Photo: Benoit Photo
As soon as
Super Saturday’s action was over and done with, I began to agonize over this
vote. With the abundance of Grade 1 races, all of which were “Win and You’re In”
championship series races, I knew there would be a lot of movement within my
Top Ten. What I did not anticipate, however, was how difficult a time I would
have deciding which wins held more weight. Obviously a Horse of the Year winner
would also have to win their division, but which divisions hold more weight?
That depends on who you ask, of course. As it stands, for the most part, I gave
more weight to horses I felt were most likely to win their division, but there
were a couple of exceptions.
Game On Dude—(5:5-0-0) Though he watched from the
sidelines this weekend, when the dust settled, he had nothing to fear in terms
of losing his spot atop the polls. The East Coast older males continued to take
turns beating each other, and as much as I love Mucho Macho Man, he just doesn’t have the credentials to crack the
top 10, much less climb all the way to the top.
Wise Dan—(5:5-0-0) Like The Dude, Wise Dan
also watched all the action from a comfortable spot in his barn. He remains
safely ensconced in the #2 spot and will likely remain there when he wins next
weekend’s Shadwell Turf Mile.
Princess of Sylmar—(7:6-1-0) I must say that I got a
great deal of satisfaction, not just for myself but also for HRN’s managing
editor Brian Zipse (who has been on board the Princess bandwagon all year) out
of watching this 3-year old filly better two-time champion Royal Delta. The fact that Royal Delta probably wasn’t fully
cranked for this spot takes nothing away from that victory. Should the
connections of Princess changes their minds about Santa Anita and their filly
ship west and win the Distaff, a case for why she should be Horse of the Year
could be made despite the fact that she has not faced and beaten Grade 1 males.
Royal Delta—(6:3-2-0) So she was beaten by a
3-year old upstart? I think it hardly makes any difference in my ranking of her
from last week to this week. We all know that Pletcher and Mott approach individual
races very differently, and come the first weekend of November, Royal Delta
will be ready to roll.
Big Blue Kitten—(7:4-2-1) Last week I left this
5-year old son of Kitten’s Joy out of my Top Ten because I felt that Point of Entry was still atop the
division despite his absence due to injury. This week I have included Big Blue
Kitten, which probably seems strange because he lost the Joe Hirsch. Though he
lost, he only missed by a nose, and I felt that he was much the best,
especially since he had his momentum checked while weaving through the traffic.
Stablemate Real Solution hung pretty
badly during the stretch drive, which may have had something to do with the
overland route he took. Unless Little Mike continues to regain form or Point of
Entry is able to pull and Animal Kingdom,
I think Big Blue is the U.S.’s best hope for a Turf repeat.
Sahara Sky—(4:3-1-0) I said after last week’s
vote that after further reflection, this is the one I regretted leaving out of
my initial Top 10. Private Zone’s
performance in the Vosburgh intensified that regret as it flattered Sahara Sky’s
Palos Verdes win earlier in the year. With so many top notch sprinters, this
year’s BC Sprint is going to be super. A Sprint win likely won’t get him Horse
of the Year or Older Male, but it should earn him Male Sprinter.
Graydar—(3:3-0-0) Perfect for the year, the
only thing Graydar has done wrong this year is have an ill timed injury. He has
been one of the more consistent older males on the East Coast and has proved
that he can do both one-turn and two-turns. His Kelso win Saturday earned him a
berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile where he is sure to meet up with 3-year old
middle distance specialist Verrazano.
As good as he is, Game On Dude, Wise Dan, and Big Blue Kitten would have to
completely tank in order to give Graydar a chance at any year-end hardware.
Beholder—(6:4-2-0) There was no way the West
Coast star filly was going to let Princess of Sylmar outdo her this weekend,
and she followed up her East Coast’s rival’s win over elders with a score of
her own under similar conditions. Unlike Princess, however, Beholder is on her
way to the Distaff. Since The Princess owns the head-to-head win, it will
likely take a win in the Distaff by Beholder in order to snatch 3-year old
divisional honors away from her foe.
Palace Malice—(9:2-3-1) And then there was one. One
3-year old colt in the Top 10, that is. He didn’t win the Jockey Club Gold Cup,
but at least he tried and finished second, unlike the others in his division. Will Take Charge hasn’t tried his
elders yet, and Orb ran a perplexing
8th and last in the JCGC. So for now, that leaves Palace Malice atop
Laughing—(4:4-0-0) She has had every race all
her own way and has beaten some very nice turf fillies and mares. In terms of
winning times, she has covered the spectrum. She won the 8.5 furlong Eatontown
in nearly record time, but her winning time in Saturday’s G1 Flower Bowl was
hardly impressive. That is not entirely her fault as she was let get away with
an uncontested lead while setting pedestrian times, but I was impressed that
she was able to stretch her speed out to a classic distance. She isn’t likely
to run in the Filly & Mare Turf, however, because she isn’t Breeders’ Cup
nominated and is notorious for being a bad shipper.
The Also Rans
Last week Groupie Doll and Dance to Bristol made my Top Ten because up until then, a lot of
the divisions were either so steeped in mediocrity or so competitive that it
was hard for me to make a case for why anyone but those two should be included.
This week, thanks to Super Saturday, things became a lot clearer across the
board, which meant new additions and some drop-offs. Don’t get me wrong, I
still think one of these two will win the Eclipse for Female Sprinter, but
neither deserves to be ranked above this week’s Top Ten at this point.
I had a
difficult time choosing between Laughing and Tiz Flirtatious, especially since the former isn’t likely to go to
the Breeders’ Cup. However, the balance eventually tipped in favor of Laughing
because she has two Grade 1 wins to Tiz Flirtatious’ one.
will end up being the bane of my existence. I like to think outside the box,
and Verrazano is outside the box in his division. He has 4 graded stakes wins,
two of them Grade 1s, but he doesn’t have a win at the classic distance and he
hasn’t tried his elders, yet. Honestly, I just don’t know what to do with him.
Cross Traffic gets a pass for that horrendous
stumble at the start of the JCGC, but I still stand by my previous analysis of