Division Rankings: Bast takes the lead in 2-year-old filly race

December 11, 2019 12:00pm

A few weeks ago, the Breeders’ Cup provided clarity in most Eclipse Award races just before the ballots were sent to voters. With only a handful of Grade 1 events left on the calendar, there's simply little room for movement.

But a few championship decisions remained to be made, namely the 2-year-old males and 3-year-old females. Given the events of last weekend -- specifically results of Los Alamitos' Starlet Stakes (G1) -- I was left with no choice but to rethink the 2-year-old fillies, too.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner British Idiom was the obvious choice for the Eclipse in this division. It gave her a second Grade 1 victory on the season and improved her overall record to 3-for-3.

But remember, it was the Bob Baffert-trained Bast who was the one to catch before the Breeders' Cup. Bast chased a longshot leader near the pace and faded to third that day, beaten 1 3/4 lengths.

Last Saturday, Bast rebounded from her loss to defeat Breeders' Cup runner-up Donna Veloce by a half-length. Donna Veloce had previously finished a neck back of British Idiom.

With the win, Bast now accounts for three Grade 1 victories on  the season. This matters, and connections should be applauded for running her back in this spot to give her a shot at the Eclipse.

There will be the usual argument that British Idiom won on racing’s biggest day. But quite frankly, the horses don’t’ know the Breeders' Cup is a race more important than any other.

Sometimes I feel that horses are penalized too much for their losses in the Breeders’ Cup, especially in close Eclipse races. Additionally, with the 2-year-old divisions, there are several events scheduled after the Breeders’ Cup that do carry weight.

Now we have a dilemma: Should she be the 2-year-old Female Eclipse winner? 
In my opinion, yes.

I can forgive Bast's narrow loss in the Breeders’ Cup. She came back to defeat the horse British Idiom beat, Donna Veloce, and in the process, accrued the most Grade 1 wins of any in her crop so far. I also think that if Bast wins the Eclipse, it sends a message that the season isn’t over after the Breeders’ Cup. This applies mostly to the 2-year-olds who are just ramping up their careers.

So, although this may be an unpopular decision, I will cast a vote for Bast over British Idiom to win the Eclipse.

As for the 2-year-old males, nothing has changed. Eight Rings didn’t run in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) which effectively ended his chances at an Eclipse.

As I wrote last week, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Storm the Court will get my vote for the Eclipse over Structor.

This week's Division Rankings feature the Top 3 from each division that I plan to write into my ballot when the time comes. I take all three spots seriously, as No. 1 votes carry the most weight, but to be an Eclipse finalist is also a prestigious matter for connections.

Here's an updated look:


Older Dirt Males

1.
  Mitole – The Breeders' Cup Sprint winner will be the No. 1 horse on my ballot for this division. No other older male can match his resume: six wins at five tracks from seven starts. His four Grade 1 wins are double that of his next-closest pursuer.

2.  
Vino Rosso – 
Made it clear to everyone that he is the best 10-furlong dirt horse in the country with a powerful win in the Breeders' Cup Classic. His margin of victory was the fifth-largest in the race's 36-year history. Winning three of six starts on the year, the Classic was his second Grade 1 win. Also remember he was disqualified in that Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), too.

3.  
McKinzie – The Breeders' Cup Classic favorite ran a game race when finishing a clear second. He likely ends his season with two wins from seven starts and a win in the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga.


Older Dirt Females

1.  
Midnight Bisou  She tried her hardest, but she couldn't quite catch Blue Prize in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. The loss not only spoiled her unbeaten season, but also her Horse of the Year chances. Maybe the long season caught up to her, or she didn't quite like the deep Santa Anita track. But she ends her season with seven graded wins.

2.
  Blue Prize
 – Joined Bayakoa and Paseana as Breeders' Cup Distaff winners bred in Argentina. After losing the first three starts of her season, she got hot and won her last three.

3.  
It's undecided between 
Elatewho went 2-for-7 this season and capped her career with a fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and Come Dancing, who was 4-for-6 and didn't run her race in the Filly & Mare Sprint but did win four graded events in 2019.

