Division Rankings: Mitole runs next for two Eclipse Awards

October 23, 2019 09:40am

This year's Breeders' Cup Sprint is one of the most highly anticipated races on the championship weekend, and part of the allure this year is the presence of Mitole, leader of not only the male sprint division but also the older dirt males. Of all the horses running on Breeders' Cup weekend, Mitole has the most to gain or lose in two awards.

Some voters may feel that Mitole has done enough already to earn the Eclipse Award for Champion Male Sprinter, and in some seasons that would be the case. With five wins in six starts, Mitole has racked up three Grade 1 wins and has led this division since early May. Plus, his win over an all-star field in the Met Mile (G1) on Belmont Stakes day was the race of the year up to this point.

The problem for Mitole is that in his lone loss he was defeated by Imperial Hint in Saratoga's Vanderbilt (G1). While fans of Mitole view that loss as an aberration -- it was his first start since that Met Mile, and he was stuck on a dead rail -- a loss is a loss.

Imperial Hint has made four starts this year. He began the season with third-place finishes in a listed stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and then in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1). After his win over Mitole, he wheeled back in Belmont Park's Vosburgh (G1) and won by a nose over Firenze Fire.

Could a win in the Breeders' Cup Sprint be enough for Imperial Hint to overtake Mitole for the Eclipse Award?

For me, it's still not likely. While Imperial Hint was off from March to late July, Mitole was running in and winning three graded races, two of which were Grade 1s. Yes, a fresh Imperial Hint caught Mitole at the right time in the Vanderbilt. But he didn't win like a 1-5 choice in the Vosburgh, barely getting up in time to defeat Firenze Fire. 

If Imperial Hint wins the Sprint, it may still be a close vote. What Mitole already did this year matters and shouldn't be forgotten. It will be a tough call, and in a scenario like this, the tiebreaker is often the quality of the previous wins. Advantage, Mitole.

Some will ask about the California-based Catalina Cruiser. The simple fact is that Catalina Cruiser hasn't even run in a Grade 1 race yet this season. He is unbeaten in three starts, taking the True North (G2), San Diego Handicap (G2) and Pat O'Brien Stakes (G2).

My answer to his supporters would be: Run in the races that will earn you the Eclipse if that's connections' goal. Should he win the Sprint, Catalina Cruiser would probably earn some votes, but not enough to win a championship.

In my view, Imperial Hint is the only horse that can possibly unseat Mitole from the No. 1 spot in the sprint division. No other result in the Breeders' Cup Sprint figures to have an impact on my vote, while the Classic could affect Mitole's chances at the Champion Older Dirt Mile title.

Here's an updated look at the Division Rankings:

Older Dirt Males

1.
  Mitole – He would win the Eclipse with a victory in his next start in the Breeder's Cup Sprint. 

2.  
McKinzie – No excuses when a disappointing second in the Awesome Again (G1). He will need a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and a lot of help to have any shot at the Eclipse.

3.  Vino Rosso – 
Was first across the wire in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) but was taken down in a DQ and placed second. Has already won at 10 furlongs in California this year in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) and now has a big shot to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

4.  
Preservationist – Just wasn’t up to the task against tougher in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Was recently retired.

5.  
Higher Power – The Pacific Classic (G1) winner stumbled at the start of the Awesome Again and never really threatened the winner. Will give it a go in the Breeders' Cup.

Next 5: Yoshida, Thunder Snow, Mongolian Groom, Catalina Cruiser, Seeking the Soul.

Older Dirt Females

1.  
Midnight Bisou  Has had a historic, 7-for-7 season in 2019. Her latest, a victory in the Beldame (G2), was sublime. Regardless of what happens in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, she will win the Eclipse in this division. The real race for her is Horse of the Year, which she could claim with a win in her career finale.

2.  
Wow Cat – Ran much better in the Beldame when she was second best to Midnight Bisou. Will likely try that rival again in the Breeders’ Cup.

3.
  Blue Prize
 – Impressive in winning the Spinster (G1) for the second year in a row. Fourth in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, she will try and improve on that this year.

4.  
Elate – No excuses in her runner-up finish to Blue Prize in the Spinster. The Breeders' Cup Classic against males will likely be next.

5.  
Come Dancing – Won her last two sprinting in the Ballerina (G1) and Gallant Bloom (G2), plus prior to that was runner-up to Midnight Bisou in the Ogden Phipps (G1) on Belmont day. Could be a real contender in what should be a deep and contentious Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
 
Next 5: Paradise Woods, She's a Julie, Secret Spice, Escape Clause, Ollie’s Candy.
 
