Just a few short weeks ago, after Tiz the Law's Travers win, I speculated in this space whether Tiz the Law had already secured the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old colt. I went through the most likely scenarios and came to the conclusion that it would take an extraordinary set of circumstances to prevent him from being crowned the champion.
I guess Authentic didn't read the column that week.
Always highly regarded in these rankings since the winter, Authentic went off the third betting choice in last weekend's Kentucky Derby, but few pundits actually picked him to win. He was probably the most forgotten third choice in the Kentucky Derby we have seen in quite some time.
After his Santa Anita Derby runner-up finish to Honor A. P. in early June, the question was obvious: were longer races going to be his Achilles' heel? At the time I noted that he had a difficult trip in the race and that the jury was still out on his supposed distance limitations.
As the Haskell approached in July all eyes were going to be on Authentic. Could he win at nine furlongs and move on to the Kentucky Derby? The results were mixed. Authentic won, but it was how he won that concerned many, including this writer. He labored in the stretch after holding an open lengths lead and barely held on by a nose over Ny Traffic.
After the race trainer Bob Baffert commented that Authentic appeared green in the stretch and that caused him to give up ground late. Still, a win is a win and as such, Authentic was ranked No. 2 in these rankings heading in to the Kentucky Derby.
But you wouldn't have known it by reading the comments from so many fans after his Haskell win.
From "he is just a miler" to "a Mr. Greeley dam is never going to throw a Derby winner", the questions were still there. On the flip side, there were some who felt that Authentic would move forward off of the Haskell and be a dangerous player on Kentucky Derby day.
Remember, outside of Tiz the Law, Authentic had the best resume of any 3-year-old male heading into last weekend's race. It's safe to say he has now quieted all of his skeptics after his remarkable Derby win.
He was used quite a bit from the outside post to secure the lead as the field passed the stands for the first time. I think I can speak for many who felt that turning from home, when Tiz the Law ranged up alongside Authentic, that Tiz the Law would go right on by Authentic. But Authentic showed us something that can't be measured in past performances - heart.
We often measure horses on their speed numbers and such, but heart and the will to win are intangibles that make this game great. Authentic's will to win was on full display and he is a deserving Kentucky Derby winner.
As the rankings go here, Authentic will stay at No. 2. Some may not agree, but Tiz the Law's previous wins this year matter, and as such, he remains No. 1. He still has the better overall resume, but only by a slim margin.
For Authentic fans, you may not have to wait long for him to rise back to the No. 1 ranking he held earlier this season. While Tiz the Law is skipping next months Preakness, Authentic is not. Should Authentic make the Preakness his third straight Grade 1 win, he will overtake Tiz the Law in the race for the Eclipse.
With that, here's a look at this week's Division Rankings.
Older Dirt Males
1. s. It is hard to believe there are non-believers of his heart and talent. Expected to have one more start prior to the Breeders' Cup, either the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont or the Awesome Again at Santa Anita.
2. Tom's d'Etat – Loses nothing as far as his reputation is concerned as a result of his loss in the Whitney, where he stumbled at the start, losing ground in the process, and he could not overcome the ridiculously slow fractions. He stays here at No. 2.
3. Improbable – Certainly has redeemed himself in a big way from his somewhat disappointing 3-year-old campaign. Now a winner of two straight Grade 1 races this season after his Whitney win, he is an Eclipse contender. But he will never have the setup he had in the Whitney again.
4. Vekoma – Sensational in the Met Mile (G1) in his last start. Although he likely won't run around two turns for now, he is clearly one of the top older dirt males in the country. 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.
5. By My Standards – Came up a winner in last weekend's Alysheba (G2). Now four for six on the year, he has quietly put together an outstanding season. Earlier this season, he won the New Orleans Classic (G2) and Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Just a cut below the top ones right now. The Breeders' Cup Classic will be his next start, don't count him out.
Next 5: Code of Honor, Global Campaign, Tacitus, Midcourt, Warriors Charge.
Older Dirt Females
1. Monomoy Girl - She has made it all the way back on top after crossing the wire a winner in her tenth straight race. Her win in last weekend's La Troienne (G1) was much like the others, won with relative ease. Now with three wins in three starts in 2020, the Eclipse will likely come down to a much anticipated match-up with Midnight Bisou.
