One of my favorites aspects of this sport are those rare times when the very best female horses are allowed to take on top male horses in marquee races. Dirt or turf, such events are usually must see for any fan of this sport.
In the last 15 years we have been lucky enough to witness two of the greatest female horses to ever step foot on an American racetrack, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra captured the hearts of racing fans with their stirring wins over males.
Much of the reason those aforementioned Hall of Famers attained their lofty status was because they were given the chance to run against males. It takes a special filly to beat males on the biggest of stages.
While Swiss Skydiver is no Rachel Alexandra or Zanyatta, she is set to try and pull of a rare feat this weekend. In entering the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) against males, Swiss Skydiver will try and become the first of her gender to win this historic event.Granted, not many females have tried, only one filly has run in the race since its inception in 1937: Harriet Sue, who finished fifth in 1944.
The daughter of Daredevil is already nominated for the Triple Crown, and a victory in the Blue Grass Stakes would only increase her chances for a possible Kentucky Derby start.
After starting her 2020 season out with an off the board finish in the Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, and a third place effort behind Finite in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G3) at the Fair Grounds, the light seems to have went on for Swiss Skydiver as she has been untouchable since.
Swiss Skydiver has been a winner of her her last three races, the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), the Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park, and most recently an easy four-length winner in the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) on June 6.
Swiss Skydiver, who is nominated to the Triple Crown, is the right filly at the right time to try this rescheduled Blue Grass Stakes.
With many of the top 3-year-old males either injured or awaiting other races, Swiss Skydiver appears to have the edge here. Based on speed figures alone, she is in good position win on Saturday.
Trainer Kenny McPeek had the option of entering his star pupil against fellow 3-year-old females in the Ashland (G1) run two races before the Blue Grass, but rightfully saw an opportunity here.
“(The Blue Grass) seems to be pretty wide open,’’ said McPeek. “(Swiss Skydiver is) doing super. She gets weight from all these colts. I think she’s going to like the added distance."
Devil May Care was the last filly to run in the Kentucky Derby and she finished 10th in 2010. No filly has won the Derby since Winning Colors in 1988.
In a strange season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, perhaps Swiss Skydiver can toss her name into the Kentucky Derby conversation.
If you are looking to beat the filly this weekend, perhaps Art Collector is worth a look. His last race, a win in an optional claimer at Churchill Downs, came at the expense of yesterday's Indiana Derby winner, Shared Sense.
One thing is certain, the addition of Swiss Skydiver to this weekend's Blue Grass made it one of the more interesting races of the season, and a must see event for me.
With that, here's a look at this week's Division Rankings.
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 August 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 August 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 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.
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. Point of Honor - She hasn't won yet this season, but she ran another big race when coming from behind in the Ogden Phipps (G1) to get beat a nose. The feeling here is that when she gets back to 9 furlongs she will be very tough to beat.
5. 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.
Next 5: Street Band, She's a Julie, Dunbar Road, Monomoy Girl, Guarana.
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 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 – Suffered his first loss when a runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby but he drops only one spot because, quite frankly, everything 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. Hanging in there for the place spot, he should move forward off this and into his next start, the Haskell (G1) on July 18 at Monmouth Park.
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. Dr Post - From unranked to No. 5. That's what happens when you finish runner-up in the Belmont and several other high-profile horses in this division are riddled with injuries. After breaking his maiden in March, he won the listed Unbridled Stakes prior to his Belmont run. The Haskell will be next.
Next 5: Maxfield, Charlatan, Max Player, Basin, Uncle Chuck.
1. Swiss Skydiver – Love the bold move by her connections to take on the boys in the Blue Grass. She can become the first ever female to win the Blue Grass, and would most certainly widen the gap between her and her next closest pursuer in this division. In her last start, the Santa Anita Oaks (G2), she romped to her third straight graded stakes score.
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, and I get the sense that she will be best around one turn.
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. Venetian Harbor – The runaway Las Virgenes (G2) winner tried her best in the Fantasy but was simply second best, some 10 lengths clear of third place. Skipped the Acorn (G1) and will run this weekend in the Ashland (G1) at Keeneland.
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 also run in the Ashland this weekend.
Next 5: Finite, Bonny South, Shedaresthedevil, Sharing, Kimari.
1. United - Takes over this No. 1 spot after his nose win in the Whittingham Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. Also the winner of the San Marcos to get his 2020 season underway, he's 2-for-2 on the year. The Eddie Read Stakes (G2) at Del Mar on July 19 will be next
2. 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.
3. Zulu Alpha - Back from a brief freshening, the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) winner will run next in the Elkhorn at Keeneland on July 12. Last time out he tasted his first defeat of the season last out in the Pan American (G2) at Gulfstream when runner-up to Bemma's Boy.
4. Raging Bull Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland.
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 weekend. 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 September 5 at Churchill Downs.
Next 5: Arklow, Next Shares, Admission Office, Bemma's Boy, Rockemperor
Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1) at Keeneland.
Next 5: Keeper Ofthe Stars, Toinette, Uni, Got Stormy, Secret Message.
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 only one more time before the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
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.
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.
1. Hard Not to Love - Covfefe left a huge void at the top of this division and no other has staked a real claim to this spot. 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.
3. 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.
5. Pink Sands - Poor effort when stretching out in the Ogden Phipps (G1) at Belmont Park but she the did win the 7-furlong Inside Information (G2) at Gulfstream.
Next 5: Bell's the One, Break Even, Special Relativity, Jean Elizabeth, Frank's Rockette.