Division Rankings: Authentic looks to hold serve in Haskell

Division Rankings: Authentic looks to hold serve in Haskell
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

The 3-year-old males are again in the spotlight this weekend with the rescheduled Haskell Stakes (G1) set to be run. The Bob Baffert trained Authentic makes his first start since he tasted defeat for the first time last month in the Santa Anita Derby.

Among the Kentucky Derby favorites earlier this year, the Authentic bandwagon was nearly full prior to the Santa Anita Derby. Remember, he won his first start sprinting last November at Del Mar as the odds-on favorite, then in his second start he romped by over 7 lengths in the one-mile Sham Stakes on Jan. 4 at Santa Anita. He then scored another front-running victory in the San Felipe on March 7, defeating Honor A. P.

After his runner-up finish to Honor A. P. in the Santa Anita Derby, though, many jumped off the Authentic bandwagon and looked elsewhere for their Kentucky Derby horse. I was perplexed because I felt his runner-up finish was actually quite good for several reasons. It was too early to give up on Authentic.

Breaking from the outside post, Authentic broke outward and a bit slowly and was wide throughout. It was the first time he never saw the lead at any point in a race. To his credit, he held his own and had more than enough to hold on to the place spot. Things just didn’t go his way on Santa Anita Derby day.

Originally the Santa Anita Derby was scheduled for early April and as Authentic was in final preparations for that the plug was pulled on racing at Santa Anita due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Authentic did not work between March 29 and April 27, the result of initially not knowing when racing would resume at Santa Anita. Although Authentic did have six recorded works heading into the rescheduled Santa Anita Derby, Baffert stated that Authentic may have needed the race, and that he “never got tired like he did in his last race”.

One of the big question marks for this son of Into Mischief is how far can he run. This will be his second chance to prove he can prevail at 1 1/8 miles, and thus show he’s worthy of trying the Kentucky Derby’s 1 1/4 miles.

The 2020 Haskell has come up light. Authentic is the only graded stakes winner entered. The Belmont Stakes runner-up Dr Post will surely attract some support at the windows, but this is Authentic’s race to lose.

“Right now, he’s training the best he’s ever trained for a race,” Baffert said earlier this week from Del Mar. Make no mistake, this is a pivotal race in Authentic’s career and for his Kentucky Derby aspirations.

With that, here's a look at this week's Division Rankings.

Older Dirt Males

1.  
Maximum Security - His return to the races is postponed for a week as the San Diego Handicap (G2) is rescheduled for July 25 at Del Mar. Make no mistake, all eyes will be on the son of New Year's Day in his first start with trainer Bob Baffert. Although he is the best based off of what we have seen from him thus far, he hasn't run since February and questions abound due to the allegations of wrongdoing by previous trainer Jason Servis. Remember, he has finished behind only one rival in 10 career starts. Don't blame the horse for any wrongdoings by his former trainer. 

2.  Tom's d'Etat – Scorched the field in the Stephen Foster (G2) for his fourth straight win going back to 2019. It's how he is winning that is opening some eyes as he has been extremely fast speed figure wise and is a serious Horse of the Year contender. He does not take over the No. 1 spot because these rankings are about 2020, and the Foster was his first graded stakes win. He will run next in the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 1.

3.  Vekoma – Sensational in the Met Mile (G1), he jumps to No. 3 here based off of his two Grade 1 wins this season. Although he likely won't run around two turns for now, he is clearly one of the top older dirt males in the country. His connections have stated they will now wait for the Forego (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 29 in their march towards the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Since this year’s Breeders’ Cup is at Keeneland, the Dirt Mile would be run around two turns. Vekoma's lone win around two turns came in last year's Blue Grass (G2) at 1 1/8 miles.

4.  By My Standards – Was no match for Tom's d'Etat in the Stephen Foster but was easily the best of the rest. He started his season with a win in an optional claimer and then won the New Orleans Classic and Oaklawn Handicap, both Grade 2. He will point for a rematch with Tom's d'Etat in the Whitney.

5.  Code of Honor – Ran a good race in the Met Mile as he got up late for the show spot. Still not sure he belongs with the very best of this division, but we will know for sure next time out as he too will point to the Whitney.

Next 5: Improbable, Mucho Gusto, Warrior's Charge, Tacitus, Higher Power.  

Older Dirt Females

1.  
Midnight Bisou – Romped in the Fleur De Lis (G2) her first win of 2020. The Saudi Cup runner-up to Maximum Security, she has never finished off the board in 20 starts and really has no distaffer close to her equal. Her career arc is now approaching the handful of past greats who have competed in the last 30 years. She will run next in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 1.

2.  Ce Ce  No excuses in the Santa Maria (G2) last out at Santa Anita, where she checked in a flat third. Still, with two Grade 1 wins already in 2020, she easily holds on to this spot.

