Division Rankings: Test could be key in Eclipse Awards race

July 04, 2019 09:21am

While much of the attention has been focused on the inconsistency and lack of a standout in the 3-year-old male division, the sophomore fillies don't have a defined leader either.

So far this year, 24 graded stakes have run for 3-year-old fillies, producing 22 different winners.

The leader in graded stakes wins, Bellafina, will cut back to one turn in Saratoga's Test (G1). Since Bellafina's flop in the Kentucky Oaks, the race winner 
Serengeti Empress and Acorn (G1) heroine Guarana have emerged as lukewarm division leaders.

Both, however, have questions marks. 
Serengeti Empress hasn't won consistently. Guarana, while plenty impressive in her last start, was running for just the second time. There's still plenty for her left to prove in terms of longevity.

This division has come up exceptionally strong in terms of sprinters, with Break Even and Covfefe two emerging stars for trainer Brad Cox.

Break Even could be any kind, and she hasn’t lost a race yet in five starts, all in 2019. In her lone graded stakes try, she demolished an overmatched field of nine in the Eight Belles Stakes (G2) on Kentucky Oaks day.

Covfefe is another who has stood out in this category. After winning the Miss Preakness Stakes (G3) in record style, her connections made the bold choice to try her against elders. Covfefe came up short when third to Mia Mischief but by no means disgraced herself while doing the pace work.

With Bellafina, Break Even, Covfefe and Serengeti Empress each targeting the Test, this year’s renewal has the makings for a classic, and by seasons end, may very well be a key race in the Eclipse Award picture.

The last time a 3-year-old filly sprint specialist won the Eclipse was in 2001 when Xtra Heat claimed the award. Xtra Heat finished second in the 2001 Test, but her races against the males are what made her standout.

Can a sprint specialist win the Eclipse in this division in this day and age when there's now a Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint? No need to take on the boys, but I still believe a sprinter could pull off the feat if the distance runners continue taking turns beating each other.

Given that, here's a look at this week's rankings:

Older Dirt Males

– Super impressive in the Met Mile (G1). So, will his connections try and stretch him out even farther?

2.  McKinzie 
– Came running in the Met Mile, but it wasn’t quite enough. He could return to New York for the Whitney (G1).

Thunder Snow – Ran a remarkable race in his first start since Dubai. He's the real deal and a serious player with longer U.S. races ahead.

Seeking the Soul – I would like to see some consistency from the Stephen Foster (G2) winner. Should be a force for the remainder of the season.

Vino Rosso 
– Finally broke through to win the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) the Breeders' Cup Classic distance. It makes him a contender here.

Next 5: Catholic Boy, Quip, Gift Box, Coal Front, Catalina Cruiser.

Older Dirt Females

Midnight Bisou  Her Ogden Phipps (G1) victory was also her second straight Grade 1 win and fourth graded stakes of 2019. She will looking to continue her roll and wrap this division up in her next two starts with a prep this month next for Saratoga's Aug. 24 Personal Ensign (G1).

Elate – With no Midnight Bisou to worry about, she found the winner's circle in the Fleur De Lis (G2).

Blue Prize – A runner-up to Elate at Churchill Downs, she'll look to turn the tables when they meet again in the Delaware Handicap (G2).

Come Dancing  Second in the Ogden Phipps, she won her previous two stakes starts at lower levels this year by wide margins.

She’s a Julie – Just ended for the place in the Fleur De Lis by Blue Prize. Well clear of the rest.

Next 5: Secret Spice, La Force, Paradise Woods, Escape Clause, Mia Mischief.


Maximum Security – Has done more than enough to keep this spot despite his recent loss in Monmouth Park's Pegasus Stakes.

2.  War of 
Will - The Preakness winner ran out of gas in the Belmont but should be a contender in the big races later on this summer.

Omaha Beach – Had some bad luck with the throat issues that caused him to scratch from the Derby and miss time. He should be a fresh horse in the fall.

