Division Rankings: Has Tiz the Law already secured an Eclipse?

Division Rankings: Has Tiz the Law already secured an Eclipse?
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

As Tiz the Law cantered down the Saratoga stretch to an easy Travers' Stakes (G1) win, you got the sense that this wasn't the same Tiz the Law we had seen in his previous wins this year. This win had a much different tone to it, and I got the palpable sense that Tiz the Law had turned into a superstar right before our eyes. 

[Related: Derby Top 5 – Tiz the Law the best, but others can win]

Although Tiz the Law had won the Florida Derby (G1) and Belmont (G1) in his previous two starts, some still had questions about the son of Constitution. He had not wowed the speed figure guys, and there was still the question of his ability to navigate the 10-furlong Kentucky Derby distance. 

Tiz the Law answered both in emphatic fashion last weekend, and in the process, sent a serious message to the rest of the racing world with his geared down 5 1/2 length win. 

The Travers win gives Tiz the Law three Grade 1 wins on the season and four in his career. To put that in perspective, the entire field that will be entered against Tiz the Law in next month’s Kentucky Derby will have less. It is not an understatement to write that he towers over all others in his class right now. 

Of course, Grade 1 wins are not the be all end all, but in taking a look at what remains of Tiz the Law’s potential competition for champion 3-year-old male, it would appear that only an extraordinary set of circumstances would prevent him from the year-end title. 

So I ask, has Tiz the Law already secured an Eclipse Award? It's a fair question, and I believe he very likely has. 

Let’s run through some scenarios. 

In building up such a wide lead in the division, Tiz the Law has built up equity. There are not many Grade 1 events left for another 3-year-old to unseat Tiz the Law. Given the schedule this fall, I find it hard to believe that few, if any, 3-year-old males will try the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders’ Cup Classic trifecta of races. So, what would it take? 

Well, I see it unfolding like this:

If Tiz the Law is beaten in the Kentucky Derby I don’t believe his connections will run in the Preakness like they had planned, they will instead train up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. So, whatever rival were to defeat him in Kentucky would most certainly have to defeat him again in the Breeders’ Cup to win the Eclipse. Remember, Tiz the Law has done enough already this year and can afford a loss. 

Would the winner of the Kentucky Derby skip the Preakness? Perhaps. But, if they do run in the Preakness what is the likelihood they actually run in and win the Breeders’ Cup Classic as well? Not likely. 

On the flip side, the Eclipse race is cemented with a win by Tiz the Law in the Kentucky Derby. What about other scenarios? In horse racing we know that injuries can happen at any time. What if Tiz the Law is forced to miss the Derby and the remainder of the year? In my opinion he is still likely assured of the Eclipse. Again, another 3-year-old male would have to not only win the Kentucky Derby, but also win the Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Classic. 

Whether you are fan of Tiz the Law or not, there is no denying that he has been the one constant in this very strange 2020 racing season. Starting his year off in early February, he has handled every test. Should he win next month’s Kentucky Derby he will set his sights on an unprecedented fall schedule of racing where he will try and add the Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Classic. 

Some will say that a potential Triple Crown win this season would be tarnished due to the scheduling and reduced distance of the Belmont. Perhaps that is the case. But, if Tiz the Law were to pull off wins the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders’ Cup Classic AFTER winning the Travers and the shortened Belmont Stakes, it would stand on its own as one of the more remarkable campaigns by a 3-year-old male.

With that, here's a look at this week's Division Rankings.

Older Dirt Males

1.  
Maximum Security - Made his much anticipated return to the races a winning one the San Diego Handicap (G2). Didn't win by much, but a win is a win. No denying the heart and grit this guy has shown on the racetrack, it will be interesting to see how he runs in the Pacific Classic later this month. He is better going longer. Remember, he has finished behind only one rival in 11 career starts, defeating over 90 others.

