabeel)
NZ 3yo, Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards
New Zealand

Few young horses travel with the same authority as this son of Pentire does in running and seemingly time and time again, he's able to put fields away in a matter of three or four strides. Xtravagant, a NZ$375,000 purchase at the Karaka Premier sale, is the full brother to New Zealand 2000 Guineas runner-up He's Remarkable and he is out of a daughter of leading broodmare sire Zabeel, winner of the Australian Guineas who unfortunately died at the age of 29 earlier this year. From start to finish, Xtravagant pummels the competition, as he routinely shoots out of the barriers fastest of them all and often gallops out far past the field after the finish. While only tested over 1600m to date, his performances combined with the gallop outs indicate this is a true stayer in the making. At a time when Kiwi racing is thriving, particularly when it comes to stamina tests -- over which they've historically dominated -- and with planned targets including the G1 Australian Guineas and G1 Australian Derby, Xtravagant looks the next Kiwi to make his mark Down Under.

11. People's Knight (Exceed And Excel - Allegra, by Dehere)
AUS 3yo, John Moore
Hong Kong

An A$1 million dollar purchase at the 2014 Inglis Australian Easter yearling sale, People's Knight came to Hong Kong with a mountain of expectations on his back. Having won griffin races over subsequent winners General of Patch and Classic Emperor, People's Knight’s form was franked on multiple occasions before he finished second against a group of smart older horses including the winner Jolly Jolly. Back against his age group in his second run of the season, he flew home fastest of them all by a wide margin. From the family of US Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox, People's Knight looks set to shoot up the local rankings.

12. Perfect Reflection (More Than Ready - Reflected Image, by Bluebird)
AUS 3yo, Grant Williams

A daughter of Bluebird mare Reflected Image, winner of the 1999 G2 Western Australian Oaks, is a full sibling to Listed stakes winner Ideal Image. A winner of five-from-five to date, she stamped herself as a true up-and-comer when she became the first three-year-old filly to win the G1 Kingston Town Classic over stablemate Delicacy. While she has been sent to the paddock, the runner-up has since gone on to convincingly win a G2, further franking that form.

13. OS Hwadap (Friesan Fire - Meg's A Lady, by Menifee)
USA (PA) 2yo
South Korea

Undefeated in four starts, OS Hwadap's biggest win to date came earlier this month in a Juvenile Special which was open to imported horses. In a powerful front-running display, OS Hwadap put away a field which included two-from-two Keeneland September graduate Miso Wangja. A $50,000 2015 Fasig-Tipton Midatlantic purchase, OS Hwadap looks to be another progressive descendant of Menifee in one of Asia's emerging jurisdictions.

14. Airoforce (Colonel John - Chocolate Pop, by Cuvee)
USA (KY) 2yo, Mark Casse
United States

Out of a solid racemare in her own right, Chocolate Pop -- second in the 2009 Busanda Stakes -- Airoforce was an impressive winner when taking the G3 Dixiana Bourbon Stakes over a large field of well-bred horses at Keeneland in what was only his second start. He arguably ran his best race to date in the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf when second to Hit It A Bomb despite traffic troubles over a yielding turf course. His G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes win was flashy and has since been boosted by the win of Mor Spirit in the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity, but a sloppy track win doesn't mean he would handle a dry dirt surface. With influences like Mr. Prospector and In Reality via Relaunch indicating he would take to a sloppy surface, he'll have to prove that dry dirt is no issue in order to be a true Kentucky Derby contender. Even if that doesn't work out, though, he can always head back to the turf -- a division ripe for the taking.

15. Robin of Navan (American Post - Cloghran, by Muhtathir)
FR 2yo, Harry Dunlop

Never worse than second since his debut, Robin of Navan has found a home in French races where his early speed can be used as a serious weapon. He's a straightforward type in that he typically goes forward and more often than not, he simply hasn't stopped. Having won over ground ranging from good to very soft, there doesn't seem to be a course condition which really hampers him and he has won going both left and right-handed. He's provided a fairy tale story for connections, as he is his trainer's first G1 winner, and with the French classics his aim and a win at Chantilly under his belt, he looks to take the feel good story to new heights.