3.  Ollie's Candy - You can throw a blanket over the next three or four here, but I am going to stick with Ollie's Candy for now even though she was beat last out in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps. She attended a very fast pace and gets extra credit for shipping across the country from her California home base to get beat a nose and a neck. She will go next in  the Clement Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar on Aug. 2, a race she won in 2019.

4.  Fighting Mad - Won the Santa Maria (G2) in impressive fashion, defeating Ce Ce. Prior to that was off the board in the Desert Stormer Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita. We will find out in her next start if she is a contender in this division.

5.  Monomoy Girl - In her second start back after a lengthy layoff, she won the Ruffian (G2) last weekend. While the field was suspect at best, she did what she had to do in defeating Vexatious by two lengths. Still has some questions to be answered. She will run next in the La Troienne (G1) at Churchill Downs on Sept. 4

Next 5: Dunbar Road, Point of Honor, Street Band, She's a Julie, Guarana. 

3-Year-Old-Males

1.  Tiz the Law – Easily defeated an uninspiring Belmont field that was suspect at best. With several high-profile rivals out with injuries, I would expect him to hold down this sport for the entire summer. The Travers on Aug. 8 is his next scheduled start.

2.  Honor A. P. – The Santa Anita Derby winner appears headed to the ungraded Shared Belief Stakes run at a distance of 1 1/16 miles on Aug. 1. I guess he heads to this spot because of the 50 points being awarded to the winner of this "Road to the Derby" points race. Not a big fan of this decision, and he will skip major races such as the Haskell and Travers.

3.  Authentic – His Kentucky Derby future is on the line this weekend in the Haskell, where a loss likely means he won't head to Louisville. He was runner-up last out in the Santa Anita Derby where lots of things went wrong for him. He broke awkwardly, losing ground at the start; was wide around the first turn; and battled with two others for the lead throughout. Won the San Felipe (G2) and Sham (G3) earlier this season.

4.  King Guillermo - Impressed me with his runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby behind Nadal, showing everyone that his 49-1 upset win in his previous start, the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), was no fluke. Apparently his connections have decided to sit him now for 126 days and train up to the Kentucky Derby. It's a questionable decision at best, in my opinion.

5.  Art Collector - The winner of the Blue Grass (G2) for his first stakes win last weekend, he has really matured over his last two starts and appears to be a major player now for the upcoming Kentucky Derby. The Ellis Park Derby on Aug. 9 could be his next start.

Next 5: Dr. Post, Maxfield, Max Player, Uncle Chuck, Rushie.

3-Year-Old-Females

1.  
Swiss Skydiver – Ran big in the Blue Grass (G2) against the boys where she beat all but the winner, Art Collector, quite handily. Widening her lead in this division, she will now set her sights on the Alabama (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 15. 

2.  Gamine - Impressive winner of the Acorn by over 18 lengths for her first stakes win. She likely will appear again during the Saratoga meet in the seven furlong Test Stakes (G1) on Aug. 8.

3.  Donna Veloce – Big things were expected this year from the daughter of Uncle Mo, and she certainly delivered in her first start of 2020, winning the Santa Ysabel (G3). She recently returned to trainer Simon Callaghan’s stable at Santa Anita after a springtime rest at a farm in Florida and remains a candidate for the Kentucky Oaks on Sept. 4 at Churchill Downs.

4.  Speech – Impressive winner of the Ashland (G1) last weekend defeating Venetian Harbor among others. Remember, in her two previous starts she was runner-up to Swiss Skydiver in the Santa Anita Oaks and to Gamine in an optional claimer at Oaklawn. 

5.  Tonalist's Shape – Rebounded from her loss to Swiss Skydiver in the Gulfstream Park Oaks with a nice win in Gulfstream's Hollywood Wildcat Stakes. She now has three stakes wins on the season and will run this weekend in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga.

Next 5: Venetian Harbor, Finite, Shedaresthedevil, Sharing, Kimari. 

Turf Males

1.  Zulu Alpha - Moves back to the No. 1 spot he held for several weeks earlier this season. Back from a brief freshening, the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) winner was impressive winning the Elkhorn (G2) last weekend at Keeneland. 

2.  United - Was supposed to run this weekend in the Eddie Read (G2) at Del Mar but now that race has been pushed back a week. Will have a chance to reclaim the top spot should be win that event. He's 2-for-2 on the year, both graded stakes.

3.  Factor This - Made it three straight graded stakes wins, all in wire-to-wire fashion, with his narrow win in the Wise Dan (G2) at Churchill Downs. This 5-year-old is in the best form of his career and an Eclipse contender for trainer Brad Cox.

