Division Rankings: Gamine on top, but for how long?

Division Rankings: Gamine on top, but for how long?
Photo: Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire

Gamine has sat atop the female sprint division for almost a year now. Her win in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint catapulted her to the Eclipse in the division, and she hasn't lost in four starts since.

Most, including myself, already have penciled in Gamine as a repeat winner of the female sprint Eclipse. But, when analyzing this further, I was mistaken.

Before I explain why, lets take a look at this week's updated Division Rankings:

Older dirt males

1. Knicks Go. Passed his final test last out in the Lukas Classic (G3) and now his connections will prepare him for the Breeders' Cup Classic, his first race at 10 furlongs. With two Grade 1 wins on the season, he leads this division. A win away from the Eclipse in this division and Horse of the Year.

2. Maxfield. Missed another chance at a Grade 1 win when he was a disappointing runner-up in the Woodward to Art Collector. I am going to go ahead and leave this guy here at No. 2. Why? For starters, he was stuck behind a very slow pace that Art Collector was allowed to get away with. Also, Maxfield has run well in several starts over the whole season, from coast to coast. Although he is 0-3 in Grade 1 starts this season, he hasn't missed the board and has won three graded stakes.

3. Silver State. I am going to leave him here at No. 3 despite his bizarre loss last out in the Parx Mile when he inexplicably lost focus and in the final yards let Mind Control come back on the rail to beat him. Count me among those who felt he was much the best in the race, especially when taking into account that he was far back behind slow fractions. He will be tough to beat in this next start, the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Not out of this Eclipse race just yet.

4. Max Player. The winner of the Suburban (G2) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) in his last two starts, he clearly is better than ever. However, the JCGC field was historically weak, but then again, this division isn't the strongest either. Already in California preparing for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

5. Art Collector. Moves into the top five here off of his win in the Woodward last out, where he was allowed to set a tepid pace and prevail in the stretch. The waters get much deeper next out in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Hard to envision him being a factor in the 10-furlong Classic which is coming up very deep this season.

Next 5: Mystic Guide, Tripoli, Dr. Post, Express Train, Happy Saver.

Older dirt females

1. Letruska. Another Grade 1 and another win, this time in the Spinster last weekend over a strong field. The divisional Eclipse is now sewn up and Horse of the Year is very much in play. Now 17-for-22 on her career, she has won four Grade 1 events this year over four race tracks. The Breeders' Cup Distaff is next.

2. Shedaresthedevil. Last out she was game to get the job done by a neck in the Locust Grove (G3) at Churchill Downs, and previous to that she was sensational in her trip out west to take the Clement Hirsch (G1). The win was important for another reason; it came over the same Del Mar surface that the Breeder's Cup Distaff will be run on next month. Don't underestimate the importance of that fact. She showed that she can ship across country and win. She is clearly the biggest threat now to Letruska in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, but not for the Eclipse – that ship has sailed.

3. Bonny South. Runner-up in two straight Grade 1 events, the Spinster and the Personal Ensign, she is in the best form of career. Her lone win in 2021 came in the Doubledogdare (G3) at Churchill Downs.

4. Royal Flag. Defeating a subpar field in last weekend's Beldame (G2) at Belmont doesn't move her up in these rankings; she remains here at No. 4. Finished a good third to Letruska in the Personal Ensign previous to the Beldame. Connections haven't decided yet on a Breeders' Cup try.

5. Dunbar RoadFour starts on the season and this mare is getting better which each one. Was a good runner-up to Letruska in the Spinster and could be dangerous with a quick pace setup in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Next 5: As Time Goes By, Envoutante, Crystal Ball, Gamine, Antoinette.

3-year-old males

1. Essential Quality. The Travers was his fifth graded stakes win on the season, the most of any horse in any division. Clearly has this No. 1 spot by a wide margin. He will train up to the Breeders' Cup Classic, where a win at Del Mar will net this guy Horse of the Year. He will not ship to Del Mar until Nov. 1.

2. Medina Spirit. Folks, if you have dislike for the human connections, toss them aside. His win in the Awesome Again (G1) over older horses was the best race of his career and the second fastest route race run by a 3-year-old male in 2021. He also became the only 3-year-old male to defeat older males in a Grade 1 thus far this season. As I wrote previously, strap yourselves in, as there will be much debate on his Breeders' Cup Classic chances and his worthiness for the Eclipse and Horse of the Year, should he win the Classic. 

