Division rankings: Art Collector gets back to work

Division rankings: Art Collector gets back to work
Photo: John Voorhees / Eclipse Sportswire

This week Art Collector finally gets the spotlight all to himself in these rankings. It’s been a long time coming for this now 6-year-old veteran.

The current No.1 ranked horse in the older dirt male division, Art Collector started his season off with a facile win in the Grade 1 Grade Pegasus World Cup Invitational, and he returns in this weekend’s New Orleans Classic (G2).

It’s a refreshing move by his connections who decided to bypass trips overseas to concentrate on a domestic campaign in this country. Smart, in my opinion, given his results from last year’s trip to Saudi Arabia.

Now the son of Bernardini can pad his resume and extend his lead in the division with another win this weekend. But will he? Remember, the No. 2 ranked horse in the division is also running this weekend. Country Grammer will try to win the Dubai World Cup (G1) for the second straight season.

Before I dive into my thoughts on these two, let's take a look at this week's updated Division Rankings.

Older dirt males

1. Art Collector. Big winner of the Pegasus World Cup (G1), he is age 6 now and looks to be in career form. Has quietly put together a nice record of 11 wins from 21 starts. Since he has won a Grade 1 event already this season, he resides on top for now. Gets back to work in this weekend's New Orleans Classic (G2).

2. Country Grammer. The Dubai World Cup (G1) winner from last season started 2023 much the same as as 2022, a close runner-up in the Saudi Cup (G1). One thing's for sure, this guy likes running in the desert. Will attempt a repeat win in the Dubai World Cup this weekend.

3. Stilleto Boy. Has run strong in two starts this season. After a third-place finish in the Pegasus World Cup, he scored a popular win in a very deep Santa Anita Handicap (G1). Being a gelding, his fan base will grow, and barring injury, he should be around for awhile.

4. Cody's Wish. Came on late at the end of last season, winning the Forego (G1) at Saratoga and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile by a nose over Cyberknife. He has won four in a row.

5. Taiba. Disappointed in the desert when finishing off the board as the favorite in the Saudi Cup. Bofore that he scored a facile win sprinting in the Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita.
Next 5: Defunded, Endorsed, Proxy, Pioneer of Medina, Last Samurai.

Older dirt females

1. Secret Oath
. Rested and refreshed, this gal looked better than ever in lthe Azeri (G2) at Oaklawn with a facile win over Clairiere. Remember, she was atop her division last year for the better part of five months.
2. A Mo Reay
. A new player in this division, this daughter of Uncle Mo has certainly matured from age 3 to 4. Last season she was off the board in her only graded-stakes start and had minimal success in listed stakes. This season she is unbeaten in two starts, the Bayakoa (G3) at Oaklawn and the Beholder Mile (G1) by a head last out at Santa Anita.

Clairiere. Runner-up to Secret Oath in the Azeri, she didn't have a clean trip and lost ground because of it. Will get a chance to avenge this defeat in next month's Apple Blosson (G1).

4. Nest
. Overmatched in the Breeders' Cup Distaff when off the board, finishing fourth. But she won a trio of Grade 1 events in 2022 and was crowned with the Eclipse as the top 3-year-old filly. 

5. Search Results. Well beaten in the Breeder's Cup Distaff, she still had a great season, placing in all of her starts but one.

Next 5: Echo Zulu, Society, Matareya, Classy Edition, Fun to Dream.
3-year-old males

1. Forte. Looked very strong in his 3-year-old debut in the Fountain of Youth (G1) at Gulfstream. There doesn't seem to be a chink in his armor at the moment, but is it this easy? Not in my opinion. I think his best distances will be up to nine furlongs, so stretching out to 10 furlongs for races such as the Kentucky Derby would be a question mark for me.
 Tapit Trice. Very interesting horse. Was a facile winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) in his first stakes start. He is bred to run all day. Looks to me like a Belmont horse, but I think the jury is still out on his Kentucky Derby chances. His next start, which likely will come in the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland, should tell us much more about this son of Tapit. The arrow is definitely pointing upward.
Practical Move. The San Felipe (G2) winner was super impressive, but as far as Kentucky Derby contenders go, I will look elsewhere. I can't envision him relishing the 10 furlongs in Louisville given his pedigree. He is now 3-for-6 on his career, never finishing off the board. 4. Arabian Knight. He was dominant last out in the slop at Oaklawn to win the Southwest (G3) but now has been taken out of Kentucky Derby consideration. Still, he resides here for now.

