Division Rankings: Dr. Schivel has the edge for sprint Eclipse

Division Rankings: Dr. Schivel has the edge for sprint Eclipse
Photo: Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

One of the most entertaining Eclipse Award divisions of the 2021 season, the male sprint division, will boil down to two horses: Dr. Schivel and Jackie’s Warrior.

These two 3-year-old males sat atop the division before the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, with Jackie’s Warrior holding a tepid lead over his rival in these rankings.

The result of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint wasn’t the only factor in my decision to move Dr. Schivel to the top of the division, unseating Jackie’s Warrior. It was a tough call – but the right call, for now.

Before I dive into why I came to this decision, 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 (G1) in his first start of the season and capped off his year with a facile score in the Breeders' Cup Classic. By far the best in this division, a meeting with Life is Good in the Pegasus could be next.

2. Maxfield. Missed another chance at a Grade 1 win when he was a disappointing runner-up to Art Collector in the Woodward (G1). 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 this 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. Will run Friday in the Clark (G1) at Churchill Downs.

3. Silver State. Disappointed in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, finishing 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. Mystic Guide. Ran only three times this season, but his Dubai World Cup win was outstanding and when all is said and done, he deserves this top five ranking just based on that – and partly because no other deserves to be ranked ahead of him.

Next 5: Art Collector, Independence Hall, 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, which 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 SouthRunner-up in two straight Grade 1 events, the Spinster and the Personal Ensign, she is in the best form of her career. Her lone win in 2021 came in the Doubledogdare (G3) at Churchill Downs. She will try to end her season on a winning note in the Falls City (G2) at Churchill Downs on Thanksgiving.

5. Royal Flag. Certainly had the right pace in the Distaff but could muster only 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.

3-year-old males

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 in 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 as in 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 (G1) and Classic have 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, when 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 (G1) to Hot Rod Charlie 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 the Clark (G1) at Churchill on Friday.

Next 5: Mandaloun, Rombauer, Dr. Schivel, Jackie's Warrior, Golden Pal.

3-year-old females

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 winner is a lock for this Eclipse.

2. Clairiere. Ran a very 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 MissionSuicidal 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 3-year-old 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.

Turf males

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 but likely will 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 ran only 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.

Turf females

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, including 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 undercard and now has 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. Santa Barbara. Was a dual Grade 1 winner in this country in 2021. She died tragically of a pelvic injury in September, but her resume in this country places here in the top five.

5. Mean Mary. No excuses in the Beverly D, but she was game to hold the runner-up spot. She was simply second best to Santa Barbara. Prior to the Beverly D she was victorious in the New York Stakes (G2) and previous to winning that race, Mean Mary was best in the Gallorette Stakes (G3) at Pimlico. Has since been retired because of injury.

Next 5: Princess Grace, Blowout, My Sister Nat, Going to Vegas, Summer Romance.

Male sprinters

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 might run in the Malibu (G1) 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 home after setting honest fractions. He was outstanding in his previous three starts, all wins. But his resume just is not as good as Dr. Schivel's.

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 well in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, finishing third. He could ship back to California for Malibu or stay in New York for the Cigar Mile (G1) for his next start.

5. Flagstaff. Tough old veteran fired again in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2) 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.

Female sprinters

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 CeWinner 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 skipped the Breeders’ Cup. She has won three stakes this year, two of which were graded. Won her last start, the Dream Supreme Stakes at Churchill Downs.

5. Sconsin. Super effort last out in the Open Mind Stakes and scratched out of the recent Dream Supreme Stakes against Bell's the One..

Next 5: Estilo Talentoso, Edgeway, Lake Avenue, Kimari, Frank's Rockette.

2-year-old males
1. Corniche. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner moves up to this spot and likely will also get the Eclipse in this division based off of his 3-for-3 record. 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 based just on that. Next 5: Pinehurst, Commandperformance, WitGunite, High Oak.
2-year-old females
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-olds nowadays. 2. Juju's Map. Ran well in the Breeders' Cup but was second best to Echo Zulu. 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 skipped the Breeders' Cup. 4. Hidden Connection. Disappointed in the Breeders' Cup, finishing fourth. The Midwest star previously had 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 (G1) over the summer and finished third to that rival in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Next 5: Behave Virginia, Dance to the Music, Happy Soul, Pizza Bianca, Wild Beauty.