3. Hot Rod Charlie. Was simply sensational in his Penn Derby (G1) win. In running the second fastest two-turn race this season, speed figure wise, this guy will be among the top betting choices in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Leaving it out on the track every time he runs, he and Essential Quality have been the pillars of this division since last fall. He too is in with a long-shot chance for year-end hardware.

4. Jackie's Warrior. Another dominant win, this time in the Gallant Bob (G2) at Parx, he ran another giant speed figure. He has developed into the best sprinters in the country now, and will be the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Sprint over older horses. Certainly the best 3-year-old male sprinter since Runhappy.

5. Midnight Bourbon. Has really brought his "A" game in his last two starts. He was a clear second best last out in the Penn Derby to "Hot Rod", and previous to that was a close runner-up to Essential Quality in the Travers. Connections have decided to skip the BC with him and point to possibly the Clark at Churchill later this fall with an eye on the big races in early 2022.

Next 5: Life is Good, Mandaloun, Rombauer, Stilleto Boy, Dr. Schivel.

3-year-old females

1. Malathaat. Took care of business the way a prohibitive favorite should have in the Alabama (G1) at Saratoga. Now a winner of  the three Grade 1 events on the season, the Eclipse is a virtually locked up, and she will now train up to the Breeders' Cup Distaff.  Win or lose in the Breeders' Cup, she will get my vote in this division.

2. Clairiere. Has stepped up nicely in her last two, winning the Cotillion (G1) last out as much the best. Ran a really good race in the Alabama to finished runner-up to Malathaat prior and now heads to the Breeders' Cup Distaff. 

3. Search Results. Cutting back to the seven-furlong Test Stakes (G1) last out, she finished an even third. Previously she was an impressive winner of the Acorn, which was her first Grade 1 win. Suffered her only loss, to Malathaat, in the Kentucky Oaks earlier this season, but she was game in defeat. Her connections have decided to take her out of training and point to a 4-year-old campaign. Will likely drop from this spot in the coming weeks.

4. Private MissionLate bloomer defeated older in the Zenyatta (G1) last out and has been impressive in three starts this season, all wins. Fresh filly could be dangerous in the Breeders' Cup Distaff on her home track. Reminds me a bit of Hollywood Wildcat in 1993 who also burst onto the scene late in her sophomore season and ended up defeating all comers in the Distaff.

5. Soothsay. Showing tremendous fight and determination in the stretch of her Indiana Oaks win, Soothsay looked like a different horse than the one we saw previously in her loss to Crazy Beautiful in the Summertime Oaks. The Indiana race was her first race outside of Santa Anita too, any way you slice it, she is now a player in this division with the Breeders' Cup in her backyard too. Another that has matured right before our eyes but now is done racing for the year, her racing future in doubt.

Next 5: Army Wife, Obligatory, Crazy Beautiful, Zaajel, Maracuja.

Turf males

1. Domestic Spending. Runner-up in the Mister D (G1), he couldn't overcome a slow place set by winner Two Emmys. The loss leaves this division still open for the taking. He has won two Grade 1 events this season, his facile Manhattan Stakes (G1) win at Belmont was superb, defeating several others ranked below. Will train up to the Breeders' Cup Turf, his lead in this division is slim.

2. Mo ForzaI'm not so sure he isn't the best grass horse in the country right now. I almost placed him No. 1, but he simply doesn't have the resume to unseat Domestic Spending right now. Was sensational again last out in his City of Hope Mile (G2) win. He will be the Breeders' Cup Mile favorite and is very much in this Eclipse race, despite not winning a Grade 1 yet this season. Has won eight of his last nine starts over the last 24 months.

3. Smooth Like Strait. Another tough luck runner-up finish to his rival, Mo Forza. Last weekend it was a half-length defeat in the City of Hope Mile, the previous start it was a head loss in the Del Mar Mile (G2). As honest as they come, and is sure to be in the mix turning for home in the Breeders' Cup Mile, his next start.

