With the Breeders’ Cup now in our rear view mirror there is much to sort out as we head in to the final weeks of the 2021 racing season.
This week I take a look at three horses, who, despite their Breeders’ Cup loss, will easily remain at the top of their respective divisions, and as a result, my vote when the Eclipse award ballots come out.
Before I dive into that, let’s take a look at this week’s Division Rankings:
Older dirt males
1. Knicks Go. Will be a deserving Horse of the Year as he won the Pegasus World Cup in his first start of the season and capped off his season with a facile score in the Breeders' Cup Classic. By far the best in this division, he could run again to defend his Pegasus crown.
2. Maxfield. Missed another chance at a Grade 1 win when he was a disappointing runner-up in the Woodward to Art Collector. I am going to go ahead and leave this guy here at No. 2. For starters, he was stuck behind a very slow pace that Art Collector was allowed to get away with. Also, Maxfield has run well in several starts over the whole season, from coast to coast. Although he is 0-3 in Grade 1 starts this season, he has not missed the board and has won three graded stakes.
3. Silver State. Disappointed in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile where he finished fifth. The Met Mile (G1) winner led this division for a few weeks earlier this season.
4. Max Player. An abysmal showing in the Breeders' Cup Classic where he finished in last. The winner of the Suburban (G2) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) was an improved horse this year but found the Classic waters too deep.
5. Art Collector. He too found the Classic waters too deep where he finished sixth. Is better at nine furlongs as that is the distance he scored his biggest win, the Woodward, in his race prior to the Breeders' Cup.
Next 5: Independence Hall, Mystic Guide, Tripoli, Dr Post, Happy Saver.
Older dirt females
1. Letruska. Despite her off the board finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff she was clearly the best in this division in 2021. Will win the Eclipse and be back in 2022.
2. Shedaresthedevil. Was part of the early scorching pace in the Distaff that also saw her finish off the board. Still, she had a nice season that saw her win four graded stakes.
3. Dunbar Road. Nearly pulled off the Breeders' Cup Distaff win, losing by a nose. She didn't win a race this season, but her last two runner-up efforts place her among the best in division.
4. Bonny South. Runner-up in two straight Grade 1 events, the Spinster and the Personal Ensign, she is in the best form of career. Her lone win in 2021 came in the Doubledogdare (G3) at Churchill Downs.
5. Royal Flag. Certainly had the right pace to run at in the Distaff but could only muster up a fifth place finish. Previously she beat a subpar field in the Beldame (G2) and was a good third to Letruska in the Personal Ensign.
Next 5: Crystal Ball, As Time Goes By, Envoutante, Antoinette, Gamine.
1. Medina Spirit. His runner-up finish in the Classic should net him the Eclipse in this division. Tied for the most Grade 1 wins the division, he also has a win over older, something his closest rivals, Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie, do not have. Finished ahead of Essential Quality the two times they met on the racetrack. He will be back in 2022 with the Saudi Cup targeted as his first major goal.
2. Essential Quality. Was game in his third place Breeders' Cup Classic finish, but like the Kentucky Derby, he had the entire stretch to pass his 3-year-old rival but couldn't do it, despite having the better trip. He is retired now after a spectacular career that saw him lose only two races. Could the gap between the Travers and Classic cost him the race? Perhaps.
3. Hot Rod Charlie. He too was in the thick of things in the Classic stretch but fell just short finishing fourth. An outstanding season for this son of Oxbow. He will be back in 2022.
4. Life is Good. Easy winner of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Big things will be expected for this son of Into Mischief in 2022 where a clash with Knicks Go may be on the Pegasus World Cup menu in late January.
5. Midnight Bourbon. Has really brought his "A" game in his last two starts. He was a clear second best last out in the Penn Derby to "Hot Rod" and previous to that was a close runner-up to Essential Quality in the Travers. Connections skipped the Breeders' Cup with him to point to possibly the Clark (G1) at Churchill later this fall with an eye on the big races in early 2022.
Next 5: Mandaloun, Rombauer, Dr. Schivel, Jackie's Warrior, Golden Pal.
1. Malathaat. Ran well in the Breeders' Cup Distaff falling just a 1/2 length short in finishing third. The Alabama (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner is a lock for this Eclipse.
2. Clairiere. Ran a really nice race against a tough field in the Distaff where for a brief second or two looked like she was going to win. Instead, she settled for a close fourth, 3/4 of a length from the winner.
3. Search Results. Cutting back to the seven-furlong Test Stakes (G1) last out, she finished an even third. Previously she was an impressive winner of the Acorn, which was her first Grade 1 win. Suffered her only loss, to Malathaat, in the Kentucky Oaks earlier this season, but she was game in defeat. Her connections have decided to take her out of training and point to a 4-year-old campaign. Will likely drop from this spot in the coming weeks.
4. Private Mission. Suicidal Breeders' Cup Distaff pace aside, this filly has a bright future. Prior to the Distaff she was a nice winner of the Zenyatta (G2) over older, and the Torrey Pines (G3) over fellow 3yo fillies.