2. Midnight Bisou Fleur De Lis (G2). Runner-up to Maximum Security in the Saudi Cup, she has never finished off the board in 21 starts. Will point to the Spinster (G1) at Keeneland for her next start.
3. Fighting Mad - Impressive winner of the Clement L Hirsch (G1), defeating several who are ranked below, she deserves this spot. Previously won the Santa Maria (G2) in impressive fashion, defeating Ce Ce. Will have a shot to win this Eclipse in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
4. Ollie's Candy - Ran another stellar race in the Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar, where she was runner-up to Fighting Mad. She is Grade 1 placed four times in 2020.
5. Vexatious - After two straight stellar efforts she took a step back when finishing fifth behind Monomoy Girl in the the La Troienne. She previously won the Personal Ensign (G1) defeating Midnight Bisou.
Next 5: Dunbar Road, Point of Honor, Guarana, Serengeti Empress, Ce Ce.
1. Tiz the Law – Ran his race in the Kentucky Derby but he met his match in the ultra game Authentic. He had no excuses. He still holds on to this spot, but only narrowly. His previous wins will not be ignored here and his resume is still the best in this division. Expected to skip the Preakness and train up the Breeders' Cup Classic.
2. Authentic – Ran a remarkable race in the Kentucky Derby showing tremendous grit in the Churchill Downs stretch to pull away late for the win. Silences all distance critics and will take over the top spot with a win in the Preakness next month.
3. Art Collector - Scratched out of the Kentucky Derby due to a minor foot issue, he will now be pointed to the Preakness. The winner of the Ellis Park Derby and Blue Grass (G2) in his previous two starts, he will likely be Authentic's biggest obstacle.
4. Honor A. P. – Never a threat to win, but ran a good race to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Have to question the route his connections took to get him to Churchill Downs as one of the reasons he wasn't there at the end. The Santa Anita Derby winner is now back in California and it would be a surprise if he was entered in the Preakness.
5. King Guillermo - His connections decided to sit him for 126 days after his Arkansas Derby runner-up finish and train up to the Kentucky Derby, it was a decision that backfired and cost them an entire summer of racing. He was scratched due to a fever. He will now point to the Preakness.
Next 5: Thousand Words, Rushie, Max Player, Ny Traffic, Dr. Post.
1. Swiss Skydiver – Although she finished runner-up to Shedaresthedevil in the Kentucky Oaks, she loses nothing in stature and is still the clear leader in the division and Eclipse race. Remember, she has put together an impressive resume in 2020. The Alabama (G1) winner has won three other graded stakes and was runner-up to the boys in the Blue Grass.
2. Shedaresthedevil – Jumps from No. 8 to this spot here based off of her third straight win, this time in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). She has matured greatly since her last loss, a third place finish in the Fantasy (G3) where she was beaten by Swiss Skydiver by 13 lengths. She will need to win another Grade 1 to dethrone Swiss Skydiver from the top spot, however.
3. Gamine - No excuses in her Kentucky Oaks try where she set soft fractions but couldn't hold on. Always felt the Kentucky Oaks would be too far for her, connections will likely point to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She was spectacular when sprinting during the summer.
4. Speech – No real excuses when checking in fourth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). While she didn't have much of a pace to run at, she was never too far back. The Ashland (G1) at Keeneland is her lone stakes win so far this season.
5. Venetian Harbor– She hit the trifecta of runner-up finishes with her Test (G1) runner-up to Gamine. In her last three starts, she has finished second to Speech, Swiss Skydiver, and now Gamine. Earlier this season she won the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. Skipped the Kentucky Oaks and is expected to stick to sprinting.
Next 5: Finite, Sharing, Paris Lights, Crystal Ball, Donna Veloce.
1. Zulu Alpha - Back from a brief freshening, the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) winner was impressive in winning the Elkhorn (G2) in his last start at Keeneland. Will try to defend his title in the Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) at Kentucky Downs in his next start.
2. United - No excuses when disappointing as runner-up in the Del Mar Handicap (G2). He previously won three graded stakes in a row, including the Eddie Read (G2) in his last start.
3. Factor This - His four race win streak came to an end in last weekend's Turf Classic (G1) loss to Digital Age at Churchill Downs, but he stays here at No. 3. Still an Eclipse contender who may train up to the Breeders' Cup Turf.