4. Colonel Liam. Like Domestic Spending, this guy also has two Grade 1 wins on his resume, but he sports a Grade 2 win in 2021 too. True, he did go down to defeat in the Manhattan back in June, but it was his first loss of 2021. He had been running since January and has won three stakes. Off since that Manhattan loss.

5. Gufo. Disappointed as the favorite last out in the Joe Hirsch (G1) where he finished third and now he is no sure thing to run in the Breeders' Cup.

Next 5: United, Hit the Road, Tribhuvan, Rockemperor, Japan.

Turf females

1. War Like Goddess
 Dominant again, this time in the Flower Bowl (G1), she is a serious contender now for this Eclipse. Previously she won the Glens Falls (G2) at Saratoga and was a winner of two other graded races earlier this season. She has only one loss from six career starts, and has certainly stepped up her game now for trainer Bill Mott. Deserving of this No. 1 spot and will be among the favorites in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

2. Althiqa. Returned in last week's First Lady (G1) at Keeneland and disappointed as the favorite while finishing fourth. That effort dropped her from my top spot. Previously, she won back-to-back Grade 1 events, the Diana and Just a Game. 

3. Princess Grace. Unbeaten in three starts this season, she won the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3) last time out. Scratched from the First Lady last weekend, connections have stated that they will run her in the Breeders' Cup Mile against the boys.

4. Mean Mary. No excuses in the Beverly D but she was game to hold the runner-up spot. She was simply second best. Prior to the Beverly D she was victorious in the New York Stakes (G2) and previous to that winning race, Mean Mary was best in the Gallorette Stakes (G3) at Pimlico. Has since been retired because of injury.

5. Blowout. Winner of the First Lady last weekend, she has won two of her three starts this season. A speedster, if she can secure reasonable fractions she can be tough to beat.

Next 5: Going to Vegas, Summer Romance, Viadera, Got Stormy, Regal Glory.

Male sprinters

1. Jackie's Warrior. He was outstanding in his last three starts, all wins. Last out in the Gallant Bloom he dominated an overmatched field. He is the best 3-year-old male sprinter we have seen since Runhappy in 2015, and has shown an uncanny ability to handle torrid fractions and have enough in the stretch to find the wire first.

2. Dr. Schivel. He's no fluke. He was dominant in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, drawing off by over three lengths. Another 3-year-old male, this guy will give Jackie's Warrior a serious test come Breeders' Cup time. Previously he was all heart in the Bing Crosby (G1) defeating several tough veteran sprinters. Has never been off the board in seven starts.

3. C Z Rocket. Ran good in the Santa Anita Sprint Champhionship but he just didn't have his late punch and was nosed out by Flagstaff ro the runner-up spot. Still feel this guy will be tough come Breeders' Cup time, but needs a quick pace to have any sort of shot being that he a deep closer.

4. Flagstaff. Tough old veteran fired again in the Pat O'Brien where he finished third. He too will be tough to beat come Breeders' Cup time. Previously he was second best in the True North (G2) and won the Grade 1 Churchill Down Stakes. He too will run in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship.

5. Firenze Fire. Was never going to catch Following Sea in the four horse Vosburgh when the latter was allowed to set a leisurely pace. Finishing runner-up, look for this guy to shine come Breeders' Cup as he could surprise everyone in the Sprint.

Next 5: Following Sea, Life is Good, Lexitonian, Special Reserve, Ginobili.

Female sprinters

1. Gamine. Got the job done again, this time in the Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga. She hasn't lost a race since last year's Kentucky Oaks, but with only four starts this year, she could still lose this Eclipse to one horse, Bella Sofia.

2. Bella Sofia. This 3-year-old filly will be the pick by many to upset Gamine in the Breeders' Cup. She has been dominant in her two sprint stakes starts, the Test (G1) at Saratoga and the Gallant Bloom (G2) at Belmont.

3. Bell's the One. Prevailed in last week's Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2) by a neck and will now head to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint as one of many in with a shot to upset Gamine. She has won three stakes this year, two of which were graded.

4. Sconsin. Super effort last out in the Open Mind Stakes and may have been the most dangerous to Gamine on Breeders' Cup day, but her connections are not sending her to Del Mar. 

