In the two weeks leading up to last weekend's Breeders' Cup I took a look at the eight equine divisions where Eclipse Awards were still in doubt. As is the case in most seasons, the Breeders' Cup would be instrumental and the deciding factor in several divisional Eclipse races.
As the dust settled from the two-day Breeders' Cup, most divisional championships were indeed decided.
There are, however, two that still remain very much up for grabs.
Full disclosure: There will be no European-based horses in the rankings you read below. These divisional rankings are meant to serve as a reference for where each divisional Eclipse race is headed as the year unfolds. At the conclusion of the season, the horses you see ranked below are for whom I will be casting votes. I will not vote for a European-based horse who ran in this country one time at the end of the racing season.
The Breeders' Cup Turf and Breeders' Cup Mile did little to clarify the Turf Male division. Heading into last weekend there was no clear-cut leader. A handful of horses did control their own destiny, but none were able to capitalize.
Ranked No. 1 going into last weekend, Factor This faded to eighth in the Mile, beaten over eight lengths. United, who was ranked No. 2, was beaten nearly 10 lengths when finishing in eighth in the Turf. The best performance of any U.S.-based Eclipse contender in this division was put forth by the Channel Maker.
Ranked No. 4 last week, Channel Maker won his last two starts, both Grade 1 events, heading in to the Breeders' Cup Turf. As the field turned for home in the Breeders' Cup Turf it appeared as if Channel Maker had a big shot to make it three Grade 1 wins in a row. Although Channel Maker tired in the final furlong, he did finish third and was beaten only one lengths.
If you can get past Channel Maker's four off-the-board runs to start his 2020 season, perhaps he is your Eclipse winner. There are only a handful of meaningful grass races left to be run this this season. Whether one of these aforementioned horses runs again remains to be seen.
We cannot forget Zulu Alpha. The Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) winner won two other graded stakes and was on the board in all five of his starts. He also may still race again this season, so he is very much still in the Eclipse picture.
As it stands right now, I am undecided on this division and will wait until the season ends.
The Breeders' Cup Sprint saw Whitmore pull of a popular win at 18-1. This was Whitmore's fourth Breeders' Cup Sprint appearance. He previously finished eighth (2017), second (2018), and third (2019).
But is Whitmore a viable Eclipse contender? My answer is no. The Breeders' Cup was his first win since April and his two starts prior to the Breeders' Cup saw him finish off the board.
While Whitmore will likely get some support for the year-end award, I feel like the vote has to come down to the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked horses in this division.
Vekoma and Volatile have been at the top of this division for several months, and although both haven't run since the summer, no other has done enough to knock them down from their spots.
So my vote will come down to those two, with Vekoma getting the slight edge. Vekoma won two Grade 1 events and his Met Mile was a standout effort of 2020.
Volatile won one graded stakes, but it was a good one. He defeated Whitmore and Firenze Fire, the Breeders' Cup winner and third place finisher, in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt at Saratoga.
With that, here is a look at this week's Division Rankings.
3. Tom's d'Etat – The 98-day layoff he had heading in the Breeders' Cup Classic certainly didn't help his chances as he was never in contention and finished ninth. Still, when on his game he was one of the best in this division.
4. Vekoma – Missed the Breeders' Cup because of injury. Has been off since his sensational July win in the Met Mile (G1), but he was clearly one of the top older dirt males in the country.
5. Global Campaign – Came on strong in the second half of this season with wins in the Monmouth Cup (G3) and Woodward (G1), and then his very good third in last weekend's Breeders' Cup Classic.
Next 5: Knicks Go, By My Standards, Tacitus, Mucho Gusto, Sharp Samurai.
Older Dirt Females
1. Monomoy Girl – A certain Hall of Famer, she won her second Breeders' Cup Distaff. She now has the remarkable record of 13 wins in 15 starts. She has finished behind one horse in her career, her other loss was a DQ. She will win the Eclipse in this division and she will also race again in 2021.
3. Fighting Mad – Never looked like a winner in the recent Zenyatta (G2), where she was 2-5. Was the impressive winner of the Clement L Hirsch (G1) in her previous start, defeating several who are ranked below. Now she will skip the Breeders' Cup.
4. Valiance – The Spinster (G1) winner was game in defeat when runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Distaff to Monomoy Girl. She certainly came on strong at the end of this season and deserves this top five spot.