3-Year-Old-Males

1.  
Maximum Security – In my opinion, he still holds a tenuous lead in this division over Code of Honor. A victim of a serious health scare with a severe, acute bout of colic, he had to scratch from the Pennsylvania Derby (G1). He will run this weekend in the Bold Ruler (G3) at Belmont against older horses. This start is crucial for his Eclipse chances.

2.  
Code of Honor – Finished second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup but was elevated to first via a DQ. Many will rank him No. 1, but the feeling here is that Maximum Security has done more at this point -- not to mention he holds a 2-0 record over Code of Honor. The Breeders' Cup Classic, however, presents a big opportunity to move up.

3.  
Omaha Beach – Certainly a nice win in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1), but let’s pump the brakes. He faced a fellow 3-year-old male in Shancelot who was just beaten by sophomores, and the four others entered had a combined 37 starts with all but five in maiden or optional claiming ranks.

4.  
Tacitus – Ran well to be third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup with another on-the-board finish. He placed in all four of his Grade 1 races this year and is now headed off for a break but will return in 2020.

5.  
Math Wizard – I suppose he moves up here after his upset Pennsylvania Derby win, along with a number of graded placings. But not much separates him from the others underneath.

Next 5: War of Will, Owendale, Mr. Money, Sir Winston, Country House

3-Year-Old-Females

1.  
Guarana  Missed a chance to separate herself from the rest in the Cotillion (G1). Now, with Guarana done for the year, the door is open for Dunbar Road or perhaps even Covfefe to enter the Eclipse conversation.

2.  
Dunbar Road  Lost nothing in defeat when running a strong third, beaten a little over a length by the older Blue Prize in the Spinster (G1). She still controls her own Eclipse destiny if she runs again this season.

3.  
Covfefe – She romped by eight lengths in the Dogwood Stakes at Churchill, her final race before possibly going as the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint favorite.

4.  
Street Band – Flattered Dunbar Road in her first Grade 1 win as the 7-1 winner of the Cotillion. Prior to that, she was third to Dunbar Road in the Alabama. Her other wins this year were in the Indiana Oaks (G3) and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). Will run next in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

5.  
Point of Honor 
 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) winner finished well in her runner-up finish to Guarana in the CCA Oaks but was no match for Dunbar Road in the Alabama. She's done for the season and will be back at 4.

Next 5: Serengeti Empress, 
Bellafina, Concrete Rose, Royal Charlotte, Jaywalk. 

Turf Males

1.  
Bricks and Mortar – With this Eclipse now seemingly decided, he's one of the two main Horse of the Year players. His connections are leaning toward going a career-long distance in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

2.  
Arklow - Finally scored his first Grade 1 win as he beat several ranked below him here in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park.

3.  
Sadler’s Joy – It may be a stretch to rank him this high with only a runner-up effort this year, but the division has no other horse who has stepped forward beside the top two. He is, however, bypassing the Breeders' Cup.

4.  
World of Trouble  Now retired, he was nearly unbeatable sprinting. 

5.  
Raging Bull
 – Beaten a little over a length in the Woodbine Mile (G1) after being last early. Third to the No. 1 two back in the Manhattan (G1), and runner-up in the Fourstardave (G1) earlier this season. 

Next 5: Channel Cat, Channel Maker, Zulu Alpha, Old Persian, Acclimate.

Turf Females

1.  
Sistercharlie  She's quite simply one of the best turf female stars we have seen in quite a long time. With the Eclipse in the bag, she will try and become the first back-to-back winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, but she will have her hands full with the star European filly Magical.

2.  Uni 
– This talented mare put it all together with a tour de force win in the First Lady (G1) at Keeneland and set herself up to be supplemented to the Breeders' Cup Mile. Previously ran third in Got Stormy's Fourstardave win.

3.  
Vasilika – Traveled east to run in the First Lady at Keeneland and could only muster up a third-place finish in what could have been a statement race.

4.  
Rushing Fall – Was off the the board for the first time in her career in the First Lady. Now, it's time for a break.

5.  
Magic Wand – From Arlington and her runner-up finish to Bricks and Mortar, she crossed the pond again to run a strong second to top filly Magical in the Irish Champion Stakes (G1) at Leopardstown.

Next 5: Got Stormy, C
ambier Parc, Beau Recall, Homerique, Starship Jubilee.