2.  Tom's d'Etat – Loses nothing as far as his reputation is concerned as a result of his loss in the Whitney where he stumbled at the start, losing ground in the process, and the ridiculously slow fractions he could not overcome. He stays here at No. 2. 

3.  Improbable – Certainly has redeemed himself in a big way from his disappointing 3-year-old campaign. Now a winner of two straight Grade 1 races this season after his Whitney win, he is an Eclipse contender. But, he will never have the setup he had in the Whitney again. 

4.  Vekoma – Sensational in the Met Mile (G1)in his last start. Although he likely won't run around two turns for now, he is clearly one of the top older dirt males in the country. His connections have stated they will now wait for the Forego (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 29 in their march toward the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Since this year’s Breeders’ Cup is at Keeneland, the Dirt Mile would be run around two turns. Vekoma's lone win around two turns came in last year's Blue Grass (G2) at 1 1/8 miles.

5.  By My Standards – Runner-up again, this time in the Whitney. He again ran a strong race but not a winning one. Earlier this season he won the New Orleans Classic (G2) and Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Just a cut below the top ones right now.

Next 5: Code of Honor, Mucho Gusto, Tacitus, Midcourt, Warriors Charge.  


Older Dirt Females

1.  Midnight Bisou – Loss in the Personal Ensign has opened the door for others in this division, still only has one win this year in the Fleur De Lis (G2). The Saudi Cup runner-up to Maximum Security has never finished off the board in 21 starts. 

2.  Fighting Mad - Impressive winner of the Clement L Hirsch (G1) defeating several who are ranked below, she deserves this No. 2 spot. Previously won the Santa Maria (G2) in impressive fashion, defeating Ce Ce. 

3.  Monomoy Girl -  In her second start back after a lengthy layoff, she won the Ruffian (G2) defeating Vexatious who then came back to defeat Midnight Bisou in the Personal Ensign (G1). She will run next in the La Troienne (G1) at Churchill Downs on Sept. 4.

4.  Vexatious - Makes her debut in the Top Ten at No. 4 based on her strong win over Midnight Bisou in the Personal Ensign. She was previously runner-up to Monomoy Girl in the Ruffian (G2) at Belmont Park.

5.  Ollie's Candy - Ran another stellar race in the Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar where she was runner-up to Fighting Mad. She is Grade 1 placed four times in 2020.

Next 5: Ce Ce, Dunbar Road, Point of Honor, Guarana, Serengeti Empress . 

3-Year-Old-Males

1.  
Tiz the Law – Turned in his best performance to date in last weekend's Travers (G1) making a mockery of the field. Has matured right before our eyes and is now a bonafide superstar. With the Kentucky Derby up next, he will likely be the shortest priced favorite since Spectacular Bid in 1979. His four grade 1 wins will be more than the entire Kentucky Derby field combined. Would take an extraordinary set of circumstances to deny him the Eclipse.

2.  Authentic – He barely held on in the Haskell (G1), but a win is a win. While I don't believe 10 furlongs is in his wheelhouse, he will nevertheless head to the Kentucky Derby for his next start. Based on his 2020 resume, he deserves this spot for now. Won the San Felipe (G2) and Sham (G3) earlier this season.

3.  Art Collector - Did what he was supposed to do in last weekend's Ellis Park Derby winning by a little over three lengths. The winner of the Blue Grass (G2) for his first stakes win in his previous start, he will have to run a career top in the Kentucky Derby, but that may not even be enough to defeat Tiz the Law. 

4.  Honor A. P. – No excuse in the Shared Belief Stakes where he finished runner-up to Thousand Words in his last start. The Santa Anita Derby winner will now head to Louisville for next months Kentucky Derby. Not a big fan of the choices his connections have made to get him to Louisville and he appears a cut below the top two.

5.  King Guillermo - Impressed me with his runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby behind Nadal, showing everyone that his 49-1 upset win in his previous start, the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), was no fluke. Apparently his connections have decided to sit him now for 126 days and train up to the Kentucky Derby. It's a questionable decision at best, in my opinion.