5. Cave Rock. Really no excuses when runner-up to Forte but still had a great campaign. Before the Breeders' Cup, he won by more than five in the American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita. Sort of forgotten right now but back working and should make his 3-year-old debut in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Next 8
: Instant Coffee, National Treasure, Newgate, Angel of Empire, Reincarnate, Confidence Game, Rocket Can, Red Route One.

3-year-old females
1. Faiza. Unbeaten in four career starts, she won again last out in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3). She moves to the top of this division for now based on her two graded-stakes wins already this season.
2. Wonder Wheel. Made her 3-year-old debut in Tampa Bay in the listed Suncoast Stakes and didn't run poorly when finishing a close runner-up to 38-1 long-shot winner Dreaming of Snow. Still, the result was disappointing no matter how you slice it. Super impressive last season at age 2, capping off her championship season in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies after closing strong to win going away. 3. Pretty Mischievous. This filly was impressive in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) and has now won four of her five career starts. Has taken a major step forward from age 2 to 3. Will get a chance to move up even more this weekend in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). 4. Hoosier Philly. Considering the expectations, her third-place finish in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) was a huge disappointment. It wasn't like it was close either; she was beaten over eight lengths. Now that the silly Kentucky Derby talk has been put aside, the connections can try to get her to the Kentucky Oaks (G1) with a fighting chance. She runs this weekend in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). 5. And Tell Me Nolies. Made her 3-year-old debut March 5 against Faiza and ran well when runner-up. Remember, this gal won a Grade 1 last season at age 2. Next 5: Wet Paint, Red Carpet Ready, Julia Shining, The Aly's Look, Pride of the Nile.

Turf males

1. Atone. The Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) winner is good enough to vault all the way to this spot for now. Gets back into action this weekend in the Muniz Memorial Classic presented by Horse Racing Nation (G2).

2. Casa Creed. This guy is now a 7-year-old, but he is in the best form of his career. He ran lights out when narrowly missing overseas in Saudi Arabia in the Turf Sprint (G3) and finishing second. The Saudi race was his first start this season.

3. Gold Phoenix. Super impressive last out winning he Kilroe Mile (G1). He has finished off the board only once in 11 career starts and is a major player in this division, in my opinion.

4. Hong Kong Harry. Simply didn't fire in the Kilroe Mile (G1) as the heavy favorite, finishing fourth. Was 5-for-6 last season with three graded-stakes wins. He still should contend in this division.

5. Santin. Won two Grade 1 races in 2022, and that's good enough to place him here for now.

Next 5: Emmanual, Annapolis, Shirl's Speight, Highland Chief, Value Engineering.

Turf females

1. War Like Goddess. Robbed of an Eclipse in 2021, she came very close in 2022 again but Regal Glory was the deserved winner. Back again in 2023, could the third time be the charm? An Eclipse contender again. Should see her back in action in the spring.

2. In Italian. Ran well when runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Before that effort, she scored her second Grade 1 win in a row in the First Lady at Keeneland. Working steadily now for a return.

3. Bleecker Street. Suffered the first loss of her career last time out in the Diana (G1) last summer after starting her career 7-for-7. She put in her run from the back but had too much to do when finishing third. Back in training now and eying a spring comeback.

4. Queen Goddess. The Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G3) winner looks to be a serious contender this year in this division. She has won four graded stakes.

5. Shantisara. Looked very good winning the Hillsborough (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs a couple weeks back and previous to that she was runner-up to Queen Goddess in the Pegasus. This gal is a Grade 1 winner and a player in this division.