5. Ollie's Candy – Perhaps the Breeders' Cup Distaff was one race too many. This gal ran has run hard since March, racing from coast to coast. Although she has not won a race in 2020, she placed in five Grade 1 events. She stays in this top five.
Next 5: Vexatious, Dunbar Road, Ce Ce, Point of Honor, Hard Not to Love.
1. Authentic – Remember the talk back in the summer about this guy not able to win at even nine furlongs? Seems like such a long time ago now. He reaffirmed his place at the top with a facile Breeders' Cup Classic win over all comers. He will most certainly win Horse of the Year and becomes the first Kentucky Derby winner to win the Breeders' Cup Classic in the same season since American Pharoah in 2015.
2. Tiz the Law – Really had no excuses as he disappointed in the Classic finishing sixth. The Belmont and Travers (G1) winner from earlier this season, he is slated to run again in 2021.
3. Honor A. P. – Retired now, but he was among the best in this division in 2020. Never a threat to win but ran a good race to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Was the only male to defeat Authentic this season and that came in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) back in June.
4. Happy Saver – Really no other horse has stepped up as of late, so this guy lands at No. 5 in his rankings debut, though we probably could pick any one of half a dozen for this spot. Won an extremely weak Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and is well below the top two in this division. Skipped the Breeders' Cup.
5. Art Collector - I am gonna give this guy a pass for his Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile where he finished eighth. His previous exploits are enough to keep him here. His biggest win was the Blue Grass (G2) in July.
Next 5: Thousand Words, Jesus's Team, King Guillermo, Mystic Guide, Maxfield.
1. Swiss Skydiver – Stumbled at the start of the Breeders' Cup Distaff and finished seventh, beaten a little over seven lengths. It was discovered afterwards that she injured a heel, but the good news is that she will be back racing in 2021. She ran one of the gutsiest races a 3-year-old filly has ever run when winning the Preakness over Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Authentic. Will win the Eclipse in this division.
2. Gamine – Back sprinting around one turn, she was dominant in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She will not win the Eclipse in this division, but will in the sprint division. Prior to her sprint win she was third in the Kentucky Oaks.
3. Shedaresthedevil – The Kentucky Oaks winner was somewhat of a disappointment when finishing third in the Spinster last out. She skipped the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
4. Harvest Moon – Ran well in defeat in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Although she finished fourth, she set quick fractions and was only beaten a half-length for the place.
5. Speech – Connections tried her in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint but she could do no better than sixth. Still, she was only beaten less than four lengths for the place. Won the Ashland (G1) at Keeneland earlier this season.
Next 5: Venetian Harbor, Sharing, Paris Lights, Magic Attitude, Harvey's Lil Goil.
1. Channel Maker – Out of all of the contenders for the Eclipse in this division, this guy ran the best on Breeders' Cup Saturday when he finished third in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Prior to the Breeders' Cup he won his last two starts, both Grade 1. But he was off the board in his first four starts this season. An Eclipse contender in a season like this.
2. Zulu Alpha – Missing the Breeders' Cup may have been a blessing in disguise. He may very well win the Eclipse on the strength of his record this season. No excuses when third in the recent Kentucky Turf Cup (G3), beaten by Arklow, but won the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) earlier this season along with two other graded stakes.
3. Factor This – Saved his worst race for the worst time, the Breeder's Cup Mile. Still, his overall body of work in 2020 cannot be ignored and won't be here. He won four graded stakes and was 5-for-8 overall, his only off the board effort was the Mile.
4. Ivar – The winner of the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), he came running at the end of the Breeders' Cup Mile but it was too late as he finished fourth, beaten less than two lengths.
5. Mo Forza – Won his second straight in impressive fashion, this time in the City of Hope Mile (G2) at Santa Anita. Missed the Breeders Cup because of what trainer Peter Miller described as a "minor issue."
Next 5: United, Halladay, Arklow, Red King, Gufo.
Next 5: Beau Recall, Harvey's Lil Goil, Sistercharlie, Got Stormy, Civil Union.
1. Vekoma – Missed the Breeders' Cup but he may still win the Eclipse in this division. The Met Mile winner finished 3-for-3 on the season.
2. Volatile – Retired because of an injury, he too could still end up with this Eclipse. Nice win in the Vanderbilt (G1) over several others ranked below, including Breeders' Cup Sprint winner, Whitmore.