4. War of Will - A major player on the grass now as he pulled off a remarkable win in the Maker's Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland last time out. He joined 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.
5. Mo Forza - Returned after a seven month layoff to demolish his competition in the Del Mar Mile (G2) last out. He was a three time graded stakes winner in 2019.
Next 5: Halladay, Digital Age, Raging Bull, Red King, Rockemperor.
Next 5: Beau Recall, Sistercharlie, Sharing, Got Stormy, Uni.
1. Vekoma - His lack of a race since the Met Mile has left this divisional Eclipse open for others to take. 3-for-3 on the season he is finally back on the work tab. Would like to see him once more prior to the Breeders' Cup where a run in the Dirt Mile or Sprint are on the table.
2. Volatile - Nice win in the Vanderbilt (G1) over several others ranked below. Not nearly as dominant as he was at Churchill, but as the controlling speed, he should be commended for quick finishing fractions to hold off all comers. May not get a chance to face Vekoma if that one opts for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Will have one more start before the Breeders' Cup Sprint, the Vosburgh at Belmont Park.
3. Whitmore - I am tossing his last in the Forego that was run in a torrential downpour over a sloppy track. Previously, he ran his race in the Vanderbilt when defeated by only 1 3/4 lengths by Volatile. Earlier this season, he won the Count Fleet Sprint (G3) at Oaklawn.
4. Collusion Illusion - Unbeaten in three starts this year, he won the Bing Crosby (G1) in his last start. Not convinced he is anywhere near the top two, he will get one more start prior to the Breeders' Cup, the Santa Anita Sprint (G1) in October.
5. Complexity - In only his second start of 2020 he was runner-up in the sloppy Forego. I get the feeling he could be a contender in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Next 5: Network Effect, Win Win Win, C Z Rocket, Mind Control, Yaupon.
1. Serengeti Empress - Yes, she came up a nose short in last weekend's Derby City Distaff (G1), but once again she set ridiculous early fractions and was there at the wire. With two straight outstanding sprint, she is the best in this division when she is on her game. The front-runner for the Eclipse right now.
2. Guarana - Exiting a 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. She recently suffered a setback in training and was forced to miss the Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga.
3. Gamine - Look for this gal back around one turn in her next start after her Kentucky Oaks loss. I had always felt she would end up pointing for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint after her Kentucky Oaks endeavor.
4. Bell's the One - Ran a strong race to nail Serengeti Empress on the wire in the Derby City Distaff where her closing kick was aided by a fast pace. Prior to her win in the Derby City she was third in the Madison (G1) at Keeneland.
5. Mia Mischief - Passed Guarana turning for home in the Madison (G1) at Keeneland and looked on her way to victory but was beaten to the wire by a very game Guarana. Scratched out of last weekend's Derby City Distaff.
Next 5: Bellafina, Kimari, Come Dancing, Frank's Rockette, Break Even.
1. Jackie's Warrior - The first horse since Favorite Trick in 1997 to pull off the Saratoga Special (G2) and Hopeful (G1) double at Saratoga.
2. Sittin On Go - Certainly was impressive in the Iroquois (G3) where he won going away.
3. Reinvestment Risk - Impressive maiden winner was runner-up to Jackie's Warrior in the Hopeful.
4. Dr. Schivel - Winner of the Del Mar Futurity on Labor Day.
5. Breeze on By - Unbeaten in south Florida where he has won all three of his starts easily.
Next 5: Calibrate, Golden Pal, Spielberg, Freedom Fighter, Midnight Bourbon.
1. Vequist - Dominant winner of the Spinaway (G1) in her second start. The daughter of Nyquist seems to have a bright future.
2. Dayoutoftheoffice - Winner of her first two starts, she was impressive in the Schuylerville (G3). Will be interesting to see how she does when stretching out.
3. Princess Noor - The winner of the Del Mar Debutante (G1) is 2-for-2 on her career.
4. Girl Daddy - Best of the Midwest so far, she is also 2-for-2 on her career after her Pocahontas (G3) win at Churchill Downs.
5. Thoughtfully - Adironack (G2) winner has won both of her career starts and will stretch out in her next start.
Next 5: Toby's Heart, Crazy Beautiful, Forest Caraway, Cantata, Campanelle.