5. Soothsay. Showing tremendous fight and determination in the stretch of her Indiana Oaks (G3) win, Soothsay looked like a different horse from the one we saw previously in her loss to Crazy Beautiful in the Summertime Oaks (G2). On the shelf now till 2022.
Next 5: Army Wife, Obligatory, Crazy Beautiful, Zaajel, Maracuja.
1. Domestic Spending. Runner-up in the Mister D (G1), he couldn't overcome a slow place set by winner Two Emmys. The loss leaves this division open for the taking. He has won two Grade 1 events this season; his facile Manhattan Stakes (G1) win at Belmont was superb, defeating several others ranked below. Had to scratch out of the Breeders' Cup, will likely still win the Eclipse in this division.
2. Smooth Like Strait. It was this guy who ran the best of the U.S based grass horses in the two major Breeders' Cup grass races. His runner-up finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile summed up his entire season - tough as nails and always runs his race.
3. Colonel Liam. Like Domestic Spending, this guy also has two Grade 1 wins on his resume, but he sports a Grade 2 win in 2021 too. True, he did go down to defeat in the Manhattan in June, but it was his first loss of 2021. He had been running since January and has won three stakes. Off since that Manhattan loss. Retains this high ranking because no other in this division did enough to pass him.
4. Golden Pal. It has been a long time since I ranked a turf sprinter this high, but he deserves it. He only ran four times in 2021, winning three of them. But, his Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint was a thing of beauty, dominating from start to finish to post an easy win.
5. Mo Forza. Finishing 13th and last in the Breeders' Cup Mile, this guy ran the worst race of his career, by far. He was sensational in his only other starts this season, two wins in graded stakes.
Next 5: United, Hit the Road, Japan, Tribhuvan, Rockemperor.
1. War Like Goddess. Tough luck loser of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, she is still tops in this division. A winner of four graded stakes this season that included the Flower Bowl (G1) at Belmont Park
2. Althiqa. Returned in the First Lady (G1) at Keeneland and disappointed as the favorite while finishing fourth. That effort dropped her from my top spot. Previously, she won back-to-back Grade 1 events, the Diana and Just a Game. Has since been retired.
3. Going Global. This 3-year-old filly upset Princess Grace on the Breeders' Cup under card and has now quietly won five graded stakes this season. My only knock on her is that she never left her home base of California in 2021.
4. Princess Grace. Upset by Going Global in the Goldikova Stakes (G2). Previously she won the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3).
5. Mean Mary. No excuses in the Beverly D, but she was game to hold the runner-up spot. She was simply second best. Prior to the Beverly D she was victorious in the New York Stakes (G2) and previous to that winning race, Mean Mary was best in the Gallorette Stakes (G3) at Pimlico. Has since been retired because of injury.
Next 5: Blowout, Going to Vegas, Summer Romance, Viadera, Got Stormy.
1. Dr. Schivel. This guy proved his worth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, silencing many who doubted he could hang with Jackie's Warrior. He wasn't far off of the pace set by Jackie's Warrior and he came running in the stretch only to drop a heartbreaking nose decision to Aloha West. He must be ranked No. 1 here based off his resume. He owns a Grade 1 win over older, something Jackie's Warrior does not. He also defeated Jackie's Warrior in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He may run in the Grade 1 Malibu later this year to solidify his Eclipse resume.
2. Jackie's Warrior. Ran the worst race of his career in the Breeders' Cup Sprint as he didn't have an answer turning for him after setting honest fractions. He was outstanding in his previous three starts, all wins. But he just doesn't have as good of a resume as Dr. Schivel.
3. Aloha West. Rockets all the way to No. 3 after not being ranked previously. The Breeders' Cup Sprint winner closed stoutly in the stretch to win by a nose. The Breeders' Cup was his first graded stakes win.
4. Following Sea. The Vosburgh (G2) winner ran very good in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, finishing third. He could ship back to California for Malibu or stay in New York for the Cigar Mile for his next start.
5. Flagstaff. Tough old veteran fired again in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship when finishing second. Earlier this season he was second best in the True North (G2) and won the Churchill Down Stakes (G1). Missed the Breeders' Cup and has been retired.
Next 5: Special Reserve, Ginobili, Lexitonian, C Z Rocket, Firenze Fire.
1. Gamine. The beaten Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint favorite is still tops in this division. Will win the Eclipse based off her entire 2021 resume.
2. Ce Ce. Winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, she got good at the right time of the year. She won't win the Eclipse, but the future looks very bright should she stay in training for 2022.
3. Bella Sofia. This 3-year-old filly prompted the pace set by Gamine in the Breeders' Cup, but, like Gamine, had no answer in the stretch when finishing fourth.
4. Bell's the One. Prevailed in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2) by a neck but will skip the Breeders’ Cup. She has won three stakes this year, two of which were graded. Will face off against Sconsin this weekend in the Dream Supreme Stakes at Churchill Downs.
5. Sconsin. Super effort last out in the Open Mind Stakes and now faces off against her rival Bell's the One in this weekend's Dream Supreme Stakes.
Next 5: Estilo Talentoso, Edgeway, Lake Avenue, Kimari, Frank's Rockette.
