We are a little over a week away from the Breeders' Cup, and once again the majority of Eclipse races will boil down to the results of the two-day championship.
In the last 10 months we have followed each division closely, and avid readers will know that many of next weekend's Eclipse contenders were ranked here below from early April. Some, like Swiss Skydiver, have passed several horses to rise to the top, as she debuted at No. 10 on April 1. Others, such as Tiz the Law and Authentic, have been at or near the top for the entire season.
Last year, three horses had done enough prior to the Breeders' Cup to have their Eclipse Awards wrapped up: Bricks and Mortar (Turf Male), Midnight Bisou (Older Dirt Female), and Mitole (Male Sprint).
This year we have just two.
Monomoy Girl will win the Older Dirt Female Eclipse regardless of how she runs in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, and Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver will win the 3-Year-Old-Female Eclipse no matter how she fares in whatever Breeders' Cup race, Distaff or Classic, she runs in next weekend.
That leaves eight divisional Eclipse awards that likely will be decided in the Breeders' Cup. This week we will take a look at four divisions and the contenders for the Eclipse, and next week we will profile the remaining four.
The Older Dirt Male Eclipse comes down to two horses, or possibly three. Not coincidently, they occupy the top three spots in the rankings below. If Improbable or Maximum Security win the Breeders' Cup Classic, the Eclipse will be theirs.
For Tom's d'Etat, he would need a win in the Classic and help from the voters. The Classic would be his first Grade 1 win of the season and only his second graded win. For me, this is a tough call. I hesitate to vote for a horse with such a light resume. Should Tom's d'Etat come up victorious, I would still consider Improbable for the Eclipse based off of his strong 2020 resume.
If the Classic is upset by any other horse, the Eclipse will go to Improbable. His three Grade 1 wins are enough to garner him the award in this scenario. By My Standards cannot win the Eclipse with a win in the Breeders' Cup Classic. It would be his first Grade 1 win of 2020, and he already was beaten by Improbable and Tom's d'Etat.
The 3-Year-Old-Male Eclipse is obviously down to two horses: Tiz the Law and Authentic. If either win the Breeders' Cup Classic, they will win the Eclipse and likely Horse of the Year. But what if they both lose the Classic? This is where it gets very difficult.
In my opinion, it depends on where they finish. Remember, Authentic is 1-0 vs. Tiz the Law. What if both run well in losing efforts and Tiz the Law finishes ahead of Authentic? Well, your guess is as good as mine, and it will be a close vote. What if both run poorly? For me, I would go back to where I had them ranked prior to the Breeders' Cup and vote that way.
One division I wanted to add as being wrapped up was the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. I believe Jackie's Warrior should be awarded the Eclipse regardless of what happens in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. His resume is far ahead of his next closest pursuers.
Ask yourself this question, if Jackie's Warrior wasn't running in the Breeders' Cup, would he win the Eclipse regardless of the result? My answer is yes.
Jackie's Warrior is the first horse since Dehere in 1993 to sweep the Saratoga Special (G2), Hopeful (G1) and Champagne Stakes (G1).
Dehere also had a record that towered over his closest pursuers and even an off-the-board Breeders' Cup finish didn't sway voters as they knew he did enough to warrant the Eclipse. I wish more voters nowadays would vote like this.
Lastly, the Turf Female division. While Rushing Fall has a nice lead in this division heading into the Breeders' Cup, two others are still in with a chance. Make no mistake, if Rushing Fall wins the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, the Eclipse will be hers, no matter what takes place elsewhere.
Should Rushing Fall get beat in the Filly & Mare Turf, it opens the door for the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked horses in the division, Starship Jubilee and Mean Mary.
Both Starship Jubilee and Mean Mary have the Filly & Mare Turf as their first preference of Breeders' Cup races to run in, so this may very well be settled on the track, where all three can control their Eclipse Award fate.
Should Starship Jubilee (Mile) and Mean Mary (Turf) go in their second preference and both win while Rushing Fall is defeated, my vote would go to Starship Jubilee.
What if all three lose? I believe Rushing Fall will win the Eclipse regardless of what happens with any other horse in this division, including Uni in the Mile. Rushing Fall has done a lot in her career and, right or wrong, there are many voters will vote on sentiment and reward her outstanding career with her first Eclipse.
Next week I will take a look at the Turf Male, Male Sprint, Female Sprint, and 2-Year-Old-Female divisions.
With that, here is a look at this week's Division Rankings.
