Division Rankings: Cotillion carries Eclipse implications

September 19, 2019 10:25am

While the defection of the morning line favorite and division leader Maximum Security siphoned star power from Saturday's Pennsylvania Derby (G1), the co-featured Cotillion Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies run a race before has a number of Eclipse Awards implications in tact.

Run over 1 1/16 miles, the Cotillion has become an important race on the 3-year-old filly calendar over the last several years. Since being upgraded to Grade 1 status in 2012, the race has played a big part in determining the Eclipse award winner in this division. Four of the last five champions ran in the Cotillion, with this year's renewal including three contenders.

With only three starts in her career, Guarana has already won two Grade 1 races, a remarkable feat. She currently sits atop the division in most polls, but there are a couple of fillies entered against her on Saturday who could cause some voters to look their way with a win. Even with a victory on Saturday, Guarana's Eclipse is not sewn up as Dunbar Road, the fellow Chad Brown trainee, won the Alabama (G1) and figures to face older rivals twice before the end of the year.

What about the winner of the most prestigious race this division has to offer? Four months ago Serengeti Empress led the way after her Kentucky Oaks triumph, but since then has finished a runner-up twice. She ran second to Guarana in the Acorn (G1) on Belmont day and then ran a game second to top sprinter Cofveve in the Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. Here, Serengeti Empress goes back to two turns and could propel herself back into the Eclipse race.

If Bellafina could talk, part of me thinks she would thank her connections for giving her another shot against the best in this division. Prior to the Kentucky Oaks, she led this division on the strength of her three west coast graded stakes scores, chief among them the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) at this distance. After finishing fifth in the Kentucky Oaks, she tried when sprinting in the Test Stakes but ran well to finish third. Don’t count this filly out yet. Those wins that she piled up early this year count just as much as victories later in the year.

Covfefe, by the way, runs Saturday in Churchill Downs' Dogwood Stakes. She may be a sprinter, but she is by no means without a chance to pick up votes in this Eclipse race. She is pointing to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, and should things not go as planned for those mentioned above, Covfefe is right in it.

that, here's a look at this week's rankings. New this week are the addition of the 2-year-olds.

Older Dirt Males

Mitole – Has a hold of this spot for now as he sports the best resume of anyone in this division. The Breeders’ Cup is the long-range target with the Dirt Mile or Sprint as options.

McKinzie – Scored the biggest win of his career in the Whitney (G1), which is enough for him to remain near the top of this division. Will go next in the Awesome Again (G1) on September 28 before an expected run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Preservationist – Proved best in one of the weaker renewals of the Woodward (G1), and before that he was off the board in the Whitney to McKinzie and Vino Rosso. Did win the Suburban (G2) at the Breeders’ Cup Classic distance. Could go next in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) on September 28.

Vino Rosso – The Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) winner will go back to 1 1/4 miles in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in his next start. Still in with a slight chance at an Eclipse

Thunder Snow 
– Was scratched from the Whitney due to an elevated temperature, and he's no longer under Breeders' Cup consideration. His time on this list is limited.

Next 5: Higher Power, Yoshida, Seeking the Soul, Gift Box, Catalina Cruiser.

Older Dirt Females

Midnight Bisou  Has been unbeatable in 2019 with six wins in as many starts. With the Eclipse now most certainly secured, Horse of the Year is in play. Look for her next in the Beldame (G1) at Belmont. 

Elate – Her record against Midnight Bisou in 2019 fell to 0-3 in the Personal Ensign. She has a stranglehold on the second spot here. Connections may try males in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but the Spinster (G1) at Keeneland on October 6 will be her next start.

She’s a Julie – No match for the top two in the Personal Ensign, but she did edge Wow Cat for the show spot. 

Wow Cat  Disappointed with her fourth-place effort in the Personal Ensign, her first finish off the board effort in 14 career starts.

Come Dancing  Won her last sprinting in the Ballerina (G1) and prior to that was runner-up to Midnight Bisou in the Ogden Phipps (G1) on Belmont Day.

Next 5: Blue Prize, Secret Spice, Escape Clause, Ollie’s Candy, Golden Award.


Maximum Security – A victim of a serious health scare with a severe, acute bout of colic, he had to scratch from the Pennsylvania Derby. Still the leader of this division, but this leaves the door open for others to possibly unseat him. The Breeder's Cup hasn't been ruled out but appears to be a longshot.

Code of Honor – The Travers (G1) winner remains behind the leader here, in my eyes. Remember, he finished behind Maximum Security both times they met this year and may get just one chance to turn the tables. Will face older next out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Tacitus – Another nice showing in the Travers, but one that left him short of the winner's circle. This time with blinkers on, he showed much more early speed but didn’t have enough left to hold off Code of Honor. Could run next in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Omaha Beach – The hope is to get him one race before the Breeders' Cup after various health issues that have sidelined him since April. He will target the one-turn Ack Ack (G3) against older horses on Sept. 28 at Churchill Downs.

Game Winner 
– His future is uncertain now after the connections stated he will not race again this year.

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


 Passed another test in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), but she had to work for it in the stretch after setting a slow pace. With only three starts into her career, she already has two Grade 1 wins.