3. Whitmore - Nearly four and a half years after his 19th-place finish to Nyquist in the 2016 Kentucky Derby, this guy wins the biggest race of his career, the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Ranked No. 1 here earlier this year, he is now 3-for-7 on the season. His only other graded stakes win was the Count Fleet (G3) back in April at Oaklawn. I don't think he has done enough to be given the Eclipse, but I am sure some will cast a vote for him.
4. C Z Rocket – His five race win streak came to end in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, but only Whitmore beat him first to the wire. Won the Pat O'Brien in August and the Santa Anita Sprint Championship in his prior two starts.
5. Firenze Fire - Winner of three graded stakes this season, he finished a good third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Deserves this spot as much as any other.
Next 5: Diamond Oops, Nashville, Yaupon, Complexity, Empire of Gold.
1. Gamine – In my opinion, she is the best one-turn dirt horse in the country, male or female. Her Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint win was spectacular. She defeated a worthy rival, Serengeti Empress, and will win the Eclipse in this division.
2. Serengeti Empress – She ran her race in the Filly & Mare Sprint but was simply second best. Full credit to this gal for keeping it together to hold the place spot after setting a quick early pace.
3. Bell's the One – Clearly third best in this division, she ran a strong race to just miss the place spot to Serengeti Empress in the Filly & Mare Sprint. She previously edged that rival by a nose in the Derby City Distaff (G1).
4. Frank's Rockette - Found that the waters were too deep when facing off against the males in the Breeders' Cup Sprint where she finished 11th. Won three straight graded stakes prior to her Sprint defeat.
5. Guarana - Only ran twice in 2020, but she was stellar in both races. Won the Madison (G1) back in July.
Next 5: Mia Mischief, Bellafina, Sconsin, Venetian Harbor, Come Dancing, Guarana.
1. Essential Quality – The Breeders' Futurity (G1) winner in his second career start showed in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile that he is at the head of his class with his 3/4 length win over the longest shot on the board at 94-1, Hot Rod Charlie. Perfect now in three career starts, he will likely win the Eclipse over Jackie's Warrior.
2. Jackie's Warrior – The two-turns may have been his undoing in the Breeders' Cup. He had the lead turning for home but yielded in the stretch and finished fourth, beaten a little over three lengths. Still, as the first horse since Dehere in 1993 to pull off the Saratoga Special (G2), Hopeful (G1) and Champagne (G1) triple, he will get votes for the Eclipse on the basis of his stellar season.
3. Keepmeinmind – Runner-up in Essential Quality's Breeders' Futurity in his second career start last out at Keeneland, he was third to that rival in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
4. Golden Pal – One of the more impressive winners of the weekend, this guy ran his competition into the ground in his wire-to-wire Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint win.
5. Hot Rod Charlie – Fresh off of a maiden win at Santa Anita, this guy almost shocked the world in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile just missing by 3/4 of a length at 94-1 odds where he finished runner-up.
Next 5: Highly Motivated, Fire at Will, Sittin On Go, Reinvestment Risk, Get Her Number.
1. Vequist – The two turns and 8 1/2 furlongs of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies is exactly what this gal needed as she was two-lengths clear of Dayoutoftheoffice for the win. She finished her season with two Grade 1 wins and is certain to be crowned as the champion of this division with the Eclipse.
2. Dayoutoftheoffice – The Frizette (G1) winner ran her race in the Breeders' Cup but she couldn't hold of Vequist this time around. Remember, she defeated Vequist in that Frizette but that was at a mile around one-turn.
3. Girl Daddy – The best of the Midwest heading into the Breeders' Cup, Girl Daddy looked like a contender as they entered the stretch in the Juvenile Fillies but was beaten a nose for the place spot by Dayoutoftheoffice.
4. Simply Ravishing – The runaway winner of the Alcibiades (G1) at Keeneland, she was picked by many to win the Juvenile Fillies but she finished fourth, beaten two noses for the place spot.
5. Princess Noor – No excuses for this gal who went off as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and crossed the wire in fifth, beaten over four lengths. She was by no means disgraced, but the below par speed figures she received for her wins in California were proven to be accurate..
Next 5: Aunt Pearl, Crazy Beautiful, Forest Caraway, Campanelle, Malathaat.