Next 5: Ny Traffic, Thousand Words, Dr. Post, Rushie, Caracaro.

3-Year-Old-Females

1.  
Swiss Skydiver – The leader of the division returns to the racetrack in this weekend's Alabama (G1) where another win will set her up with a showdown with Gamine in the Kentucky Oaks. In her previous start she ran big in the Blue Grass (G2) against the boys where she beat all but the winner, Art Collector, quite handily. 

2.  Gamine - Won her second straight Grade 1 event, this time in the Test (G1) going seven furlongs at Saratoga. Her connections are going to try her again around two-turns for her next start, the Kentucky Oaks. I am skeptical of her chances and feel she is best around one turn, but she has earned the chance to try.

3.  Speech – Impressive winner of the Ashland (G1) last time out defeating Venetian Harbor, among others. Remember, in her two previous starts she was runner-up to Swiss Skydiver in the Santa Anita Oaks and to Gamine in an optional claimer at Oaklawn.

4.  Venetian Harbor– She hit the trifecta of runner-up finishes last weekend with her Test (G1) runner-up to Gamine. In her last three starts she has finished second to Speech, Swiss Skydiver, and now Gamine. Earlier this season she won the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. 

5.  Paris Lights – The Bill Mott trained daughter of Curlin broke through in a big way in her stakes debut, a win in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.

Next 5: Donna Veloce, Finite, Shedaresthedevil, Sharing, Crystal Ball. 

Turf Males

1.  
United - Won his third graded stakes this season in his last start,  the Eddie Read (G2) at Del Mar. Now 3-for-3 this season, he appears to be the horse to beat in this division

2.  Zulu Alpha - Back from a brief freshening, the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) winner was impressive winning the Elkhorn (G2) in his last start at Keeneland. Will try and defend his title in next months Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) at Kentucky Downs for his next start.

3.  Factor This - Has now won four straight, his latest was a win in last weekend's Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup Stakes. This 5-year-old is in the best form of his career and an Eclipse contender for trainer Brad Cox.


4.  Instilled Regard - Quite the 
career renaissance this son Arch is in the midst of.  Grade 1 placed at age two on the dirt, he finished fourth in the 2018 Kentucky Derby. He has found a home now on the grass at age 5 as he won his first Grade 1 race, the Manhattan at Belmont Park last time out. Now with two graded wins in the grass this season, he is very much in the Eclipse race here. Will go next in the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) on Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs.

5.  War of Will - A major player on the grass now as he pulled off a remarkable win in the Maker's Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland last time out. He joined Secretariat and California Chrome as just the third horse in modern history to win a Triple Crown event and a Grade 1 turf race. He will continue on the lawn for his next start in the Woodbine Mile on Sept. 19.

Next 5: Raging Bull, Admission Office, Bemma's Boy, Rockemperor, Decorated Invader.

Turf Females

1.  Rushing Fall 
– Very impressive winner of the Jenny Wiley (G1) in her last start. 
Clearly, this is a different Rushing Fall as compared with the version that ran the past two seasons. Last year, she simply wasn't good enough, and the previous season her connections ducked the top mares in the division.  The Wiley was her career best effort, and she beat a top notch filly in Jolie Olimpica. Will run the Diana (G1) at Saratoga on August 23.


2.  
Starship Jubilee – Remember, she held the No. 1 sport for most of the season until recently. She showed why when she defeated Sistercharlie in the 
Ballston Spa Stakes (G2) at Saratoga. Now 4-for-4 this season, she is a leading contender for the Eclipse in this division.
3.  Mean Mary
 – Took it to a new level last out when she romped in the New York Stakes (G2). With three graded stakes wins now on the season, previously winning Le Prevoyante Stakes (G3) and Orchid Stakes (G3) she is a surprise contender in this division. She will go next in the Grade 1 Diana on August 23 at Saratoga.

