With Kentucky Derby talk in full gear, two other divisions saw major shakeups in the the rankings below and in their respective Eclipse Award races.
Before I dive into Letruska's Apple Blossom, which vaulted her to the No. 1 spot in the Older Dirt Female division, and Silver State's Oaklawn Handicap win, which vaulted him to the No. 2 spot in the Older Dirt Male division, lets take a look at this week's updated Division Rankings:
Older dirt males
1. Mystic Guide. Solid win in Dubai and is 2-for-2 on the season, but the Dubai World Cup field he defeated was nowhere near what we have come to expect from Dubai World Cup fields. Certainly has done enough to move into the top spot, though I am not sure how long he will stay here. In the states now and working at Keeneland.
2. Silver State. 3-for-3 on the season, his Oaklawn Handicap win stamped him as a legitimate Eclipse contender in this division. He deserves this spot for what he has done in 2021.
4. Knicks Go. Also back on the work tab, he will be pointed toward the Met Mile as well. Despite his fourth-place finish in the Saudi Cup, which halted a four-race winning streak, I still believe he is the goods.
5. Maxfield. Truth be told, he ran a fine race in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1), considering the circumstances. First start beyond 8 1/2 furlongs, shipped across country and was beaten by just two lengths, finishing third to Idol and Express Train on their home track. The Alysheba (G2) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby is expected to be his next start.
Next 5: Idol, Express Train, By My Standards, Rushie, Fearless.
Older dirt females
1. Letruska. Was simply spectacular in the Apple Blossom, prevailing in an epic stretch dual over a future Hall of Famer in Monomoy Girl. She is 13-for-17 on her career now. A fascinating story, this mare started her career in Mexico City and ran six times, all wins, and was a champion in Mexico for her Mexican connections. She becomes the first horse who started their career in Mexico to win a Grade 1 race in this country. She is deservedly the No. 1 ranked female in this division and will be the leader in the Eclipse race as we near the halfway point of the season.
2. Monomoy Girl. Was gallant to the finish in the Apple Blossom, but came up a nose short. Clearly still on top of her game, something I wondered aloud about heading into this last race, she will stick to running against females for now.
4. Gamine. An easy win in her seasonal debut, the Las Flores (G3) at Santa Anita, should set her up nicely for her next start, the Derby City Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs next weekend. It will be interesting to see who shows up to take her on – and if all goes well there, it will be even more interesting to see where she goes next. There is a certain Grade 1 one-turn mile at Belmont Park on Belmont Day that I know every fan would love to see her entered in, but will trainer Bob Baffert really run her against Charlatan? My guess is no.
5. Shedaresthedevil. Was very much flattered by Letruska's win last weekend as this gal was gritty in her head win in the Azeri (G2) over Letruska in her last start. She is all set for the La Troienne (G1) at Churchill Downs next Friday.
Next 5: As Time Goes By, Valiance, Vexatious, Bonny South, Ce Ce.
1. Essential Quality. Will be the clear Kentucky Derby favorite next weekend by virtue of his spotless record over the last two seasons. While others search for their Kentucky Derby horse, maybe this guy is just heads and shoulders above the rest?
2. Rock Your World. After his impressive Santa Anita Derby (G1) win and Concert Tour's recent loss, he is now the second betting choice for the Kentucky Derby. His Santa Anita Derby win was no fluke – 2-for-2 prior, both wins on the grass, he set a legitimate pace and drew off in the stretch. He sports a great pedigree and should run all day, and he doesn't need the lead to fire his best. A very intriguing horse, but I do worry about the turf to dirt second start angle. We often see turf horses run well in their dirt debut only to run poorly on the dirt thereafter. He may be a win or off-the-board horse next weekend.
3. Life Is Good. Joins a long list of horses from previous seasons that impressed on the Kentucky Derby trail only to be injured and forced to miss the Triple Crown events. Impressive winner of the San Felipe (G2) by eight lengths and unbeaten in three starts, he is now off the Kentucky Derby trail because of a hind-end injury. If we see him run again, it will not be until late summer or the fall at the earliest.
4. Hot Rod Charlie. This guy is a serious Kentucky Derby contender who has knocked heads with Essential Quality before, coming up up just short with his runner-up finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He really handed it to the “house” horses last out at the Fair Grounds in the Louisiana Derby (G2), proving much the best in the 1 3/16-mile test. That is key: The 1 3/16 is just short of the 1 1/4 Derby distance, so we know he will be fine with the 10 furlongs.
5. Medina Spirit. Flying below the radar now after his somewhat disappointing Santa Anita Derby runner-up finish, I still believe he is in with a chance next weekend. Plenty of Kentucky Derby winners exited their previous races with a loss or losses. My dark horse in the Run for the Roses.
Next 5: Known Agenda, Super Stock, Highly Motivated, Concert Tour, Greatest Honour.