I got the sense heading into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint
that many fans and voters felt that Jackie’s Warrior had already sewn up the Eclipse in the male sprint division.

Although I did have Jackie’s Warrior ranked No. 1 heading in the Breeders’ Cup, the margin was narrow over the No. 2-ranked Dr. Schivel.

Before the Breeders’ Cup, Jackie’s Warrior had run in four sprint races in 2021. In the Woody Stephens (G1) he was very good, losing a heartbreaker to Drain the Clock by a neck. In his next start, the Amsterdam (G2) at Saratoga, he turned the tables on Drain the Clock by posting an easy seven-length score.

It was Jackie’s Warrior’s next race, the Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga, that still have people talking. In this race, he took on the eventual Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Life is Good. In what was one of the best races of the season of any division, Jackie’s Warrior conceded the early lead to his rival but showed the heart of a champion in the stretch to run down Life is Good and win by a neck.

It was as impressive of a sprint race as we witnessed thus far in 2021. It was more than eight lengths back to Following Sea, who would go on to win the Vosburgh (G2) in his next start and then finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Jackie’s Warrior had one more start prior to the Breeders’ Cup, an easy win over a nondescript field in the Gallant Bob (G2) at Parx.

Although Jackie’s Warrior was certainly impressive, his resume lacked a win over older horses, and in fact, he hadn’t even faced older before the Breeders’ Cup. Also, he had only a single Grade 1 win on his resume this season.

A very real argument could have been made for Dr. Schivel to be the top-ranked sprinter heading into the Breeders’ Cup. After all, Dr. Schivel was coming off back-to-back Grade 1 wins over older horses at Del Mar and Santa Anita.

When Dr. Schivel won the Bing Crosby (G1)  in late July at Del Mar, many were unhappy with the resulting speed figures and dismissed his effort. But in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2) in early October he was even better. You do not often see a 3-year-old male dominate older males in a top level sprint race, but that is what Dr. Schivel did when he won by a geared-down three lengths.

Heading into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, the gap between these two was much closer than people realized.

Jackie’s Warrior was sent off as the prohibitive favorite, and Dr. Schivel was the 4-1 second choice. After securing the early lead and setting reasonable fractions, Jackie’s Warrior did not have an answer turning for home and backed up to finish sixth, beaten a little over four lengths.

We all know the feeling of having a bad day, Jackie’s Warrior just had a bad day. Clearly, this wasn’t the Jackie’s Warrior we know, he is capable of much better.

On the other hand, Dr. Schivel ran well again. In fact, he looked like the winner when the crossed the wire. In a photo finish, Dr. Schivel lost by the narrowest of margins to the long shot Aloha West. I am not so sure that Dr. Schivel didn’t see Aloha West coming – he certainly wasn’t slowing down. Although he lost the race and finished second, I consider it a winning effort.

So here we are. The points in Dr. Schivel’s favor are wins over older horses, one of which was a Grade 1, and a near miss in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint while defeating his rival for this Eclipse, Jackie’s Warrior.

In Jackie’s Warrior’s defense, he did have to ship cross-country to run on Dr. Schivel’s track. Additionally, Jackie’s Warrior has been running hard since February while Dr. Schivel started his season in June. And lastly, Jackie’s Warrior has run at six race tracks in five states;while Dr. Schivel has run over two race tracks in one state.

This is a tough call, and I cannot fault anyone voting for either.

The connections of Dr. Schivel have stated they might run one more time this season to try to nail down this Eclipse in the Malibu (G1) in late December at Santa Anita. I love the move and the sporting gesture, but it comes with a risk as far as this voter is concerned. If Dr. Schivel were to lose the Malibu, my vote could swing back to Jackie’s Warrior.

This Eclipse race will indeed go down to the wire.

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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