5. Ce Ce. Easy winner of her final Breeders' Cup prep, the Chillingworth Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita. Previously, she showed she belongs with the best this division has to offer as she finished third in the Ballerina, beaten just three lengths. She is not without a chance in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, should she go.

Next 5: Estilo Talentoso, Lake Avenue, Kimari, Edgeway, Frank's Rockette.

2-Year-Old Males

1. Jack Christopher. The Champagne (G1) winner from last weekend is now 2-for-2 on his career, but it was the way he won the Champagne that caught many eyes. He ran the fastest race, speed figure wise, by a 2-year-old male since 2017.

2. Corniche. This fast maiden winner didn't disappoint in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita, running away by over three lengths for the win.

3. Pinehurst. Unbeaten in two starts, including his last out win in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), but both his wins were slow on the speed figure side as compared to others in these rankings.

4. Major General. Winner of both his starts, he won the Iroquois Stakes (G3) last month.

5. Rattle N Roll. Impressive winner of the Breeders' Futurity (G1) will now head to Del Mar for the Breeders' Cup. 

Next 5: Commandperformance, WitGunite, Pappacap, High Oak, Albahr.

2-Year-Old Females

1. Echo Zulu. Stays atop here after another Grade 1 win, this time in the Frizette by over seven lengths. Previous to that she won the Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga. The clear cut Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies favorite

2. Hidden Connection. The Midwest star has won both her starts, the Pocahontas Stakes (G3) was her last start. The Breeders' Cup is next.

3. Ain't Easy. Facile winner of the Chandelier (G2) at Santa Anita, she is 2-for-2 thus far in her career and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies will be next.

4. Wild Beauty. Daughter of the great Frankel started her career overseas but then came to Canada and won the Natalma (G1) at Woodbine. Should run next in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

5. Juju's Map. Winner of last week's Alcibiades (G1) as  the favorite at Keeneland after breaking her maiden at Ellis Park.

Next 5: Wicked Halo, Behave Virginia, Tarabi, Happy Soul, Averly Jane.

One would think that when reading about the female sprint division, and more specifically Gamine, that this was a one horse division and the Eclipse was wrapped up.

I'll admit it, I even wrote that the Eclipse was a done deal for Gamine. 

But if I am being fair, the Eclipse is not a done deal. You see, I was guilty of thinking of not only the 2021 Gamine, but also the 2020 Gamine, and that is not what voters should do. 

The 2021 Gamine has been perfect in four starts, but she hasn't been the same dominant Gamine that we saw in 2020. Yes, she has won two Grade 1 events, but I get the feeling that she is vulnerable come Breeders' Cup Day. Can she win the Eclipse with a loss? Yes.

The only way I envision Gamine not being awarded another Eclipse is if the current No. 2, Bella Sofia, comes away victorious.

In Bella Sofia we have a 3-year-old just coming in to her own. With one loss in five starts, Bella Sofia has been dominant in her only two graded stakes starts. She already has a Grade 1 win this season in the Test at Saratoga, and if she defeats Gamine in the Breeders' Cup she will tie her rival with two Grade 1 wins on the season, and win their only head-to-hear meeting.

So, if we are being fair when analyzing the 2021 resume's of these two stars, Bella Sofia would have to be seriously considered for the Eclipse were she to win the Filly & Mare Sprint in three weeks.

Fun question I'll ask all the readers:

What if Gamine ran instead against the boys in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and didn't win, but ran well to finish in the top three or four and Bella Sofia won the Filly & Mare Sprint? How would you vote? It's a tough call, but my vote would have to go to Gamine. I give extra credit for tackling the boys.

Meet Chip Gehrke

Chip Gehrke has been with Horse Racing Nation since 2015 and currently serves as a Featured Writer. Based outside of Chicago, Chip can be found in the press box many weekends during the Arlington Park meet. The On The Air With Dr. Derby name originates from his local sports radio show appearances as an on-air racing expert. Now also a weekly contributor on FOX Sports radio's "The Fast Track," Chip can be heard giving his thoughts on the racing world every weekend.

In 2017, Chip was chosen to be a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association. As a part of the NTWAB, Chip became a voter for the year-end Eclipse Awards, something he takes very seriously. Some of Chip's favorite writings from the last couple of years is the best way to get to know him, along with following him on Twitter at @doctorderby.

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