4.  Instilled Regard - Quite the career renaissance this son Arch is in the midst of.  Grade 1 placed at age two on the dirt, he finished fourth in the 2018 Kentucky Derby. He has found a home now on the grass at age five as he won his first Grade 1 race, the Manhattan at Belmont Park last time out. Now with two graded wins in the grass this season, he is very much on the Eclipse race here. Will go next in Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) on Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs.

5.  War of Will - A major player on the grass now as he pulled off a remarkable win in the Makers Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland last weekend. He joins Secretariat and California Chrome as just the third horse in modern history to win a Triple Crown event and a Grade 1 turf race. He will continue on the lawn for his next start in the Woodbine Mile on Sept. 19.

Next 5: Raging Bull, Admission Office, Bemma's Boy, Rockemperor, Without Parole.

Turf Females

1.  Rushing Fall – Very impressive winner of the Jenny Wiley (G1) last weekend. Clearly, this is a different Rushing Fall as compared to the version that ran the past two seasons. Last year she simply wasn't good enough, the previous season her connections ducked the top mares in the division.  The Wiley was her career best effort and she beat a top notch filly in Jolie Olimpica. This could be the year she may finally win the Eclipse that so many have felt she had the talent to do.

2.  Mean Mary – Took it to a new level last out when she romped in the New York Stakes (G2). With three graded stakes wins now on the season, previously winning Le Prevoyante Stakes (G3) and Orchid Stakes (G3), she takes over the top spot. Like Starship Jubilee, she is a surprise contender in this division. 

3.  Newspaperofrecord - Has rebounded very nicely from a disappointing 3-year-old season to take her first two races in 2020, both graded stakes. Her win in the Just a Game (G1) last out came at the expense of the defending champ of this division, Uni.

4.  Jolie Olimpica – Ran a winning race in the Jenny Wiley when runner-up to Rushing Fall. Earlier this season she won the Monrovia (G2) and Las Cienegas Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita. Could be a major player in the Breeders' Cup Mile in the fall.

5.  Starship Jubilee – Canada's 2019 Horse of the Year scratched out of the recent Nassau Stakes (G2) at Woodbine but will finally return to the races this weekend in the Matchmaker (G3) at Monmouth. 3-for-3 this season, she has captured two graded stakes.

Next 5: Keeper Ofthe Stars, Juliet Foxtrot, Uni, Beau Recall, Got Stormy


Male Sprinters

1.  Vekoma 
- Like Mitole last year, he may run away and hide in this division as he now has a commanding lead here after his second straight Grade 1 win, this one in the Met Mile. Now 3-for-3 on the season.

2.  Whitmore -  He won the Count Fleet Sprint (G3) at Oaklawn in his last start. With two wins in three starts, he shows no signs of slowing down at age 7. Will run next in the Vanderbilt at Saratoga on July 25. 

3.  Volatile - Jumps all the way to No. 4 here after just his first stakes start, but what a stakes start it was. Although he was assigned "only" a 111 Beyer speed figure, I calculated the race much faster, in the 118 range. It was one of the most impressive sprint performances ever seen under the Twin Spires. He will too will target the Vanderbilt at Saratoga.

4.  Mind Control - Started off 2020 with a win in the Toboggan Stakes (G3) and the Tom Fool (G3) at Aqueduct. Just didn't have it in the Carter last out as his connections felt he didn't care for the off track.

5.  Network Effect - Has to move up here based off of his last two starts where he was runner-up twice to Vekoma in the Grade 1 Carter and Met Mile. 

Next 5: Firenze Fire, McKinzie, No Parole, Flagstaff, New York Central.

Female Sprinters

1.  Guarana - Finally some clarity in this division as this gal takes over the top spot here after her game win in the Madison (G1) over a tough customer in Mia Mischief. Trainer Chad Brown has stated the year-end goal is the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Her next start will be the Ballerina at Saratoga on Aug. 8.

2.  Mia Mischief - Passed Guarana turning for home in the Ballerina and looked on her way to victory. A tough loss for sure, but she was clearly the best of the rest and will get more chances later this year to avenge the loss.

3.  Hard Not to Love - Hard Not to Love won the seven-furlong Santa Monica (G2) at Santa Anita but in her last two starts she has tried to stretch out in the Beholder Mile and Santa Maria at Santa Anita, where she has performed admirably with a second and a third. 

4.  Bell's the One – Ran a good race in the Madison where she finished third. Belongs in the top tier of this division and could also run next in the Ballerina.

5.  Kimari - Second to the boys in the Group 1 Commonwealth at Royal Ascot, she was well clear of the 14 others. Her only other start this year resulted in a win at Oaklawn in the Purple Mountain Stakes. Her connections have the Breeders' Cup Sprint against males as their long range goal.

Next 5: Come Dancing, Break Even, Special Relativity, Jean Elizabeth, Frank's Rockette.


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.

" Manila and the Arlington Million

" 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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