(Dream Tree figures to be one of the top contenders for this year’s Kentucky Oaks)

Every day, we scour the work tabs at racetracks and training facilities all over North America. We are searching for those horses that appear to be peaking at just the right time and may be sitting on a top performance in the afternoons. Some of the horses that we watch and track, you will know. Others, though, you may not recognize — yet. Here is a closer look at some of today’s morning glories:

  1. Tap Daddy, a talented son of Scat Daddy and third place finisher to Mourinho in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 15, will return to the turf on March 3 in the Black Gold Overnight Stakes at the Fair Grounds for trainer Steve Asmussen. It won’t be an easy affair. Also entered are Buff Bradley’s Dragon Drew, Mark Casse’s Ride a Comet and the talented Fascilitator, who also hails from the barn of Asmussen. Tap Daddy tuned up a bit today, working an easy half-mile in New Orleans in a time of :50 flat. That was the 47th best time out of 72 to go the distance. Three races back, Tap Daddy was scheduled to run over the grass at Keeneland in the Dixiana Bourbon Stakes. It was moved to the main track, though, due to rains, and he was edged by the likes of Flameaway and Tigers Rule in a bumping, grinding finish. He was moved up to second that day, but was beaten only two noses for it all. Before that, though, he broke his maiden over the hills of Kentucky Downs on that European-styled grass course.
  2. Upset Brewing, a daughter of Justin Phillip, has only one win in her career for trainer Buff Bradley, but she has five seconds and a third on her growing resume — including three seconds in Stakes company. In her only try, to date, in Graded Stakes company, she ran 5th  to Patrona Margarita in the G2 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs. But…she easily whipped Take Charge Paula, who ran 10th that day. And, that one has been ultra impressive this spring in Florida and named prominently as a contender for the Kentucky Oaks. It may be too early to tell where Buff may go with Upset Brewing, but she just may live up to her name. Today, she worked over the dirt at the Fair Grounds, going 5-furlongs in 1:01.60, which was 16th best out of 37 to go the distance. Keep an eye on this one. Buff has a way of performing pretty well on Oaks-Derby days.
  3. Choo Choo, who was a disappointing 5th in the El Camino Real Derby just a week ago, was back on the track at Santa Anita this morning for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The California Derby winner, who is by English Channel, worked an easy half-mile in :50 flat, which was the 26th best time out of 30 to go. What’s next for him? Probably a return to the grass.
  4. Emboldened, a 3YO daughter of Elusive Quality that Bob Baffert trains for Godophin Stables, is entered to run on March 1. She tuned up this morning at Santa Anita with a nice half-mile breeze in :48.20, which was the 6th best time out of the 30. This filly has a win and a third on her limited resume, but a quality win could catapult her into some serious considerations soon. Watch out.
  5. Instilled Regard, who disappointed in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds in his last out after being the impressive winner of the LeComte Stakes there earlier this spring, was back in action today, too. The son of Arch worked a half-mile in :49.80, which was 21st of the 30 to go. Good to see he was right back up on the bike. Next? Louisiana Derby?
  6. Shivermetimbers, who ran 4th behind the highly regarded McKinzie in the Sham Stakes before disappearing in the G3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes that was dominated by Lombo, worked for the Hollendorfer barn this morning at Santa Anita, as well. He was a little more serious than the others, going 5-furlongs in :59.60, which was the 4th best time out of 46. It will be interesting to see where the HOF trainer spots this son of Shanghai Bobby next.
  7. Unique Bella, one of the best racehorses of the times, worked this morning for Hollendorfer, as well. She went 5-furlongs in :58.60, to set the standard for the day and pick up the bullet work. The big gray daughter of Tapit, who won the G2 Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita in her last outing, looks to have a monster season this year.
  8. Dream Tree, a top contender for this year’s Kentucky Oaks, worked 6-furlongs for trainer Bob Baffert this morning at Santa Anita. The brilliant daughter of Uncle Mo went the distance in 1:14.20, which was the best time out of 4 to go that far today. The filly is an undefeated 4-for-4 with her last victory coming in the G2 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita by an easy-as-they-come 4 lengths. The “Speed Numbers Guys” don’t seem to like her. I’ll take her. Any time. In fact, I think it could get interesting to see if the connections may try her against the boys?