As soon as Tiz the Law crossed the wire as the runaway winner of last weekend's Florida Derby (G1), my thoughts turned to several "what ifs."
The 2020 racing season is unlike any we have ever experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been and will continue to completely reshape the scheduling of major races throughout the season.
This will affect all divisions, but none more severely than the 3-year-old males.
For Tiz the Law fans, this is especially tough. The son of Constitution likely would have been the favorite in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. He will still be the favorite in a race on May 2, but it will likely be at Oaklawn in the Arkansas Derby.
Nothing is guaranteed in racing, especially with the 3-year-old males. The divisional dynamics change on an almost weekly basis in normal seasons. Some mature faster than others, while others get injured and retired. Part of what makes the Kentucky Derby unique is its place on the calendar.
As I wrote last week, the first Saturday in May is still a relatively early point in many horses' developments, and it sends 3-year-olds a mile and a quarter for the first time. That is all lost now.
The connections of Tiz the Law now face a big challenge: Map out a schedule that leads to the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby, assuming that race still takes place.
This is no easy task, given how fluid the situation is. As of this writing, the Arkansas Derby is the last major race for this division that is left to be run. Considering the situation in New York and New Jersey, I think it is a long shot we see racing there this summer. If that happens, the pickings will be slim for this division.
For Tiz the Law and other star 3-year-olds, this is unfortunate. They only have one chance to shine at age 3. If the Kentucky Derby is run in September, it will not carry the same weight as it would have had it been run in its normal place on the calendar. The same goes with the other Triple Crown events, which could likely be scheduled very close the Breeders' Cup, which could in turn have to be rescheduled.
With that, a look at this week's Division Rankings...
Older Dirt Males
Larry Bramlage of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., and outside of the normal wear and tear of racing, all other parameters were normal. None of this mess is his fault, and I hope he gets the chance to write a happy ending to the racing chapter of his epic story. He likely won't run again until the summer.
2. Mucho Gusto - Much improved from last season, his Saudi Cup trip was eventful. He likely would have finished third instead of fourth had his 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 plans were dashed.
3. Tacitus - Ran well in his first start of 2020, finishing a close fifth in the Saudi Cup. Also affected by the cancellation of the Dubai World Cup, his next race is also in question.
4. Code of Honor - Still hasn't posted a work this season, but there is no hurry now, given the state of the sports world.
5. Mr. Freeze - Powerful win last out in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2). Prior to that effort he was runner-up in Mucho Gusto's Pegasus World Cup (G1) win. His best distance is probably at a mile, but he will get more chances to go longer. Next race plans are pending
Next 5: Gift Box, By My Standards, Tom's d'Etat, Spun to Run, Midcourt.
2. Serengeti Empress - Overpowered the Azeri (G1) field last out, soundly defeating Lady Apple and Street Band, among others. Whether it is one turn or two, she will be a major player in any race she enters.
4. Dunbar Road - Last year's Alabama Stakes (G1) winner, excelling over various distances, should contend for the top spot this season. She's back in training with Chad Brown in Florida and was targeting a return in the La Troienne (G1) on May 1 at Churchill Downs until that event was postponed.
5. Lady Apple - Was never factor in the Azeri, but I am keeping her her in the top five. I will chalk up her poor showing to the off track. Prior to the Azeri, she defeated Serengeti Empress in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3).
Next 5: Guarana, Street Band, Ce Ce, Go Google Yourself, Pink Sands.
2. Authentic - Unbeaten in three career starts, he was sensational in last start, the San Felipe (G2), beating a strong field that included the runner-up, Honor A. P., who was making his season debut. With the Santa Anita Derby (G1) now postponed, look for him to also appear in the Arkansas Derby.
3. Nadal - Was ranked this high in previous weeks because I felt he was the real deal, and he proved that last out in the Rebel (G2). Now 3-for-3, he could resurface in the rescheduled Arkansas Derby (G1) on May 2.
4. Sole Volante - The Sam F. Davis (G3) winner ran his race in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) but was left with too much to do when finishing runner-up to the longshot winner, King Guillermo. The Arkansas Derby is also a possibility for his next start.