3-Year-Old-Males

1.  
Maximum Security – The No. 1 horse here since early May, he reaffirmed why in last weekend's Cigar Mile (G1). A deserving Eclipse winner. 

2.  
Code of Honor – Off the board in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the Travers (G1) winner simply didn't fire over the Santa Anita track. He finished the season with four wins from eight starts, with one of those via DQ in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

3.  
Omaha Beach – Connections decided against shipping to New York to take on Maximum Security, ending any hope of an Eclipse. The runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile to fellow 3-year-old Spun to Run is pointing to the Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita in late December. He has run in four graded stakes this season, winning three.

3-Year-Old-Females

1.  
Covfefe 
- Will likely get my vote for the Eclipse in this division based on her outstanding season.

2.  Serengeti Empress 
- The Kentucky Oaks winner ran a full season and should be commended for it. She ran a big race when third in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

3.  Guarana - Her Cotillion loss and non-participation in the Breeders' Cup will cost her the Eclipse in this division.

Turf Males

1.  
Bricks and Mortar – If he isn't a unanimous choice in the vote for this division, there should be an investigation. Simply an outstanding season and is set to join Wise Dan, Kotashaan and John Henry as the only grass horses to win Horse of the Year in the Breeders' Cup era.

2.  Arklow - 
There's quite a gap between Bricks and Mortar and everyone else. You can take any one of half a dozen horses and round out the second and third spots on your Eclipse ballot in this division. Although he was up the track in the Breeders' Cup Turf, Arklow won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and placed in four other graded stakes.

3.  World of Trouble - 
Thinking outside the box here, but this guy was brilliant on the grass, winning all three of his starts on that surface in 2019.

Turf Females

1.  
Sistercharlie  Had a six-race win streak snapped when third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. As the incumbent Eclipse winner of this division, Sistercharlie’s three Grade 1 wins this season are enough for me to place her above her main rival for the Eclipse, Uni. 

2.  
Uni 
– The Breeders’ Cup Mile heroine was spectacular in victory over Got Stormy. Overall on the season she won two Grade 1 races with three wins from four starts. She won’t dethrone Sistercharlie on my ballot. Both ran four times, but I believe Sistercharlie did more with her four starts.

3.  
Vasilika – Validated her season-long ranking here with a game runner-up performance in the Filly & Mare Turf. Overall on the season she won five graded stakes.

Male Sprinters

1.  
Mitole  A lock for the Eclipse in this division, he is one of the best sprinters we have seen in the last 20 years.

2.  
Imperial Hint – Scratched from the Breeders' Cup Sprint, he won two Grade 1 races before that, finishing 2-for-4 on the season.

3.  Shancelot
 - The Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up is certainly a talented colt. But I acknowledge it's a stretch to place him third on the ballot with a single graded win. Others could be considered here.

Female Sprinters

1.  
Covfefe –  Simply overwhelmed the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint competition. Finished her season with five wins from six starts, and she bagged two Grade 1 wins this season. A sure bet to win the Eclipse in this division.

2.  
Come Dancing – Was the leader of this division before her showdown with Covfefe in the Breeders' Cup, where she simply didn't fire in her sixth-place finish. She won four graded stakes this year, including the Ballerina (G1).

3.
  
Belvoir Bay -  The Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint heroine started her season in January and won her first two starts before her narrow loss in Dubai's Al Quoz Sprint (G1). She finishes her season with three wins from six starts.

2-Year-Old Males

1. 
Storm the Court 
– The Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner will hold on to this spot.

2.  Structor 
– The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner is 3-for-3 with two graded wins. Will get support for the Eclipse.

3.
  Eight Rings 
 -  American Pharoah (G1) winner Could have earned votes for the top spot had he run in and won the Los Alamitos Futurity.

2-Year-Old Females

1.  
Bast 
 Rebounded from her narrow Breeders' Cup loss to win the Starlet, giving her three Grade 1 wins on the season. Gets the slight nod over British Idiom.

2.
  British Idiom – Narrow winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, she finishes her season 3-for-3 with a pair of Grade 1 scores.

3.
  Donna Veloce - Followed up her remarkable runner-up finish to British Idiom in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies after making her career debut only one month earlier with another runner-up finish, this time to Bast in the Starlet.

 

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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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