1. Travel Column. Was much the best in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), beating the previous No. 1, Clairiere. These two have quite the rivalry going as they have faced one another in three straight races, trading wins and running one-two in all three. Could be the favorite in next week's wide-open Kentucky Oaks.
2. Clairiere. Had too much to do in the stretch of the Fair Grounds Oaks but ran on well to finish a clear second to Travel Column. The nine furlongs of the Kentucky Oaks might be in her favor next week.
3. Malathaat. I was very impressed with her win in the Ashland (G1) at Keeneland, so much so that I contemplated moving her to No. 1. Although she won by only a head, she gave the impression that she was always going to get there. And seeing how that was her first start this season, she should be much better for the Kentucky Oaks. Will relish going longer and might end up as next week's Kentucky Oaks favorite.
4. Search Results. Unbeaten filly will take some money in next week's Kentucky Oaks, and perhaps she is the real deal. Last out she was an easy winner of the Gazelle (G2) at Aqueduct. Trainer Chad Brown has himself a serious contender.
5. Crazy Beautiful. Impressive winner of her last start, the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), this gal knocked heads with the best last year as she was Grade 1 placed. Has run at Churchill Downs once before, a runner-up finish in the Pocahantas (G3) last fall.
Next 5: Wholebodemeister, Pass the Champagne, Soothsay, Pauline's Pearl, Will's Secret.
1. Colonel Liam. Certainly ran well in the recent Muniz Memorial Stakes (G2), where he scored a workmanlike win by two lengths. Moves to No. 1 after Channel Maker's loss, but I still question who he has beaten. The runner-up in the Muniz, Two Emmys, never had run in a stakes and was coming off of seven straight races in the optional claiming ranks. Will run again next weekend at Churchill Downs in the Turf Classic.
2. Channel Maker. He simply didn't run his best race in Dubai, where he finished eighth, beaten six lengths in the Sheema Classic (G1). Previously, he ran a gallant race to finish second in the Neom Turf Cup In Saudi Arabia. He drops to No. 2 and will be back racing in New York this summer.
3. Raging Bull. Certainly an impressive win in the Maker's Mark Mile (G1), his first start of 2021. Moves up to this spot for now, but I can't help but remember last season when he was impressive in first start of 2020 in Santa Anita's Shoemaker Mile, also a Grade 1 win. He then went winless for the remainder of the season. In other words, I am skeptical he can string together wins.
4. Hit the Road. Simply didn't have it in the stretch of the Maker's Mark, fading to fifth, beaten a little less than four lengths. Previously he scored in the Kilroe Mile (G1) at Santa Anita. Will point next to the Shoemaker Mile (G1) on May 31 at Santa Anita.
5. United. Won his 2021 debut with a solid win in the San Luis Rey (G3) at Santa Anita. Up next, his connections will point the 6-year-old to the Charles Whittingham Stakes (G2) at 1 1/4 miles on May 29.
Next 5: Ivar, Mo Forza, Zulu Alpha, Domestic Spending, Laccario.
Harvey's Lil Goil
5. Charmaine's Mia. With her win in the Royal Heroine (G2) at Santa Anita, she ran her record to 3-for-3 on the year. All three of her wins have come in graded stakes, the most of any horse in her division thus far.
Next 5: Mucho Unusual, Civil Union, Got Stormy, Jolie Olimpica, Blowout.
1. C Z Rocket. Cemented his position here at the top with another win over Whitmore, this time in the Count Fleet Sprint (G3). He has quietly won seven of his last eight and is leading the Eclipse race as we enter the spring.
2. Mischevious Alex. Won his first Grade 1 race a few weeks ago in the Carter at Aqueduct in impressive fashion. Previously he scored in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) in impressive fashion. He is the real deal this year, and his speed figures are on par or better than anyone else in this division. He could run in the Met Mile next.
3. Whitmore. Again runner-up to C Z Rocket, he ran well again and was clearly best of the rest. Shows no signs of slowing down at the ripe old age of 8.
4. Wildman Jack. Was fourth last out in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), certainly not a bad effort. Previously, he easily won the Palos Verdes (G3). This resume is good enough to move him to No. 4 here for now, considering graded stakes sprint wins are few and far between this early in the season.
5. Cezanne. Certainly a visually impressive win in last week's Kona Gold (G3) at Santa Anita, where he won by over nine lengths, but pump the brakes before you hand him the Eclipse. He beat only three other horses as he was able to lay far off a blazing early pace set by the race favorite, Brickyard Ride. In other words, I need to see a lot more before he moves up.
Next 5: Brickyard Ride, Empire of Gold, Firenze Fire, Extravagant Kid, Flagstaff, Chateau.