Male Sprinters

1.  
Mitole  The leader of this division, his final career start will come in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

2.  
World of Trouble  Previously, his Jaipur (G1) score made him a Grade 1 winner this year on turf and dirt.

3.  
Imperial Hint – Got the job done in the Vosburgh at Belmont but really had to work for the win. Will go next in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with a tall order ahead in a rematch with Mitole.

4.  
Firenze Fire
 – Only one win this year, but he shows up every time to run a big race. He gave Imperial Hint all he could handle in the Vosburgh, losing by nose.

5.
  Catalina Cruiser - Only sprinted once this year, producing a win in the True North (G2) at Belmont. He too is likely for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Next 5: Roy H, X Y Jet, Omaha Beach, Shancelot, Giant Expectations.

Female Sprinters

1.  
Come Dancing – With the Gallant Bloom win and the the Ballerina (G1) in August, she takes over this spot. Her only loss this year is a runner-up finish to Midnight Bisou. She will point to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint where she will take on Covfefe in a battle for the Eclipse.

2.  
Covfefe – The Test (G1) winner aced her final prep in Churchill's Dogwood. Will win a sprint Eclipse if she gets the job done at Santa Anita.

3.  
Spiced Perfection – Running for the first time since May, she for the job done by a head in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.

4.  
Marley’s Freedom – Hasn’t run since early July, and likely won't return this season.

5.  
Hotshot Anna – Now 3-for-4 on the season, she defeated Late Night Pow Wow and Talk Veuve to Me in the recent Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2). A feature win at the current Keeneland meet could mark her finale, as she's entered in the November sale there.

Next 5: Mia Mischief, Royal Charlotte, Late Night Pow Wow, Break Even, Amy’s Challenge.
 
2-Year-Old Males

1.  
Dennis’ Momen Runaway maiden winner passed his first stakes test with his Iroquois (G3) win, but shipping to California for the Breeders' Cup is no easy task. Others aren't as far behind this guy as many would think.

2.  
Eight Rings – Rebounded from losing his rider in his last start to win the American Pharoah (G1) in front running fashion. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile will be next for this son of Empire Maker.

3.  Tiz the Law - 
Two for two in his career, he passed his first stakes test with flying colors in the Champagne (G1) at Belmont. He'll focus on spots other than the Breeders' Cup.

4.  Maxfield 
– Runaway winner of the Breeders' Futurity (G1), he also passed his first stakes test with flying colors. Also two for two on his career.

5.  
Green Light Go  The Saratoga Special (G2) winner finished runner-up to Tiz the Law in the Champagne. 

Next 5: Scabbard, Basin, Wrecking Crew, Collusion Illusion, American Theorem.

2-Year-Old Females

1.  
Bast – Ran off with the Del Mar Debutante (G1) by more than eight lengths but had to work for her win in the Chandelier (G1) over Comical. Will go next in the Breeders’ Cup. Her latest offers others hope.

2. 
 Wicked Whisper – Jockey Joel Rosario hardly had to move in her gate-to-wire victory in the Frizette (G1), making this half-sister of Point of Honor 2-for-2.

3.
  British Idiom – The $40,000 purchase also became a Grade 1 winner of Keeneland's Alcibiades, cruising when upping her record to 2-for-2.

4.
  Kimari – With a last-to-first charge in Keeneland's Indian Summer, this turf filly stated her Breeders' Cup case and became a multiple stakes winner. Earlier this year, she was also a close second at Royal Ascot.

5.  
Perfect Alibi  Clearly second best to British Idiom, the Spinaway (G1) winner two back owns multiple stakes wins to remain here in defeat.

Next 5:
 Comical, Lazy Daisy, Amalfi Sunrise, Frank's Rockette, Inspiressa.

 

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Meet Chip Gehrke

Chip Gehrke has been with Horse Racing Nation since 2015 and currently serves as a Featured Writer. Based outside of Chicago, Chip can be found in the press box many weekends during the Arlington Park meet. The On The Air With Dr. Derby name originates from his local sports radio show appearances as an on-air racing expert. Now also a weekly contributor on FOX Sports radio's "The Fast Track," Chip can be heard giving his thoughts on the racing world every weekend.

In 2017, Chip was chosen to be a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association. As a part of the NTWAB, Chip became a voter for the year-end Eclipse Awards, something he takes very seriously. Some of Chip's favorite writings from the last couple of years is the best way to get to know him, along with following him on Twitter at @doctorderby.

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