I have been sitting on this for about a week now, so I am
very pleased to finally announce that I am now a NTRA Poll voter. I am very
honored to be a part of the esteemed group who votes on the nation’s top 10
thoroughbreds each week. Since this is the first week in which I am
participating, I decided to share the thought process that went into how I
chose my very first Top 10 as an NTRA voter.
1. Game On Dude—[5:5-0-0]
It was really tough for me to choose between The Dude and the Titan of the Turf
for the top spot, but I ultimately went with The Dude. While they are both
undefeated this year, it is the way in which they have gone undefeated that
finally tipped the scales in favor of Game On Dude. He has won three of the
nation’s biggest and most prestigious races for older horses by a combined 17 ¼-lengths.
He finally won the G1 Pacific Classic after knocking on the door for the last
couple of years, but not only did he get the win over a surface he has not
liked in the past, he completely demolished the field while doing so. A win in
the Breeders’ Cup Classic wraps up Horse of the Year honors.
2. Wise Dan—[5:5-0-0]
I mean no offense to the Titan of the Turf by not putting him in the top spot,
but American racing revolves mostly around the traditional dirt surface and
classic distances. While also remaining undefeated this year, Wise Dan has made
everything he does look easy, most recently setting a new course record in the
G1 Woodbine Mile while looking like he was merely out for an easy morning work.
Should he win the Breeders’ Cup Mile and Game On Dude win the Classic, it will
be tough to choose who is more deserving of Horse of the Year honors.
3. Princess of Sylmar—[6:5-1-0]
The three-year old filly division has been pretty solid this year, but when it
mattered most, Princess of Sylmar absolutely dominated her competition. A rough
running of the Kentucky Oaks and stretching out to 10 furlongs for the first
time did nothing to deter her superiority. Whether or not she goes to the
Breeders’ Cup, she has divisional honors sewn up, unless one of the other
fillies can manage to beat the Queen of the Distaff division in the Distaff.
4. Royal Delta—[5:3-1-0]
The Queen of the Distaff division is so superior to her opposition that it is
becoming hard to find any that will run against her. Her poor run in Dubai and
defeat in her first race back in the U.S. can be forgiven in lieu of what she
has done since June. Her last two starts have been in Grade 1 races, and she
won them both by a combined 15 ¼-lengths in hand. At this point, it looks as
though the only filly or mare that could derail her is Princess of Sylmar, and
that showdown is looming large and just around the corner. Win or lose, though,
Royal Delta is almost certain to take home some hardware for the third year in
5. Groupie Doll—[2:1-0-1]
The long layoff and the third place finish in her return race had the skeptics’
tongues wagging, but the reigning champion female sprinter put any and all
questions to rest in her second start off the layoff. Despite local star Purely
Hot’s best effort, Groupie Doll gunned her down in the stretch and pulled away
to win by 1 ½-lengths while setting a new course record in the 6 ½-furlong G2
Presque Isle Downs Masters. The Bowman’s Band mare clearly still has her mind
on business, is as good as ever, and will be tough to beat when she returns to
Santa Anita to defend her title.
6. Will Take Charge—[9:4-1-0]
The brother to last year’s Florida Derby winner has recently built upon the
promise he showed early in the season by stringing together two consecutive
graded stakes wins. He defeated two-thirds of the year’s Triple Crown race
winners in the esteemed G1 Travers by getting up in the shadow of the wire, and
then turned right around and won the G2 Pennsylvania Derby in convincing
fashion after sitting closer than usual to the pace. If not for getting stopped
cold by Verrazano, he may very well have battled Orb to the wire for the win in
the Kentucky Derby.
7. Palace Malice—[8:2-2-1]
It is hard to imagine that a colt with only two wins from eight starts for the
year would make the Top 10, but yet here is Palace Malice with exactly that
stat. He has had an almost rabid following from day 1 due to being sired by
Curlin, and he finally started to show what all the hype was about during the
last few months. After his Kentucky Derby freak-out brought to you by first
time blinkers, he came back to be the impressive winner of the final leg of the
Triple Crown. He then coupled that with a win in the Jim Dandy in which he
posted the second fastest win time for the race…ever. Though he finished 4th
in the Mid-Summer Derby, his hat is still in the ring for yearend divisional
8. Dance to Bristol—[9:7-2-0]
Her impressive winning streak might have been snapped over the weekend, but in
my opinion, she lost nothing in defeat. The Jewel of the Mid-Atlantic racing
circuit has raced once a calendar month since February, while the equally
talented and undefeated Cluster of Stars, the filly that defeated her in the G2
Gallant Bloom, was coming off a 5 month layoff. She is clearly a very talented
filly, and trainer Ollie Figgins, III has done a fantastic job of stepping her
up in class gradually and giving her every opportunity to succeed. I fully
expect Dance to Bristol to continue to be a force among the nation’s best filly
and mare sprinters.
9. Orb—[7:4-0-2] The
Kentucky Derby winner absolutely dominated the division during the first part
of the year, but he has not been nearly as impressive during the second half.
After a brief freshening at Fair Hill, he did return to run 3rd in the
Travers, beaten for it all by less than a length. I really believe he needed
that race and look forward to seeing him return to his first half of the year
form as the year closes out.
10. Point of Entry—[2:2-0-0]
Since Point of Entry has been sidelined, I have not seen a performance from any
other turf router that has made me forget about the son of the late Dynaformer.
Had it not been for the injury, I firmly believe he would have repeated in the
Sword Dancer, Man O’ War, and the upcoming Joe Hirsch. As it stands, in the two
races he has ran in and won this year, he defeated World Cup winner Animal Kingdom, world-record holder Twilight Eclipse, and Arlington Million winner
Real Solution. He faces a tall order in trying to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf
with no prep race beforehand, but a win there would be one of the biggest
comebacks I have ever seen.