Division Rankings: Kimari may revive a Breeders' Cup tradition

Division Rankings: Kimari may revive a Breeders' Cup tradition
Photo: Coady Photography

Best known for her runner-up finish in last June's Queen Mary Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot, the 3-year-old filly Kimari made her 2020 debut a winning one on dirt in last weekend's Purple Martin Stakes at Oaklawn.

The big news for me wasn't so much her winning effort over race favorite Frank's Rockette, but more for plans that lay ahead for the daughter of Munnings as discussed by trainer Wesley Ward.

Ward said the tentative plan for Kimari is to return to England for the Commonwealth Cup (G1) on June 19 at Royal Ascot, with that one spot leading into the year-end goal of the Nov. 7 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Keeneland.

Yes, you read that right: the Breeders' Cup Sprint against the males, not the Filly & Mare Sprint. I have been waiting years for fillies -- any filly, really -- to get back into the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

The Sprint used to be one of the main events on Breeders' Cup Day. It used to have some of the best story lines and some of the most dramatic finishes. That's because it used to have top female sprinters taking on the males, often successfully.

Since the advent of the Filly & Mare Sprint in 2007, the Breeders' Cup Sprint has suffered. Looking back, only a couple of editions really stand out with that "wow factor" the race used to possess.

Part of the reason this below list of females are remembered is because of their Breeders' Cup Sprint exploits. Many didn't even have to win.

Pine Tree Lane certainly was one of the top sprinters, male or female, of her time. Runner-up in 1986 to Smile, she was back in 1987 to set a blistering pace that was one of the reasons Groovy went down in defeat to another filly, Very Subtle. Very Subtle ran in the Sprint again in 1988 and ran well to be fourth to Gulch.

Then we get to one of my favorite and best female sprinters of all time, Safely Kept. Her runner-up finish in 1989 and her win in 1990 are well chronicled. The thing about Safely Kept is this, her legacy would be no where near what it is now without those races against the males in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Fans of female sprinters won't ever forget Meafara and her two agonizing Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up finishes, losing by a neck both times in 1992 and 1993. 

Desert Stormer continued the female theme in the mid 90s win a win in the 1995 Sprint defeating future Breeders' Cup Mile winner, Da Hoss, among others.

Continuing through the years there was the 3-year-old filly Xtra Heat's narrow loss in 2001. I would argue that she would be more remembered for her loss against the males in 2001 than had their been a Filly & Mare Sprint and she won that.

These are just some of the fillies who starred in the Breeders' Cup Sprint over the years, and most of the reason they are remembered are because of unique aspect of what they attempted to do at the time, take on the males.

Nowadays you rarely, if ever, get to see that. But Ward appears intent on bucking the trend.

“I’ve told them all along that I feel so strongly about this filly," Ward said. "Plus, Keeneland is my home base and hers as well, so we would like to go against the boys. It’s a six-furlong race. I think she’s really going to jump up as we get through the season, and numbers-wise she’ll be right up there as a serious contender for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint against the boys.”

The Breeders' Cup is a long way off, much can happen before then. But I for one would welcome Kimari with open arms to the Breeders' Cup Sprint. It would be great for the sport. Should it happen, and it goes successfully, perhaps others in future years would consider making the leap.

One thing I am sure of, Kimari will be remembered for decades to come should she follow in the footsteps those aforementioned fillies and their Breeders' Cup successes.

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

Older Dirt Males

1.  Maximum Security - Recently was given an exam by Dr. Larry Bramlage of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., and outside of the normal wear and tear of racing, all other parameters were normal. None of Jason Servis' doping allegations are his fault, and I hope he gets the chance to write a happy ending to the racing chapter of his epic story. He likely won't run again until the summer.

2.  Mucho Gusto - Much improved from last season, his Saudi Cup trip was eventful. He likely would have finished third instead of fourth had his jockey, Irad Ortiz Jr., not been so concerned with Maximum Security for the entirety of the race. With COVID-19 leading to cancellation of the Dubai World Cup (G1), his plans were dashed.

3.  Tacitus - Ran well in his first start of 2020, finishing a close fifth in the Saudi Cup. Also affected by the cancellation of the Dubai World Cup, Tacitus will refocus on New York's big races for older horses this summer.