Tacitus – Again came running in the stretch of a Triple Crown race but fell short of Sir Winston in the Belmont, where he was second best.

Game Winner 
– The Travers (G1) is his next major goal with a prep race to be determined. He's back on the work tab and, curiously, wearing blinkers again.

Next 5: Sir Winston, Country House
, Owendale, Code of Honor, Mucho Gusto.


Guarana – 
The Acorn (G1) winner has been spectacular in her two career starts. Can she keep this going?

Serengeti Empress – She was simply second best in the Acorn but went extremely fast early.

Bellafina  Her fifth-place finish in the Oaks was disappointing for her connections. Nine furlongs may be a bit too far for the daughter of Quality Road.

Lady Apple – The Fantasy Stakes (G3) winner gave a good account of herself in the Kentucky Oaks with her third-place finish. Look for her in the July 5 Iowa Oaks.

5.  Dunbar Road
The Mother Goose (G2) winner looked good in victory, but I question who she really defeated.

Next 5:
Champagne Anyone, Point of Honor, Break Even, Enaya Alrabb, Covfeve.

Turf Males

Bricks and Mortar – Has about as big of a lead in a division as you can get this early in the year with a last out Manhattan (G1) win.

Catholic Boy – Although he may focus more on dirt races now, I believe he is better on the grass.

Robert Bruce  Ran a great race when second to “Bricks” in the Manhattan. They could meet again in the Arlington Million (G1) later this summer.

Qurbaan – May have found the 10 furlongs of the Manhattan a bit too far.

Channel Maker – Got back into the win column with a gritty victory in the Man o’ War (G1) before an even fourth in the Manhattan.

Next 5: Almanaar, Catapult, Delta Prince, Arklow, World of Trouble.

Turf Females

Vasilika – The wins keep piling up with her latest in the Gamely Stakes (G1). It’s hard to envision her losing to her California rivals in this form, but you have to wonder about trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's status out West.

Rushing Fall – Won her second straight Grade 1 of the year in the Just a Game at Belmont Park.

Magic Wand – Did well running against the boys here in the U.S. and recently posted a runner-up finish as the favorite in Royal Ascot's Wolferton Stakes.

Rymska – Second to Rushing Fall and Vasilika in her last two starts, she won the Hillsborough Stakes (G2) before that.

5.  Uni
– Finally made her 2019 debut in the Perfect Sting Stakes and came through with her fifth straight win at Belmont Park. Prior to that she was last seen defeating Vasilika last fall at Del Mar.

Next 5: Santa Monica, Hawksmoor, Competitionofideas, Beau Recall, Mitchell Road.

Male Sprinters

Mitole – It will take an extraordinary effort to defeat this one in a sprint. 

World of Trouble – Would love to see this guy go against Mitole and the others this summer. His Jaipur (G1) score made him a Grade 1 winner this year on turf and dirt.

Roy H – He had to be scratched out of the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) due to a minor foot issue that showed quick improvement. Will focus on a return trip to the Breeders’ Cup.

X Y Jet – After two near misses and multiple knee surgeries, he put it all together to finally win the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), looking like a force on the front end.

Whitmore – An uncharacteristic finish in the True North (G2) has him headed to the sidelines.

Next 5: Bobby’s Wicked One, Promised Fulfilled, Imperial Hint, Coal Front, Imprimis.

Female Sprinters

Marley’s Freedom – Still holds this spot despite her runner-up finish in the Humana Distaff (G1).

Mia Mischief – Defeated Covfefe in the Roxelana at Churchill Downs. Has done enough now to take over this spot.

Dream Pauline  Easily took care of business in her first start this year, the Hurricane Bertie (G3). Champion Shamrock Rose was among those left her in wake.

Spiced Perfection – The Madison (G1) winner finished fourth in the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs.

Selcourt - May not be as good as in the past, but on her best day sprinting is still near the top of this division. She last worked in May.

Next 5: Spiced Perfection, Break Even, Amy’s Challenge, Late Night Pow Wow, Covfefe.


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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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