Division Rankings: Regal Glory leads mid-season Eclipse hopes

Division Rankings: Regal Glory leads mid-season Eclipse hopes
Photo: Lauren King

With the conclusion of the Belmont Stakes a couple of weeks ago, Thoroughbred racing has reached the unofficial halfway point of its season, and it's time to hand out my mid-season awards.

When voting for the year-end Eclipse Awards, I take into consideration the entire season, not just the Breeders' Cup, as many voters tend to do. The same line of thinking was applied here for my mid-season award winners. 

My mid-season Horse of the Year starts this week's edition of the Division Rankings.

Mid-season Horse of the Year: Regal Glory

Sort of an easy choice, despite being in a somewhat non-glamorous type of division. Starting her season in January, the 6-year-old mare was facile winner of the Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G3) at Gulfstream. Then in April at Keeneland she was a 1-length winner of the Jenny Wiley (G1). Moving on to Belmont Park a couple of weeks ago, she was an easy winner of the Just a Game (G1). 3-for-3 on the season with two Grade 1 wins, she has posted the best record of any horse in any division in the first half of 2022.

Now, on to my Division Rankings.

Older dirt males

Mid-season award winner: Olympiad

1. Olympiad. A winner in the Alysheba Stakes (G2) on Kentucky Derby weekend, this guy has quietly put together four wins in a row this season, three of which are graded. I put him here at the top because if the season ended today, he would have to be voted the Eclipse winner. Country Grammer hasn't even run in the U.S. this year. While some of the others are still sidelined after races overseas, Olympiad figures to pad his resume even more in the coming months. The Stephen Foster (G1) will be next on July 2, and if all goes well, the Whitney (G1) later this summer is also on his schedule.

2. Flightline. His Met Mile (G1) win was good, overcoming trouble and answering several questions such as shipping across the country and the added distance. He still has questions, and the field he beat was not what I would consider good, but here he sits near the top – mainly because the horses I feel who will be better at the 10-furlong distance required to win an Eclipse in this division still haven't run much in this country in 2022. With only one start on the season, he needs to do more to unseat Olympiad.

3. Country Grammer. Sensational in both of his starts overseas, he was a facile winner of the Dubai World Cup (G1). Before that, he was a close runner-up in the Saudi Cup (G1), his first start in nine months. The hope is to bring him back for the Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar late this summer. Still, he hasn't run in this country yet this season, and that matters. Will run next in the San Diego (G2) on July 30 at Del Mar.

4. Express Train. Ran one of his best career races in the Californian (G2), but he was beaten by Stilleto Boy. If anything, he gained more respect from me with that effort. Now 2-for-3 on the season, he is in the best form of his career.

5. Life is Good. Showed a weakness when failing to stay the 10-furlong distance of the Dubai World Cup. The Pegasus World Cup winner from earlier this season will cut back to 9 furlongs for his likely next start, the Whitney at Saratoga.

Next 5: Hot Rod Charlie, Happy Saver, Speaker's Corner, Mandaloun, Stilleto Boy.

Older dirt females

Mid-season award winner: Clairiere

1. Clairiere. Moves to the top based on her win last out in the Ogden Phipps (G1) over several ranked below. Previously she ran very well when runner-up to Letruska in the Apple Blossom (G1). Gets the slight nod for this mid-season award.

2. Malathaat. Has only a Grade 3 win on the season but she ran a big race in the Phipps, narrowly losing to her rival, Clairiere.

3. Letruska. She was part of that hot pace in the Phipps, but so was Search Results and she finished third. While she wasn't pushed at all in the stretch, the result was disappointing. She has shown the ability to rate before so I am not sure why that tactic has been used, given the pace scenarios she has had in two of her last four starts. Still here near the top of this division, but is too one-dimensional right now.

4. Search Results. Considering the early fractions this gal set, she ran an outstanding race in the Phipps when finishing third. It's not a stretch to write that she may have run the best race of them all.

5. Ce CeLetruska and Clairiere were too much last out in the Apple Blossom. Will be back sprinting in her next start, which will come at Gulfstream on July 2 in the Princess Rooney (G2).

Next 5: Private Mission, Pauline's Pearl, Shedaresthedevil, Blue Stripe, Bonny South.

