What a weekend of racing! The stars were out and most of them ran big. While all of the excitement got me thinking about what these races will mean in the grand 2013 scheme of things, it also led me to the belief that this is the most important NTRA Top 10 ballot yet for the racing season. Because I take this very seriously, I thought I would allow you not only an early peek at my submission, but also why I voted the way that I did. And who knows, maybe more voters will make the reasoning behind their rankings transparent for you, the fans, as well.
1. Game On Dude 5-5-0-0
If you thought his 4-for-4 record, including a romping win in the Big Cap was a strong reply to his disappointment in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, you must have been floored by his performance today. I know I was. On a surface believed his least desirable, the California Dude smoked, spanked, and soared his way to his most impressive performance of an already long and impressive career. Numero Uno with a bullet.
2. Wise Dan 4-4-0-0
Wise Dan is one hell of a horse. He fires every single time, and would no doubt be a tiger running on broken glass if his connections chose to race him over that particular surface. The problem for Dan, in his quest to repeat as Horse of the Year, is that the other gelding is getting it done in more prestigious races. No fault of Dan, but he has some catching up to do with the top one if he wants to come out on top again in 2013.
3. Princess of Sylmar 6-5-1-0
Yes, I am a big fan of the Princess of Prussia, and why shouldn’t I be? In six starts this year, all stakes, she has five wins and one second. Four of those wins were easy breezy, and her last three have come in the most prestigious of races that they run for three-year-old fillies. Forget females, if there was a gender free category for best three-year-old, she’d be my one. All that is left for her this year is to step outside of her age group … bring it on!
4. Cross Traffic 5-3-2-0
The thing about this one is that, despite three big wins, including an important one in the Whitney, I almost like his losses better. This son of recently deceased Unbridled’s Song ran his eyeballs out in both the Westchester and the Met Mile, only to lose consecutive heartbreakers to a pair of excellent horses in Flat Out and Sahara Sky. All of this happening in his first five lifetime races. I can’t wait to see his next five.
5. Royal Delta 5-3-1-0
What can you say about Royal Delta? She’s racing royalty. Three championships seem like a foregone conclusion for America’s best older mare. Today’s win in the Personal Ensign, while completely expected, was still a joy to watch. She’s clearly running out of competition from the older gals, I think it might be just about time to see her challenged by a young upstart.
6. Palace Malice 8-2-2-1
Two-of-eight for the year? Yuck. But you know, I remain convinced as ever that this is the best one of America’s glamour division. Unfortunately, he has had more than his share of bad luck. Yesterday’s stumble out of the gate joined a laundry list of other ‘stuff’ gone wrong for the Dogwood stalwart. They say you make your own luck, but I’d like to think that the Belmont and Jim Dandy was the real Palace Malice.
7. Point of Entry 2-2-0-0
He’s only run two races this year, yet still ranked this high. That is how highly I think about America’s top distance grass specialist. Time is running out quickly for the horse that handled Animal Kingdom at Gulfstream, and took down Manhattan, but if somehow Shug can have him ready for the Breeders’ Cup, I’ll be happy. The good news is that he had his first gallop at Ocala this week.
8. Orb 7-4-0-2
So if Palace Malice is my top three-year-old male, where does that leave the Kentucky Derby winner? Well, at the top of the class, that’s where. Seems like I’m contradicting myself there, doesn’t it? Here’s what I mean … If the season ended today, Orb has done enough to get the Eclipse Award. Of course, the season does not end today, so I still like Palace Malice’s chances to edge by in the long run.
9. Obviously 4-3-1-0
Wise Dan is not the only turf miler on this list. In case you are West Coast challenged, this speedster has now three graded stakes in a row in front running fashion, after just missing in his seasonal debut. While I don’t think today’s Del Mar Mile performance was his absolute best, it was further proof that he might be able to give Wise Dan everything he wants on the first Saturday of November.
10. Will Take Charge 8-3-1-0
What have you done for me lately, big boy? Getting those long legs rolling, and that big white schnozola in front on the wire in the Mid-Summer Derby was one of the more exciting races of the year. It also rivaled any of the Triple Crown races for quality. While he is not exactly Mr. Consistency, the D. Wayne charge now has three stakes wins this year, and is trending upward.