4.  Code of Honor - Still hasn't posted a work this season, but there is no hurry now, given the state of the sports world.

5.  Mr. Freeze - Powerful win last out in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2). Prior to that effort he was runner-up in Mucho Gusto's Pegasus World Cup (G1) win. His best distance is probably at a mile, but he could get more chances to go longer.

Next 5: Gift Box, By My Standards, Tom's d'Etat, Spun to Run, Midcourt.

Older Dirt Females

Midnight Bisou – Was simply outstanding in her Saudi Cup run. The result opens new doors for the daughter of Midnight Lute. She's back in the U.S. and out of quarantine with no plans set for a next start.

Serengeti Empress - Overpowered the Azeri (G1) field last out, soundly defeating Lady Apple and Street Band, among others. Whether it is one turn or two, she will be a major player in any race she enters. Look for her next in the Apple Blossom.

Come Dancing – Was great sprinting last year but also showed she could run longer, as evidenced by her runner-up finish to Midnight Bisou in the Ogden Phipps (G1) on Belmont day. back on the work tab and could appear next in Oaklawn's Apple Blossom (G1) on April 18.

4.  Dunbar Road - Last year's Alabama Stakes (G1) winner, excelling over various distances, should contend for the top spot this season. She's back in training with Chad Brown in Florida and was targeting a return in the La Troienne (G1) on May 1 at Churchill Downs until that event was postponed.

5.  Lady Apple - Was never factor in the Azeri, but I am keeping her her in the top five. I will chalk up her poor showing to the off track. Prior to the Azeri, she defeated Serengeti Empress in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3).

Next 5:  Guarana, Street Band, Ce Ce, Go Google Yourself, Pink Sands.


Tiz the Law - Dominated a very good Florida Derby (G1) field last out, validating the No. 1 spot he has held here for most of the season. Look for him to bypass the Arkansas Derby (G1) on May 2 and await the summer schedule.

2.  Authentic - Unbeaten in three career starts, he was sensational in last start, the San Felipe (G2), defeating a strong field that included the runner-up, Honor A. P., who was making his season debut. With the Santa Anita Derby (G1) now postponed, he'll get a freshening.

3.  Nadal - Was ranked this high in previous weeks because I felt he was the real deal, and he proved that last out in the Rebel (G2). Now 3-for-3, he could resurface in the rescheduled Arkansas Derby.

4.  Sole Volante - The Sam F. Davis (G3) winner ran his race in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) but was left with too much to do when finishing runner-up to the longshot winner, King Guillermo. The Arkansas Derby is also a possibility for his next start.

5.  Ete Indien - Ran into a buzz saw in Tiz the Law in the Florida Derby but still managed to finish third, beaten five lengths.

Next 5: Honor A.P, Wells Bayou, Independence Hall, Storm the Court, King Guillermo.


1.  Donna Veloce - Big things were expected this year from the daughter of Uncle Mo, and she certainly delivered in her first start of 2020. In winning the Santa Ysabel (G3) by more than four lengths, she served notice that she will be a major player this season. Could reroute to the Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn for her next start.

2.  British Idiom - Sure, it was her first start since last fall, but she never threatened Finite in the Rachel Alexandra (G2), and that one went on to lose her next start. Was supposed to make Keeneland's Ashland Stakes (G1) her final Oaks preps. Now, Oaklawn's Fantasy is on the table.

3.  Venetian Harbor - Won the Las Virgenes (G2) by more than nine lengths in her stakes debut and could be something special. Connections had the Ashland penciled in next but will have to regroup with the Fantasy an option for her, too.

4.  Finite - Disappointed as the odds-on favorite in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) when she was off the board, finishing fourth. This snapped a five-race winning streak. Previously ranked No. 1, she took a big drop.

5.  Bonny South - The impressive winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks is now three for four in her career.

Next 5: Tonalist's Shape, Wicked Whisper, Kimari, Frank's Rockette, Swiss Skydiver.

Turf Males

1.  Zulu Alpha - The Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) winner tasted his first defeat of the season in the Pan American (G2) at Gulfstream when runner-up to Bemma's Boy. Still on top of this division, but I get the sense this race is wide open.

2.  Annals of Time - The Sword Dancer (G1) winner last year, he could be the one to beat in this division for Bricks and Mortar's connections if he stays healthy. Back on the work tab at Palm Meadows.