Next 5: Spendarella, Ballet Dancing, Caravel, Faith in Humanity, Quattroelle.

Male sprinters

1. Elite Power. Certainly showed he is the best in the world now sprinting on the dirt. Overpowered the Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G3) field. Will now come back to the states to run in major races and build a nice Eclipse-worthy resume.

2. Cody's Wish. Came on late at the end of last season, winning the Forego (G1) at Saratoga and narrowly winning the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile over Cyberknife. Will drop soon if he doesn't run.

3. Gunite. Was simply the best of the rest when runner-up to Elite Power in Saudi Arabia. Previously he was a superb winner of his first 2023 start, the King Cotton Stakes at Oaklawn. Will run next in Dubai in the Golden Shaheen (G1) this weekend.

4. American Theorem. Off the board in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, but he was very good out west in 2022.

5. Repo Rocks. Has won both of his 2023 starts, the Toboggan (G3) and the Stymie, a listed stakes, both at Aqueduct.

Next 5: Spirit of Makena, Laurel River, C Z Rocket, Tejano Twist, Little Vic.

Which Art Collector shows up?

Remember when Art Collector burst onto the scene? It was in the COVID-delayed Blue Grass Stakes (G2) in July 2020. He defeated Swiss Skydiver in that race and later in the season ran fourth in the Preakness and eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Back as a 4-year-old in 2021, Art Collector ran only five times but won two graded stakes, including the Woodward (G1). Last season Art Collector ran just only times. After a 12th-place finish in the Saudi Cup, Art Collector won the listed Alydar Stakes at Saratoga and the Charles Town Classic (G2). He finished his season with a dull fifth-place finish in the Lukas Classic (G2) last October.

So this begs the question, which Art Collector will show up this weekend in New Orleans? The new and seemingly improved Art Collector we saw spring a 15-1 upset in the Pegasus? I think the jury is still out. But Art Collector has to be ranked up top right now based on what we have seen so far in this division.

On the other side of the world, the No. 2 ranked Country Grammer is back in action. He may very well win this weekend’s Dubai World Cup for the second year in a row, but it won’t be enough for me to place him up top unless Art Collector loses his race. Even then it’s a difficult decision given that Country Grammer will have had zero starts in North America so far this season.

As far as Country Grammer is concerned, the number that jumps out to me this weekend is that this guy will rocket to the No. 1 all-time winning horse by earnings with at least one start in North America.

He currently has over $14 million in earnings and the additional $7.5 million with another Dubai win would push him over $22 million in earnings, well past the current leader Arrogate and his over $17 million in earnings.

To be fair, we all know where most of these earnings came from. Over $14 million of Country Grammer’s earnings came from three races overseas. Over $12 million of Arrogate’s earnings came from the Dubai race and the Pegasus World Cup back when its purse was an overblown $10 million.

These numbers are mind boggling. I remember a time when earnings was a metric that many in this sport used to classify greatness. It was a useful tool decades ago too. When Alysheba passed John Henry on the all-time earnings list to take over No. 1 in the '80's, it was a big deal. Those days are long gone.

Never again can earnings be used as a metric to determine anything except who won the most money, because winning the most money nowadays doesn’t even remotely mean a horse was the best in its division.

But I digress. Money debate aside, we have the two top-ranked older dirt males in action, and we could see some movement up top. On the surface to me it appears that Country Grammer is the more likely winner this weekend, but if anyone beats him it should be one of the Japanese entrants.

Art Collector needs to back up his Pegasus effort to make a true believer of me, with the No. 9-ranked Pioneer of Medina being his toughest obstacle.

The older dirt male division needs time to get traction this season, but make no mistake, it should be an entertaining and wide-open division in 2023.

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 used to frequent the press box many weekends during the Arlington Park meets. The On The Air With Dr. Derby name originates from his many local sports radio show appearances as an on-air racing expert. 

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.

 The Loss of Medina Spirit

California Chrome in Rarified Air

Cigar and the Pacific Classic

Spending Time With Game on Dude

Go For Wand: Gone But Not Forgotten

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