For over a year, Maximum Security has occupied the No. 1 spot of the division he has completed in, 60 weeks in all. Last year, the top spot in the 3-year-old male division was his for the final 34 weeks of the racing season en route to his Eclipse Award. This season he has sat atop the Older Dirt Male division from the start.
Now, with By My Standards shooting for his third straight graded stakes win in 2020 in the Stephen Foster Stakes while Maximum Security still sits idle since his Saudi Cup score in February, the son of Goldencents is poised to take over the lead in the division.
The Louisiana Derby (G2) winner from last year, By My Standards crossed the line 12th in the Kentucky Derby, a little more than 11 lengths behind Maximum Security.
With nagging foot issues last summer and fall, trainer Bret Calhoun gave By My Standards the rest of 2019 off to get him ready for a 2020. The time off did wonders as he came back to the barn filled out and looking more mature.
We have seen this before. Vino Rosso and Gun Runner were good, but not great 3-year-olds. But they matured greatly into their 4-year-old season and became champions. Could By My Standards be the colt from his class to join those two?
In a season where some expected Eclipse contenders have run only once, By My Standards has padded his resume. His win last out in the Oaklawn Handicap was extremely impressive, and it came against the best field of older horses in this country.
Some will ask, what about Tom's d'Etat? Well, he could have taken over the No. 1 spot with a win over By My Standards this weekend, but his connections chose to skip the Oaklawn Handicap after winning the local prep, the ungraded Oaklawn Mile on April 11. That was Tom's d'Etat first start of 2020. The Oaklawn Handicap was run on May 2, but trainer Al Stall decided to wait for the Stephen Foster.
With tracks reopened and several expected contenders back to the races, this division is about to get revved up.
The Stephen Foster this weekend and the Met Mile next weekend should yield plenty of storylines and movement in the rankings. July 18 could also be a key date for everyone to circle. Maximum Security could make his much anticipated return to the races at Del Mar in the San Diego Handicap (G2).
With that, here's a look at this week's Division Rankings.
2. By My Standards – With a win in this weekend's Stephen Foster (G2) he will move to the No. 1 spot. The primary reason is because he has run this year while many others have not. The Foster will be his fourth start of 2020. He started his season with a win in an optional claimer and then won the New Orleans Classic and Oaklawn Handicap, both Grade 2. One thing is clear this season: He has matured into a Eclipse contender at age 4. His last win in the Oaklawn Handicap came against the best group of older horses assembled for a race on U.S. soil this season.
3. Tom's d'Etat – He too will run in the Stephen Foster. He started his season off with a win in the Oaklawn Mile stakes and then his connections decided to skip the Oaklawn Handicap. That has to be questioned, given the fact that with few tracks running there were limited stakes to choose from. The Foster will be only his second start of 2020.
4. Code of Honor – Finally made his 2020 debut in last in the Westchester (G3) at Belmont, where he wore down Endorsed to win by a half-length. He will go next in what is shaping up as another strong renewal of the Met Mile.
5. Mucho Gusto – Much improved from last season, he took an eventful Saudi Cup trip. He likely would have finished third instead of fourth had jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. not been so concerned with Maximum Security for the entirety of the race. With COVID-19 leading to cancellation of the Dubai World Cup (G1), his more recent plans were dashed. Needs to run soon or will drop even more.
Next 5: Improbable, Warrior's Charge, Mr. Freeze, Tacitus, Owendale.
Older Dirt Females
1. Midnight Bisou
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.
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, Serengeti Empress, Dunbar Road, Monomoy Girl.
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 set up nicely for this son of Honor Code as he stalked the dueling leaders for most of the race and took over turning for home en route to a rather easy win. Was a good effort for sure, but I feel like he still has questions to be answered.
3. Authentic – Suffered his first loss when a runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby but he only drops 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, likely 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.
Next 5: Maxfield, Charlatan, Max Player, Sole Volante, Basin.
1. Swiss Skydiver – On a roll, she widened her lead in this division. The Santa Anita Oaks (G2) was her third straight graded stakes score. Her connections are targeting several major races, including the Alabama (G1), Kentucky Oaks and possibly the Preakness (G1) in early October.
2. Gamine - Impressive winner of the Acorn by over 18 lengths for her first stakes win. As for the time and figure assigned for her effort, let's pump the brakes a bit. The track was playing extremely fast and got even faster as the day went on. Although Beyer has her race as a 110, I calculated it slightly faster (102) than Tiz the Law's (100). I also would be remiss if I didn't bring up the fact that her failed post-race drug test from Oaklawn is still unresolved. I think I can speak for many fans who are very interested to hear what the results are of the split sample.
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 is back on the sidelines now, however, due to a physical setback and will fall further with no races.
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)
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 could run next in the Ashland at Keeneland on July 11.
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.
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) last weekend 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 - On the sidelines for a brief freshening, the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) winner tasted his first defeat of the season last out in the Pan American (G2) at Gulfstream when runner-up to Bemma's Boy. Could get the chance to reclaim the No. 1 spot in his next expected start in the Elkhorn (G2) at Keeneland, where United may also be in the gate.
4. Raging Bull
Next 5: Next Shares, River Boyne, Admission Office, Bemma's Boy, Without Parole.
Starship Jubilee – Unbeaten in three stakes starts this season, she takes her game north to Woodbine in the June 27 Nassau Stakes (G2). Starship Jubilee was also recently named Canada's 2019 Horse of the Year. With other expected contenders for this division now getting back to the races, her time at the top could be short lived.
Next 5: Toinette, Got Stormy, Newspaperofrecord, Secret Message, Gentle Ruler.
1. Vekoma - He takes over the top spot here after his runaway Carter Handicap (G1) win. He is now 2-for-2 this season, and his connections will keep him around one turn to try to win the Eclipse in this division. This could be the Met Mile favorite.
2. Whitmore - No. 2 right now, but he will have plenty of chances to reclaim the No.1 spot he held a few weeks ago. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
Next 5: Firenze Fire, No Parole, Flagstaff, Network Effect, 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.
4. 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, Bellafina, Jean Elizabeth.