3-year-old males

Mid-season award winner: Epicenter

1. Epicenter
. He was the 17th horse to finish second in the first two legs of the Triple Crown since 1937, and he stays here at No. 1 despite those runner-up efforts. Still feel he is best in this division after having questionable trips in those runner-up efforts. I gave him the slight nod for this mid-season award over Mo Donegal, mainly because of his head-to-head win over that rival.
2. Mo Donegal
. Was superb in the Belmont as the facile winner. It wasn't the strongest of fields, but a win is a win. He moves ahead of the Preakness winner, whom he already defeated this season in the Wood Memorial (G2). He might train up to the Travers (G1), but if there is a prep it will come in the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga.
3. Zandon
. The Blue Grass Stakes (G1) winner ran very well in the Kentucky Derby, where he made a nice run from the back of the pack, but he did hang a bit in the stretch to finish third. Will run next in the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga on July 30.
4. Early Voting.
Certainly looked good winning the Preakness with a perfect trip, but he loses points in these rankings for skipping the Kentucky Derby after having been runner-up in the Wood to Mo Donegal. Others will have him ranked higher, but he won't be ranked higher than No. 4 here. Will likely run in the Haskell (G1) on July 23.
5. Rich Strike
. His win in the Kentucky Derby was the biggest upset I have ever seen at any level in this sport. Horses mature at different times and some more rapidly than others. The Kentucky Derby was his first start on dirt this season, and his Belmont run last time out was dull when he finished sixth, beaten 14 lengths. Still, I think this guy will make his presence known and is still in with an Eclipse chance in this division.
Next 5: Jack Christopher, White Abarrio, Taiba, Simplification, Cyberknife.
3-year-old females

Mid-season award winner: Secret Oath

1. Secret Oath
. Ran her race in the Preakness but was only fourth best. In her prior start she was certainly was much the best in the Kentucky Oaks, coming with a powerful run to circle horses on the turn. Before that she was third against the boys in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Will now rest and wait for the CCA Oaks (G1), where she will be back against her fellow females. Wins this mid-season award quite easily as she hasn't lost to another female in 2022.
2. Nest
. Ran well when runner-up to Mo Donegal in the Belmont, but I'm not sure what that means given the horses finishing behind her had been 2-for-15 in graded-stakes attempts. A clear second in this now, though.

3. Echo Zulu. Was a gate scratch in the Acorn last time out and has since been found to have a strain in a left front suspensory. She previously had gained much respect with her solid run in the Kentucky Oaks, where she conceded the early lead to a long shot while attending solid early fractions only to begrudgingly give way at the end to finish fourth, beaten a length for the runner-up spot.
4. Kathleen O. Suffered her first loss when fifth in the Kentucky Oaks, but she hardly disgraced herself. She was beaten only fourth lengths for all the marbles.
Matareya. Four wins in four starts this season, three of which were graded. She was an easy winner of the Acorn last time out, but it was missing the favorite, Echo Zulu.

Next 5: Under the Stars, Desert Dawn, Eda, Interstatedaydream, Adare Manor.

Turf males

Mid-season award winner: Count Again

1. Count Again. This guy has racked up two Grade 1 wins already this season and is now 3-for-4 on the year. His win over Smooth Like Strait in the Shoemaker Mile (G1) was his best effort yet. Since he is the only member of this division who has multiple Grade 1 wins on the season thus far, he wins this mid-season award.

2. Colonel Liam. He found the waters a bit too deep in the Dubai Turf (G1), where he finished ninth. Previously he ran huge in defending his Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and seemed better than ever despite his long layoff. There is a wide gap between grass horses in this country and overseas – and not for the better.

3. Golden Pal. The Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner from last season ran at Royal Ascot last time out and was slow to break. But let's be clear, he was well beaten and wasn't going to win even with a clean break. A disappointing effort. Prior to that effort he was dominant in his 2022 debut at Keeneland, a win in the Shakertown (G2). 

4. Gufo. Started his 2022 season off right with a facile two-length win in the Pan American (G2) at Gulfstream but then finished runner-up in the Man O' War Stakes (G1) and third in the Manhattan (G1), both at Belmont Park.

5. Yibir. Last year's Breeders' Cup Turf winner has placed in all three of his starts, two Grade/Group 1 starts and a Group 2.

Next 5: Smooth Like Strait, Adhamo, Santin, Shirl's Speight, Highland Chief.