Dunbar Road  With the Alabama and Mother Goose (G2) wins now on her resume, she could reel in Guarana for the top spot with a win in her next start over older. The Beldame or the Spinster could be next.

Serengeti Empress 
– Was game in a runner-up finish when sprinting in the Test Stakes. Previously, she was simply second best in the Acorn after going extremely fast early.

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.

Covfefe – The Test Stakes winner has been super impressive this season in a deep class of female sprinters. She'll prep for the Breeders' Cup in Churchill Downs' Dogwood Stakes.

Next 5: 
Bellafina, Jaywalk, Street Band, Concrete Rose, Royal Charlotte. 

Turf Males

Bricks and Mortar – With the Eclipse now seemingly decided, he's the main Horse of the Year player. What path his connections choose for the remainder of the year is still up for debate. Can he compete against Europe’s best at the Breeders' Cup Turf distance?

Annals of Time  Done for the year due to injury, the Sword Dancer (G1) winner could still come back next season as the injury 
isn't necessarily career-ending, leaving the door open to a 7-year-old campaign.

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 
 It will take a monumental effort to defeat this guy sprinting on the lawn, but a setback has kept him from his last two scheduled starts.

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, Arklow.

Turf Females

Sistercharlie  She's quite simply one of the best turf female stars we have seen in quite a long time. Her course record Beverly D. (G1) win was outstanding, and another Eclipse is in her sights with Belmont's Flower Bowl (G1) next.

Vasilika – Back in the winner’s circle in Del Mar's John C. Mabee Stakes (G2), she won for the fifth time in six starts this year, all in graded company. To prep for the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, she may need to find a race out of town due to Jerry Hollendorfer's ban at Santa Anita.

Rushing Fall – Was second best to Sistercharlie in the Diana, and I can’t envision her beating the No. 1 anytime soon. Will go next in the First Lady (G1) at Keeneland on October 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) last weekend at Leopardstown in Ireland.

Beau Recall 
– Has been solid this season, winning three of her five starts. Her Yellow Ribbon (G2) win over Vasilika marked her second graded stakes score.

Next 5: Got Stormy, Rymska, Homerique, Concrete Rose, Cambier Parc.

Male Sprinters

Mitole  Returned to the winner's circle in a big way when taking Saratoga's Forego (G1) in stakes-record time. He could get one more start before the Breeders' Cup or train straight into it.

World of Trouble  Previously, his Jaipur (G1) score made him a Grade 1 winner this year on turf and dirt. Now his Breeders’ Cup status is up in the air.

Imperial Hint – Clearly, Saratoga is his favorite track. Won the Vanderbilt for the second year in a row in track-record time for his first win of 2019. He’ll need consistency to advance in this division. He will now target the Vosburgh (G1) at Belmont Park on September 28 before and expected run in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Roy H – Since scratching from the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), he's getting back into the swing of things and is expected to point straight to the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Promises Fulfilled 
– Really packed it in after being pressed early by Mitole in the Forego when finishing in last place. Still one of the best sprinters in the country, he will look to regroup in Keeneland's Phoenix (G2).

Next 5: Catalina Cruiser, X Y Jet, Cistron, Firenze Fire, Giant Expectations.

Female Sprinters

Marley’s Freedom – She appears to be bypassing the L.A. Woman Stakes (G3) on October 5 at Santa Anita. It's tough to separate her from Come Dancing right now, and that one may pass by if Marley's Freedom doesn't run soon.

Come Dancing – The Ballerina (G1) winner is 3-for-4 on the season with her only loss a runner-up finish to Midnight Bisou. She will travel cross country for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, and the Eclipse will likely come down to the top three who are ranked here.

Covfefe – Test Stakes winner goes this weekend in the Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs. This will be her final race prior to an expected run in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint

Spiced Perfection – The Madison (G1) winner finished fourth in the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs in May but hasn’t raced since.

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). 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

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.

Basin  The impressive Hopeful Stakes (G1) winner is 2-for-3. 

Green Light Go  Scratched from the Hopeful and will run next in the Champagne (G1) at Belmont. Won the Saratoga Special (G2) in August and is 2-for-2 on his young career.

4.  Eight Rings 
 Impressive maiden winner lost his rider in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and will go next in the American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita.

5.  Nucky 
 Off at 35-1 odds, he was the upset winner of the Del Mar Futurity. Prior to that he was off the board in two maiden races.

Next 5:
 Scabbard, Wrecking Crew, Collusion Illusion, Decorated Invader, Tap it to Win.

2-Year-Old Females

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

2.  Perfect Alibi
- Has already started in three graded stakes, winning her last two. The Spinaway (G1) winner could go next in Keeneland's Alcibiades Stakes (G1).

3.  Frank’s Rockette 
 Chased Perfect Alibi home as the runner-up in her last two starts.

Lazy Daisy - Winner of the Pocahontas (G2) at Churchill Downs, she was runner-up to Bast in the Del Mar Debutante in her previous start.

5.  Amalfi Sunrise
 - Out for the season due to an illness, she looked very good in her only two starts, which included a runaway win in the Sorrento (G2) at Del Mar.

Next 5: Inspiressa, Portrait, Figure of Speech, Fair Maiden, Mrs. Danvers.


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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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