4.  Newspaperofrecord - Has rebounded very nicely from a disappointing 3-year-old season to take her first two races in 2020, both graded stakes. Her win in the Just a Game (G1) last out came at the expense of the defending champ of this division, Uni. She will run next on September 5 in at Churchill Downs in the Distaff Turf Mile (G2). The Breeders' Cup Mile against the boys is the long range goal

 
5.  Jolie Olimpica
 – Ran a winning race in the Jenny Wiley when runner-up to Rushing Fall. Earlier this season she won the Monrovia (G2) and Las Cienegas Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita. Could be a major player in the Breeders' Cup Mile in the fall. Was scratched out of last weekend's Yellow Ribbon (G2) at Del Mar.

Next 5: Juliet Foxtrot, Uni, Sistercharlie, Keeper Ofthe Stars, Bodhicitta.


Male Sprinters

1.  Vekoma 
- Like Mitole last year, he may run away and hide in this division as he now has a commanding lead here after his second straight Grade 1 win, this one in the Met Mile. Now 3-for-3 on the season. Will run next in the Forego (G1) at Saratoga later this month.

2.  Volatile - Nice win in the Vanderbilt (G1) over several others ranked below. Not nearly as dominant as he was at Churchill, but as the controlling speed, he should be commended for quick finishing fractions to hold off all comers. Will be interesting to see how he handles Vekoma down the road, if they face one another. Will have one more start before the Breeders' Cup Sprint, the Vosburgh at Belmont Park.

3.  Whitmore -  After breaking through the gate prior to the start, he still ran his race in the Vanderbilt when only defeated by 1 3/4 lengths. Earlier this season, he won the Count Fleet Sprint (G3) at Oaklawn. Shows no signs of slowing down at age seven.

4.  Mind Control - He too ran big in the Vanderbilt, beaten just two lengths. Started off 2020 with a win in the Toboggan Stakes (G3) and the Tom Fool (G3) at Aqueduct. 

5.  Network Effect - Has to move up here based off of his last two starts, where he was runner-up twice to Vekoma in the Grade 1 Carter and Met Mile. 

Next 5: Firenze Fire, McKinzie, Flagstaff, Collusion Illusion, Echo Town.

Female Sprinters

1.  Guarana 
- Finally some clarity in this division as this gal takes over the top spot here after her game win in the Madison (G1) over a tough customer in Mia Mischief. Trainer Chad Brown has stated the year-end goal is the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She recently suffered  a setback in training and was forced to miss this weekend's Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga.

2.  Serengeti Empress - Make no mistake, this gal turned in the best sprint race performance by any female in 2020. Running fractions of 21.75 and 43.74 with pressure the entire way, Serengeti Empress ran the sprint race of her life in defeating a string Ballerina (G1) field. She rockets to this No. 2 spot and will now point to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

3.  Gamine - Dominant winner of her last two including last weekend's Test (G1) at Saratoga, she has all the tools to be a great sprinter. Her connections will try her again around two turns for her next start, the nine-furlong Kentucky Oaks. Her lone start around two turns resulted in a loss via disqualification. I suspect we may see her back around one turn pointing for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint after her Kentucky Oaks endeavor.

4.  Mia Mischief - Passed Guarana turning for home in the Madison (G1) at Keeneland and looked on her way to victory but was beaten to the wire by a very game Guarana. A tough loss for sure, but she was clearly the best of the rest and will get more chances later this year to avenge the loss.

5.  Bellafina - Was game when runner-up in the Ballerina to Serengeti Empress, earlier this season won the Desert Stormer (G3) at Santa Anita.

Next 5: Bell's the One, Kimari, Break Even, Special Relativity, Come Dancing.


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.

" Manila and the Arlington Million

" California Chrome in Rarified Air

" Cigar and the Pacific Classic

" Spending Time With Game on Dude

" Go For Wand: Gone But Not Forgotten


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