Turf females

Mid-season award winner: Regal Glory

1. Regal Glory. Outstanding again in another Grade 1 event, this time in the Just a Game at Belmont. She started her season off with a win in the Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G3) and then won the Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland over a strong field. Now 3-for-3 on the season, she is an easy choice for the mid-season award in this division.

2. Bleecker Street. Talk about a hot start to a career, his filly is unbeaten in seven career starts and already has won four graded stakes this year. Her last, the New York Stakes (G1), was her first Grade 1 win.

3. War Like Goddess. Won her 2022 debut impressively, picking off horses to win by open lengths in the Bewitch Stakes (G3). Kept out of the recent New York Stakes (G1) at Belmont because of a minor physical problem, look for this gal to return at Saratoga, where she could run against males in the Sword Dancer (G1), a 1 1/2-mile race on Aug. 27.

4. Ocean Road. Won her first graded stakes in her last start, a win in the Gamely (G1) over Going Global at Santa Anita. She is now 2-for-2 on the season.

5. Going Global. Had no excuses last time out when third to Ocean Road in the Gamely (G1) at Santa Anita. But since that was her first loss in a grass race since last July, she stays here in the top five. Previously she made her 2022 debut with a win in the Royal Heroine (G2) at Santa Anita.

Next 5: Shantisara, Wakanaka, In Italian, Going to Vegas, Technical Analysis.

Male sprinters

Mid-season award winner: Jackie's Warrior

1. Jackie's Warrior. Seems to be better now than ever before. His win in the True North (G2) last out was as easy as it gets. The Eclipse winner from last season was dominant in the Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) previously, where he defeated several ranked below. Before that he made short work of the Count Fleet Sprint (G3) at Oaklawn. Now 3-for-3 on the season, he will head to Saratoga for his next two starts. An easy choice for this mid-season award.

2. Speaker's CornerHe was beaten in the Met Mile (G1) when third, but if he gets back to sprinting he could do some damage in this division. He is 3-for-4 on the season, with the Carter (G1) as his lone Grade 1 triumph.

3. Jack Christopher. This guy is only 3, but he deserves to be ranked here based off his sprint wins. He will stretch out for his next start in the Haskell, but there is little doubt in my mind he will be back sprinting after his first two-turn attempt. A real player in this division.

4. Reinvestment Risk. Runner-up to Jackie's Warrior three times in his career, the latest being the Churchill Downs Stakes last time out. Before that he was runner-up to Speakers Corner in the Carter at Aqueduct.

5. Golden Pal. Could contend for this Eclipse if he can right this ship after the Royal Ascot fiasco, but I doubt we see him run more than two more times this season.

Next 5: Dr. Schivel, Aloha West, Cezanne, Brickyard Ride, American Theorem.

Female sprinters

Mid-season award winner: Obligatory

1. Obligatory. I am still keeping this gal on top after her stronger-than-it-looked runner-up effort to Bella Sofia last out in the Bed o' Roses (G2). That was a four-horse field with little pace. As a horse who likes to come off the pace, she was compromised. But in bigger races later this season there won't be four-horse fields with that pace scenario. Previously, she beat the best in this division except for Ce Ce in the Derby City Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs with a strong closing kick. She gets the nod over the No. 2 ranked Just One Time for this mid-season award based on her head-to-head win over that rival in the biggest race for this division in the first half of the season, the aforementioned Derby City Distaff.

2. Just One Time. The beaten favorite in the Derby City, she finished third with no excuses. Previously this season she won the Madison (G1) at Keeneland and the Inside Information (G2) at Gulfstream.

3. Bella Sofia. Won the Bed o' Roses last time out going wire-to-wire. Before that she made her first start of the year in the Vagrancy (G3) a winning one.

4. Edgeway. Ran the worst race of her 12-race career last out in the Derby City Distaff, finishing sixth, beaten over seven lengths. Before that she won the Las Flores (G3) at Santa Anita.

5. Ce Ce. Last season's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner was beaten by Merneith in her first start of 2022, the Santa Monica (G2) at Santa Anita. Two starts back she stretched out to win the Azeri (G2) at 1 1/16 miles but failed against Letruska in the Apple Blossom at that same distance. Will be back sprinting in her next start in the Princess Rooney (G2) at Gulfstream in July.

Next 5: Bell's the One, Four Graces, Kimari, Sconsin, Frank's Rockette.

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 many local sports radio show appearances as an on-air racing expert. 

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.

 The Loss of Medina Spirit

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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