16. Get Jets (Scat Daddy - Sunny, by Dixieland Band)
USA (NY) 2yo, Anthony Dutrow
United States

A winner on debut, Get Jets always looked a horse who would always need much further than the six furlongs he competed over that day. While he took a substantial amount of money as the low priced second favorite in his subsequent start in the Betram F. Bongard Stakes at Belmont, he just missed, closing behind lone speed Sudden Surprise who has since won two stakes. Further improvement was seen when stepped up to a mile, where despite a wide trip, he cruised past a well-meant Fish Trappe Road late, relishing every bit of the added distance. Given how erratic the runner-up was in deep stretch, it was also encouraging to see Get Jets keep to task in spite of that happening near him. He's not as accomplished as the other Americans listed to this point, but Get Jets seems to be flying under the Kentucky Derby trail radar despite showing an affinity for routes.

17. Sanus Per Aquam (Teofilo - Fainne, by Peintre Celebre)
IRE 2yo, Jim Bolger

A large, scopey type, Sanus Per Aquam looks every bit a late developer so it's encouraging to see the quality of competition he's competed with to date. A winner of the Group 3 Tattersall Stakes at Newmarket over seven furlongs, Sanus Per Aquam won in spectacular fashion when struggling with the course configuration and being outpaced when the field quickened around him. He was no match for Air Force Blue in the G1 Dewhurst, but again he appeared to both still be learning his job and in need of substantially further. Perhaps an Irish Derby or St Leger type down the road, with physical maturity expected in the offseason, Sanus Per Aquam appears one to follow once he gets the step up in trip that he so desperately needs.

18. Magnum (Per Incanto - Sound Lover, by Sound Reason)
NZ 3yo, Michael Freedman

A winner of two from four starts, Magnum did plenty wrong in his most recent victory in a $75,000 Graduation race. Despite overracing throughout the beginning stages and struggling to handle the bend, Magnum showed exactly why he was one of the more fancied runners in the event when he found the line strongly to overcome his rivals (and himself, for that matter). The way he finished there, the step up in trip to 1600m for the G1 Singapore Guineas appears ideal, and with time and further education awaiting him in the meantime, he appears every bit an improver.

19. Ava's Kitten (Kitten's Joy - Reachfortheheavens, by Pulpit)
USA (KY) 2yo, Chad Brown
United States

It took Ava's Kitten a few starts to find her way into the winner's circle, but she backed up that maiden victory with an impressive win in the Chelsey Flower Stakes at Belmont Park. Despite pulling hard throughout while wide for most of the running, covering substantially more ground than most. Should she learn to relax with more experience, she'll be one to keep an eye on in a wide open filly and mare turf mile division aside from Tepin. Still young and raw, she possesses one of the key pedigree marks for Kitten's Joy progeny and that's being inbred to Roberto, a hallmark which is seen in nearly all of his most successful sons and daughters.

20. Serienholde (Soldier Hollow - Saldenehre, by Highest Honor)
GER 2yo, Andreas Wohler

Twice having finished second, Serienholde was more impressive when second to Dhaba in the G3 Preis Der Winterkonigin at Baden-Baden. Having chased the leaders throughout, she hit the front before being overtaken late and yet she still stayed on well to fend off the third-placed Pagella. A half to Auteuil G3 Hurdle Handicap winner Serienschock and G3 Maurice Lacroix-Trophy winner Serienhoehe, Serienholde hails from the family of G3 Deutscher Stutenpreis winner Saldenschwinge, G3 Baden Wurttemberg-Trophy winner Saldentigerin, and G1 placed Saltas. With a stamina and durability-laden pedigree, one can expect there is plenty more to come from Serienholde in the next year.

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