1. Gamine. Dominant in the Las Flores (G3) over six furlongs at Santa Anita for her 2021 debut, she will go next in the Derby City Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs next Saturday. She may be the best sprinter, male or female, in the country, but she will be tested in her next start if the others below show up.
2. Kimari. In her first graded stakes race on the dirt she didn't disappoint, edging away in the stretch for a 3/4-length win over Bell's the One in the Madison (G1) at Keeneland. Would love to see her in the Derby City Distaff next out against Gamine and others, but I doubt that happens.
3. Bell's the One. Somewhat of a disappointment when dead-heating for the runner-up spot in the Madison (G1), but it was her first start since last fall's Breeders' Cup. She will go next in what is shaping up as a stellar edition of the Derby City Distaff on Kentucky Derby weekend.
4. Edgeway. Defeated Frank's Rockette in the Carousel at Oaklawn last weekend and is 2-for-2 on the season. Connections are not sure where she will go next, but they have stated that her long-range goal is the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Del Mar, with her prep for that race coming in the Rancho Bernardo Handicap (G3) on Aug. 20.
5. Merneith. Won the Santa Monica (G2) last out and previously was third in the La Brea (G1) in December. Looks like she is finally realizing her potential for trainer Bob Baffert. In light training, she is not expected back until at least May.
Next 5: Frank's Rockette, Pacific Gale, Venetian Harbor, Estilo Talentoso, Sanenus
For the first time in more than seven months, a horse other than Monomoy Girl occupies the top spot here
in the Older Dirt Female rankings.
Folks, Letruska earned her way to the top in last weekend's Apple Blossom. Some will say Monomoy Girl still should be No. 1 – after all, she only lost by a nose. Perhaps she would be if this was later in the season with a deeper resume. But with only one other start on the season, a win in the Bayakoa (G3), she falls to No. 2.
For Letruska, the storybook career of this Mexican superstar continues. The Apple Blossom win was Letruska's second graded stakes win of the season after having previously scored in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) on Jan. 31 at Sam Houston.
Trainer Fausto Gutierrez has guided Letruska on a remarkable and improbable rise from her humble beginnings in Mexico City. Letruksa won her first seven career starts, including six at Hipodromo De Las Americas in Mexico City. The streak was highlighted by blowouts in two legs of Mexico's Triple Crown for 3-year-old fillies in 2019 – Clasico Esmeralda (G1) and Clasico Diamante (G1). Letruska won her six starts in Mexico by a combined 40 1/2 lengths, and the only reason she didn’t run in the all three legs of the Triple Crown is because one was reserved for Mexican-breds.
The Apple Blossom win marked another milestone for Letruska: She became the first horse who had started their career in Mexico to win a Grade 1 in the U.S.
Did you know Letruska already faced males in this country? Her American debut was front-running romp in the restricted $85,000 Copa Invitacional del Caribe Stakes, in December 2019 at Gulfstream Park. Brought along slowly last year while rising through the ranks, she won her first graded stakes last August in the Shuvee (G3) at Saratoga.
A nine-week break from racing followed after a dull fourth place finish in the Beldame in early October. Since then, Letruska has been a different horse.
She has reeled off three wins in four starts, her only loss was when she was uncharacteristically off the slow pace set by last year’s Kentucky Oaks heroine, Shedaresthedevil. But the 2021 version of Letruska showed she doesn’t need the lead as she closed stoutly in the stretch to fall just a head short of the win.
Horse racing is a great game, and Letruska and Monomoy Girl epitomize it.
In the summer of 2019 Monomoy Girl was away from the races, her future in doubt. In Mexico City, a filly no one in this country had heard of was reeling off a string of wins. What were the odds these two fillies would hook up and dual in a Grade 1 race in 2021 that saw the Mexican star win? Incredible.
For Monomoy Girl, her Apple Blossom run was outstanding. I had written in previous weeks that I was skeptical Monomoy Girl would be able to maintain her form this year. I was wrong. She ran her race and left Swiss Skydiver in her wake far back in third.
Letruska now has certainly joined the Eclipse race in the Older Dirt Female division.
Meanwhile, Silver State tossed his name into the Older Dirt Male list of horses with Eclipse aspirations. A few races before the Apple Blossom, Silver State was busy winning his fifth straight. This one, though, was his biggest. The Oaklawn Handicap (G2) win was Silver State’s first in a graded stakes. Like the current No. 1, Mystic Guide, he was graded stakes-placed twice as a 3-year-old last season.
In winning the Oaklawn Handicap, Silver State defeated race favorite and Santa Anita Handicap runner-up Express Train. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Silver State rockets all the way to No. 2. His move to No. 2 – leapfrogging Charlatan, Knicks Go and others – was based on running and winning. Charlatan is winless in one start this year; Knicks Go is 1-for-2 this year, but hasn’t won since January.
So for now, in these rankings at least, Silver State has earned his way to the No. 2 spot.