Older Dirt Males
2. Maximum Security – No real excuses when runner-up to Improbable, only the second time in his 13-race career he has finished behind a horse at the finish. Did finish up well after running on the wrong lead in the stretch. Still feel that 10 furlongs is his preferred distance, so don't count him out of the Breeders' Cup Classic or Horse of the Year race just yet.
3. Tom's d'Etat – Lost nothing as far as his reputation is concerned as a result of his loss in the Whitney, where he stumbled at the start. He also lost ground in the process and could not overcome the ridiculously slow fractions set by Improbable. However, I question the decision by his connections to train up to the Breeders' Cup, where he will try 10 furlongs for the first time off of a 98-day layoff. He faces a tall order to win the Breeders' Cup Classic.
4. Vekoma – Off since his sensational July win in the Met Mile (G1), he was clearly one of the top older dirt males in the country. Now he will attempt to win the Breeders' Cup Sprint off of a 126-day layoff.
5. By My Standards – Came up a winner in the recent Alysheba (G2). Now 4-for-6 on the year, he has quietly put together an outstanding season. Earlier this season, he won the New Orleans Classic (G2) and Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Just a cut below the top ones right now. The Breeders' Cup Classic will be his next start. Don't count him out, although he may be 20-1 in what is shaping up to be a very strong field.
Next 5: Global Campaign, Complexity, Tacitus, Mr. Money, Mucho Gusto.
Older Dirt Females
1. Monomoy Girl – With the retirement of Midnight Bisou and Fighting Mad's recent loss in the Zenyatta Stakes (G2), this gal likely will win the Eclipse regardless of what she does in the Breeders' Cup. She has made it all the way back on top after crossing the wire a winner in her 10th straight race. Her last win in the La Troienne (G1) was much like the others, won with relative ease.
3. Fighting Mad – Never looked like a winner in the recent Zenyatta, where she was 2-5. Was the impressive winner of the Clement L Hirsch (G1) in her previous start, defeating several who are ranked below. Now her connections have stated they will skip the Breeders' Cup.
4. Ollie's Candy – This gal ran another stellar race when finishing a tough-luck runner-up in the Spinster (G1) at Keeneland. On the board in all five starts this year, she has yet to win. But all five starts were in Grade 1 events where she has lost several close battles to the wire. Regardless, she stays here at No. 4. Will head to the Breeders' Cup Distaff next, where she will be a live contender.
5. Vexatious – After two straight stellar efforts, she took a step back when finishing fifth behind Monomoy Girl in the the La Troienne. She previously won the Personal Ensign (G1), defeating Midnight Bisou. Will miss the Breeders' Cup due to a minor physical issue.
Next 5: Horologist, Dunbar Road, Point of Honor, Hard Not to Love, Ce Ce.
1. Authentic – The Kentucky Derby winner showed up and ran big in the Preakness, defeating the next closest male by nearly 10 lengths. He was remarkable in the Kentucky Derby and he was remarkable again in defeat in the Preakness Stakes, where he was dead game in defeat in one of the best Triple Crown races in history. Runs next in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
2. Tiz the Law – Ran his race in the Kentucky Derby, but he met his match in the ultra-game Authentic. He had no excuses. His connections chose to skip the Preakness and train up to the Breeders' Cup Classic, where he will be among the favorites.
3. Art Collector – Never really got on track in the Preakness, but the feeling here is he ran close to his best race. He ran into two horses, Swiss Skydiver and Authentic, who dominated the race. His connections chose to enter him in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, where the field is below par as Dirt Miles go.
4. Honor A. P. – Recently retired, he will drop from this spot. Never a threat to win, but ran a good race to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Have to question the route his connections took to get him to Churchill Downs as one of the reasons he wasn't there at the end.
5. Happy Saver – Really no other horse has stepped up as of late so this guy lands at No. 5 in his rankings debut, though we probably could pick any one of half a dozen for this spot. Won an extremely weak Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last weekend and is well below the top two in this division. Will skip the Breeders' Cup.
Next 5: Thousand Words, King Guillermo, Rushie, Mystic Guide, Jesus' Team.
1. Swiss Skydiver – Simply put, she ran one of the gutsiest races a 3-year-old filly has ever run when winning the Preakness. With an Eclipse in the bag, I would love to see her connections go for Horse of the Year in the Breeders' Cup Classic. She is pre-entered in both the Distaff and the Classic.
2. Shedaresthedevil – The Kentucky Oaks winner was somewhat of a disappointment when finishing third in the Spinster last out. She stays in this No. 2 spot, though. She will skip the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
3. Gamine – No excuses in her Kentucky Oaks try, where she set soft fractions but couldn't hold on. Always felt the Kentucky Oaks would be too far for her. Connections now will point to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She was spectacular when sprinting during the summer.