United - Almost pulled off a shocking upset in the Breeders' Cup Turf, losing to the eventual Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar by a head. Then won the San Marcos (G2) to get his 2020 season underway. With Dubai now canceled, his next start may not be for awhile.

4.  River Boyne – It was time to move him up with no others standing out. He has put together two graded wins in a row, his last being the Kilroe Mile (G1).

5.  Arklow - Winner of the Joe Hirsch (G1) last fall at Belmont, he has appeared once this season when he finished fifth to winner Zulu Alpha in the Pegasus World Cup Turf.

Next 5: Bowies Hero, Mo Forza, Bemma's Boy, Factor This, Sadler's Joy.

Turf Females

Uni – Not much separates this one and Sistercharlie. With racing in New York and other locations not likely until late summer at the earliest, she has few options on where to return.

Sistercharlie – Has lost only one race since June 2018, in last November's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Connections have a campaign planned that could include a run against the boys in the Arlington Million (G1) in late summer. In the meantime, she's back in light training at Palm Meadows, gearing up for her 6-year-old campaign.

3.  Got Stormy
 – Ran her race against the boys last out but was just edged at the wire by Rover Boyne in the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita. Some may have been disappointed with this effort, but I felt it was one of her better races.

Starship Jubilee – She is stacking up wins, as she won her third race already this season in Tampa Bay Downs' Hillsborough (G2). If not for the trio of stars on top of this division, she would be the one people are talking about. Don't count her out.
Magic Wand – Tried valiantly in her first dirt start in the Saudi Cup, but it wasn't to be as she checked in ninth. Previously, the globetrotting mare ran a big race in the Pegasus World Cup Turf, finishing second after surprisingly setting the pace. 

Next 5:  Rushing Fall, Cambier Parc, Beau Recall, Juliet Foxtrot, Jolie Olimpica.

Male Sprinters

1.  Firenze Fire – Like Maximum Security, questions now surround this former Servis trainee's future. Also like Maximum Security, he still occupies the No. 1 spot in his respective division. I still believe this horse is as good as he has run, but no one will know the real truth until he runs again now out of Kelly Breen's barn.

2.  Mind Control - Started off 2020 with a win in the Toboggan Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. And last out a few weeks ago, he looked beaten in the stretch but put in a spectacular stretch run to win the Tom Fool (G3). Could head to Oaklawn for his next start.

3.  Whitmore - Got back in the win column a few weeks ago in the Hot Springs at Oaklawn. The Count Fleet Sprint (G3) this weekend should be his next start.

4.  Shancelot - Previously trained by the now-indicted Jorge Navarro, his future is also up in the air. Will have questions to answer once he is back.

Imperial Hint – Now age 7, he was never involved in the Saudia Sprint, finishing in 12th. Has faltered as the favorite in his last two starts. May have lost a step, but we will have to wait awhile to see him run again as his next intended target in Dubai was canceled.

Next 5: Vekoma, New York Central, Cistron, Bobby's Wicked One, Flagstaff

Female Sprinters

1.  Come Dancing – Inherits the top spot here after the recent and sudden retirement of Covfefe. We'll see what Come Dancing can be soon enough as she is targeting a return at Oaklawn.

2.  Hard Not to Love - Covfefe leaves a huge void at the top of this division. This Grade 1 heroine in 2019 returned a winner in the Santa Monica (G2) at Santa Anita and then tried to stretch out to a mile in the Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita, where she was runner-up to Ce Ce. Will probably shorten back up to sprint in her next start.

3.  Serengeti Empress - She was second to Covfefe sprinting in the Test (G1) last summer at Saratoga. It looks like she'll run around two turns this spring at Oaklawn Park.

4.  Mia Mischief - Made her first start of 2020 a winning one for her new owner, Stonestreet Stables. A Grade 1 winner from last year who sold for $2.4 million at the end of the season, she will get every chance to contend for an Eclipse in this division.

5.  Pink Sands - In a division lacking depth, she cracks the top five. Won her only start this year sprinting in the Inside Information (G2) at Gulfstream. 

Next 5: Special Relativity, Spiced Perfection, Kimari, Royal Charlotte, Break Even.

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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