Division Rankings: Winner takes all for Covfefe, Come Dancing

October 09, 2019 02:00pm

While the spotlight will most assuredly be focused on more popular Eclipse Award races such as the Three-Year-Old Male and Older Dirt Male divisions, it is easy to forget about championships that will be determined at the upcoming Breeders' Cup.

Chief among those is the female sprint ranks. Only 12 years old, the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint is short on history, and for me, the event has struggled to gain identity and traction on a Breeder’s Cup card loaded with more established story lines.

This year's an exception given t
he female sprint division as a whole has been above average this year and highly entertaining. From the early season standout leaders Marley’s Freedom and Dream Pauline, the rise of standout 3-year-old fillies in Covfefe, Royal Charlotte, and Break Even, to the current older female star sprinters, Come Dancing and Spiced Perfection, there has been no shortage of stars.

Now the Eclipse race for this division has now come down my top two for the division, Come Dancing and Covfefe.

For me, it’s simple. If either wins the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, she will get my Eclipse vote and most likely the majority of the others.

Come Dancing has been spectacular this season, winning four of her five starts. Her only loss was when she tried to route, finishing runner-up to Horse of the Year contender Midnight Bisou. Her last two starts she made things look easy, winning the Ballerina (G1) and the Gallant Bloom (G2).

Come Dancing will get my vote for the Eclipse even if she loses, provided Covfefe doesn’t win. She has built up more than enough equity to earn the Eclipse in that scenario.

Covfefe is a 3-year-old filly with a lot on the line come Breeders’ Cup weekend. Not only can she win the Eclipse in this division, but I believe she's still in with a shot at the Eclipse in the 3-year-old filly division.

Covfefe started her season with a win in an optional claimer, won a record fast renewal of the Miss Preakness Stakes (G3) and then was ambitiously entered against older sprint star Mia Mischief in a listed stakes at Churchill Downs in June.

Although Covfefe lost the race by ¾ of a length, it told us a lot about this filly. For starters, she faced off against Mia Mischief while that one was in her best form, exiting a victory in the Humana Distaff (G1). It’s also very rare to see a 3-year-old take on older in stakes races that early in the season.

In Covfefe's two starts since, she too has been spectacular. She won a star-studded Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, defeating Serengeti Empress, Bellafina, and Royal Charlote, among others. In her last start in the Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs, which served as a tune-up for the Breeders’ Cup, she waltzed home by eight lengths.

Although the No. 3-ranked Spiced Perfection did win her return to the races in last weekend’s Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2), she had not raced since last May. I can’t cast a vote for her in the event she wins the Filly & Mare Sprint. As I wrote above, Come Dancing has built up enough equity to earn the Eclipse should she and Covfefe go down to defeat.

Here is an updated look at HRN's Division Rankings:

Older Dirt Males

1.  Mitole – He should win the Eclipse with a victory in his next start, either in the Breeders' Cup Sprint or Dirt Mile, and might still take it even without a win.

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.

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.

Preservationist – Just wasn’t up to the task against tougher in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He seems a cut below the very best here and was announced this week as retired.

Higher Power – The Pacific Classic (G1) winner stumbled at the start of the Awesome Again and never really threatened the winner.

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

Older Dirt Females

Midnight Bisou Has had a historic season in 2019 that has seen her win all seven of her starts. 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.

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’ Cu

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 will likely be next.

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.


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 likely need to run once more this season to secure an Eclipse. That may mean skipping the Breeders' Cup and resurfacing in a race like Churchill Downs' Clark (G1).

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.

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.

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.

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


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

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, but will she run again this year?

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

Street Band – Flattered Dunbar Road in her first Grade 1 win as the 7-1 winner of the Cotillion. Prior to the Cotillion 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).

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

Bricks and Mortar – With the Eclipse now seemingly decided, he's the main Horse of the Year player. He will not race again before the Breeders’ Cup with connections seemingly leaning toward the Mile and not the Turf as their race choice. Horse of the Year will be on the line in his next start with Midnight Bisou hot on his heels.

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

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, and you know he'll show up in the big spots.

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

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

Sistercharlie  Another win, this time in Belmont's Flower Bowl (G1). 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.

2.  Uni 
– This talented mare put it all together with a tour de force win in the First Lady at Keeneland. Previously ran third in Got Stormy's Fourstardave (G1) win.

Vasilika – Traveled east to run in the First Lady (G1) at Keeneland and could only muster up a third-place finish in what could have been a statement race.

Rushing Fall – Was off the the board for the first time in her career in the First Lady (G1).

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, Beau Recall, Homerique, Cambier Parc, Juliet Foxtrot.

Male Sprinters

Mitole  Returned to the winner's circle in a big way when taking Saratoga's Forego (G1) in stakes-record time. Will train up to the Breeders’ Cup with the Sprint or Dirt Mile his options.

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

Imperial Hint – Got the job done in the Vosburgh (G1) 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.

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.

Catalina Cruiser - Only sprinted once this year, a win in the True North (G2) at Belmont. Likely for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

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

Female Sprinters

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.

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.

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.

Marley’s Freedom – Hasn’t run since early July and likely not going to run again this season.

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). Unlikely for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint as her connections feel she is better on synthetic tracks.

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.

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.

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

Bast – Ran off with the Del Mar Debutante (G1) by over 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.

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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