1. Corniche. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner moves up to this spot and will likely also get the Eclipse in this division based off of his unbeaten record, 3-for-3.
2. Jack Christopher. Had to scratch out of the Breeders' Cup, but previously he won the Champagne (G1) in dominant fashion. He is 2-for-2 on his career and will still get some votes for the Eclipse.
3. Major General. Winner of both his starts, he won the Iroquois Stakes (G3) last month.
4. Rattle N Roll. Impressive winner of the Breeders' Futurity (G1), he skipped the Breeders' Cup
5. Pappacap. Runner-up to Corniche in this last two starts, he has to move up just based on that.
Next 5: Pinehurst, Commandperformance, Wit, Gunite, High Oak.
1. Echo Zulu. The best 2-year-old in the country, she was dominant in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, winning by over five lengths. Completes an unbeaten 4-for-4 season with three grade 1 wins, a rarity for 2-year-old's nowadays.
2. Juju's Map. Ran well in the Breeders' Cup but was second best to Echo Zulo. Previously she was the winner of the Alcibiades (G1) as the favorite at Keeneland after breaking her maiden at Ellis Park.
3. Ain't Easy. Facile winner of the Chandelier (G2) at Santa Anita, she is 2-for-2 thus far in her career but will skip the Breeders' Cup.
4. Hidden Connection. Disappointed in the Breeders' Cup finishing fourth. The Midwest star had previously won both her starts, the Pocahontas Stakes (G3) being her last.
5. Tarabi. Three starts for this gal and she has placed in each. She was second to Echo Zulu in the Spinaway over the summer and finished third to that rival in last week's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Next 5: Behave Virginia, Dance to the Music, Happy Soul, Pizza Bianca, Wild Beauty.
As Gamine made the turn for home in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, it was clear, she was in the fight of her life. For the first time in her 11 race career, Gamine was being passed in the stretch of a one-turn race. Only once before had Gamine even ceded the lead at any point of call in a one-turn race, and that was in last year’s Filly & Mare Sprint when she allowed Serengeti Empress to grab the early lead.
Going down to defeat in one of the biggest upsets of the Breeders’ Cup, Gamine ran well, but the toll of the early dual with the second choice in the race, Bella Sofia, had an effect. Finishing third to the winner, Ce Ce, Gamine was beaten a little over three lengths, but was clear of her nemesis, Bella Sofia, who checked in fourth.
Gamine had done more than enough before this race to get my vote for the Eclipse, so the result of this race doesn’t change where my vote will go.
Gamine was the best female sprinter of 2021. She accomplished more than Ce Ce, winning two Grade 1 events prior to Breeders’ Cup where she faced and defeated the best in her division multiple times. Ce Ce had a nice season, but it is too little and too late for the Eclipse. Prior to her Breeders’ Cup score, she counted just the Grade 2 Princess Rooney at Gulfstream and Grade 3 Chillingworth at Santa Anita as her only stakes wins.
Six races later on Breeders’ Cup Saturday saw a field of 10 take on the reigning queen of racing in the United States, Letruska.
For Letruska, her divisional Eclipse was sewn up long before last Saturday, and in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Letruska was running for Horse of the Year.
21.84 seconds into the Distaff one thing was clear, Letruska was in trouble on this day. Although she loves to run on the lead, she has shown the ability to rate in past races. This time it was Private Mission to her inside who was intent on grabbing the early lead at any cost. Letruska was rated in second just to her outside. The first quarter was run faster than what Gamine ran in the Filly & Mare Sprint. The half-mile time was 44.97, just .05 slower than the half mile time in Gamine’s Filly & Mare Sprint.
For all intents and purposes, Letruska’s Distaff chances were gone.
Knowing this, Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. didn’t push Letruska in the stretch and smartly let her just jog home. It was unfortunate end to a spectacular season that saw trainer Fausto Gutierrez bring Letruska to six different race tracks for wins. All told, the Mexican legend scored in six graded stakes events, four of which were Grade 1.
Letruska will be back in 2022, and will point for a spring comeback race where her schedule will be lighter according to her connections. She will return in 2022 as the newly minted Older Dirt Female Eclipse winner.
Lastly, we have War Like Goddess. Although she went down to defeat in the Filly & Mare Turf to the popular Japanese bred horse, Loves Only You, War Like Goddess did enough in 2021 to get my vote in the Female Turf division.
War Like Goddess ran her race in the Filly & Mare Turf as she made an eye catching move passing several horses on the far turn, claiming the lead at the top of the stretch. In a spectacular stretch drive, War Like Goddess battled with Love to her inside and My Sister Nat to her outside only to have the Japanese star Loves Only You split War Like Goddess and My Sister Nat in the late stages to pull off a dramatic win for Japan.
Coming up just short, War Like Goddess finished a game third, beaten a ½ length. The loss snapped a four race winning streak as well. Still, the daughter the late English Channel did enough for me in this division.
Finally, for those who believe Loves Only You should get Eclipse consideration, I do not agree. For my vote, you have to run in this country more than one time to be considered for the Eclipse. Put another way, would a U.S based horse win a JBA Award in Japan off of only one start in that country? Would a U.S. based horse win a Cartier award off only one start in Europe? No.