5. Ete Indien - Ran into a buzz saw in Tiz the Law in last weekend's Florida Derby but still managed to finish third, beaten five lengths.
Next 5: Honor A.P, Wells Bayou, Independence Hall, Storm the Court, King Guillermo.
1. Donna Veloce - Big things were expected this year from the daughter of Uncle Mo, and she certainly delivered in her first start of 2020. In winning the Santa Ysabel (G3) by more than four lengths, she served notice that she will be a major Kentucky Oaks contender.
2. British Idiom - Sure, it was her first start since last fall, but she never threatened Finite, and that one went on to lose her next start. Was supposed to make Keeneland's Ashland Stakes (G1) her next start. Now, Oaklawn's Fantasy (G3) is on the table.
3. Venetian Harbor - Won the Las Virgenes (G2) by more than nine lengths in her stakes debut and could be something special. Connections had the Ashland penciled in next but will have to regroup with the Fantasy an option for her, too.
4. Finite - Disappointed as the odds-on favorite in the Fair Grounds Oaks when she was off the board, finishing fourth. This snapped a five-race winning streak. Previously ranked No. 1, she takes a big drop. Previously, she overpowered champion British Idiom and the rest of the field in the Rachel Alexandra (G2).
5. Bonny South - The impressive winner of the Fairgrounds Oaks (G2) is now three for four in her career.
Next 5: Tonalist's Shape, Wicked Whisper, Frank's Rockette, Swiss Skydiver, Inspiressa.
2. Annals of Time - The Sword Dancer (G1) winner last year, he could be the one to beat in this division for Bricks and Mortar's connections if he stays healthy. Still not back on the work tab.
3. United - Almost pulled off a shocking upset in the Breeders' Cup Turf, losing to the eventual Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar by a head. Then won the San Marcos (G2) to get his 2020 season underway. With Dubai now canceled, his next start may not be for awhile.
4. River Boyne
5. Arklow - Winner of the Joe Hirsch (G1) last fall at Belmont, he has appeared once this season when he finished fifth to winner Zulu Alpha in the Pegasus World Cup Turf.
Next 5: Bowies Hero, Mo Forza, Bemma's Boy, Factor This, Sadler's Joy.
1. Uni Starship Jubilee – She is stacking up wins, as she won her third race already this season in Tampa Bay Downs' Hillsborough (G2). If not for the trio of stars on top of this division, she would be the one people are talking about. Don't count her out.
Next 5: Rushing Fall, Cambier Parc, Beau Recall, Juliet Foxtrot, Jolie Olimpica.
2. Mind Control - Started off 2020 with a win in the Toboggan Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. And last out a few weeks ago, he looked beaten in the stretch but put in a spectacular stretch run to win the Tom Fool (G3). Could head to Oaklawn for his next start.
3. Whitmore - Got back in the win column a few weeks ago in the Hot Springs at Oaklawn. That makes the Count Fleet Sprint (G3) next on April 11 at Oaklawn, should that track stay open for racing.
4. Shancelot - Previously trained by the now-indicted Jorge Navarro, his future is also up in the air. Will have questions to answer once he is back.
2. Hard Not to Love - Covfefe leaves a huge void at the top of this division. This Grade 1 heroine in 2019 returned a winner in the Santa Monica (G2) at Santa Anita and then tried to stretch out to a mile in last weekend's Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita, where she was runner-up to Ce Ce. Will probably shorten back up to sprint in her next start.
3. Serengeti Empress - She was second to Covfefe sprinting in the Test (G1) last summer at Saratoga. It looks like she'll run around two turns this spring at Oaklawn Park.
4. Mia Mischief - Made her first start of 2020 a winning one for her new owner, Stonestreet Stables. A Grade 1 winner from last year who sold for $2.4 million at the end of the season, she will get every chance to contend for an Eclipse in this division.
5. Pink Sands - In a division lacking depth, she cracks the top five. Won her only start this year sprinting in the Inside Information (G2) at Gulfstream.
Next 5: Special Relativity, Spiced Perfection, Royal Charlotte, Break Even, Hotshot Anna.