4. Speech – No real excuses when checking in fourth in the Kentucky Oaks. While she didn't have much of a pace, she was never too far back. The Ashland (G1) at Keeneland is her lone stakes win so far this season. The Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint will be her next start.
5. Harvest Moon – Didn't start racing until last June and is now a Grade 1 winner as she defeated the strong favorite, Fighting Mad, in the recent Zenyatta Stakes. She is now 4-for-5 and travels to Keeneland for next week's Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Next 5: Venetian Harbor, Sharing, Paris Lights, Magic Attitude, Frank's Rockette.
1. Factor This – May very well be the best in this division right now. He was dominant and fast in the Dinner Party (G2) at Pimlico, where he easily won going wire to wire. Will go next in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
2. United – Winner of the John Henry Turf Championship (G2) in his last start, he is 4 for 5 on the season. Will head to the Breeders' Cup Turf in a tight divisional Eclipse race.
3. Zulu Alpha – No excuses when third in the recent Kentucky Turf Cup (G3), beaten by Arklow. Not much separates the top few in this division. Has won three graded stakes this season, and his next start will be the Breeders' Cup Turf.
4. Channel Maker – Would you believe this guy was off the board in his first four starts this season? Now in great form, he has won his last two, both Grade 1 events. Last out he went wire to wire in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) for his second win in that great race, previously winning it in 2018. Will give the Breeders' Cup Turf another try; he finished 12th in 2019 and 11th in 2018.
5. Mo Forza – Appears to be a serious player going forward in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Won his second straight in impressive fashion, this time in the City of Hope Mile (G2) at Santa Anita. Will miss the Breeders Cup due to what trainer Peter Miller described as a "minor issue."
Next 5: Halladay, Digital Age, War of Will, Red King, Arklow.
Next 5: Beau Recall, Newspaperofrecord, Sistercharlie, Got Stormy, Sharing
1. Vekoma – His lack of a race since the Met Mile has left this divisional Eclipse open for others to take. 3-for-3 on the season, he likely will run in a very deep Breeders' Cup Sprint off of a long layoff.
2. Volatile – Retired because of an injury, he could still end up with this Eclipse if others fail to fire on Breeders' Cup day, so he stays here at No. 2. Nice win in the Vanderbilt (G1) over several others ranked below.
3. C Z Rocket – You could have claimed this guy earlier this year, and trainer Peter Miller did just that on April 30 for 40k. Since that claim, C Z Rocket has won five races in a row, his last two in Grade 2 events — the Pat O'Brien in August and the Santa Anita Sprint Championship last out. Breeders' Cup Sprint is next
4. Yaupon – The next Mitole? He very well could be. He has the same connections and is unbeaten in four starts. He easily won the Chick Lang (G3) last out, and I get the feeling this may be the horse they all have to beat in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
5. Collusion Illusion – This 3-year-old has been superb sprinting as he beat older two back in the Bring Crosby (G1) at Del Mar, but was defeated by the older C Z Rocket in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, where he checked in third. Will also head next to the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Next 5: Diamond Oops, Complexity, Firenze Fire, Whitmore, Flagstaff.
1. Serengeti Empress – The horse to beat in the upcoming Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, she came up a nose short in her last start, the Derby City Distaff (G1). But, she again she set ridiculous early fractions and was there at the wire. With two straight outstanding sprints, she is the best in this division when she is on her game. The front-runner for the Eclipse right now.
2. Gamine – As expected, her connections have made the wise choice to keep her around one turn. The Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint will be next. A real Eclipse contender if she were to win the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
3. Frank's Rockette – Four wins in a row now, the last three in graded stakes. She blew up away older rivals in the recent Gallant Bloom (G2) at Belmont Park. Her connections are strongly considering the Breeders' Cup Sprint against the males.
4. Bell's the One – Ran a strong race to nail Serengeti Empress on the wire in the Derby City Distaff, where her closing kick was aided by a fast pace. Prior to her win in the Derby City, she was third in the Madison (G1) at Keeneland. She too heads next to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
5. Venetian Harbor – Winner of the Raven Run (G1) in her last start, that was her first win since February's Las Virgenes (G2). Sandwiched between were three runner-up finishes to Swiss Skydiver, Speech, and Gamine.
Next 5: Mia Mischief, Bellafina, Come Dancing, Guarana, Kimari.
1. Jackie's Warrior – No issues stretching out in the one mile Champagne (G1) where he again won by daylight. The first horse since Dehere in 1993 to pull off the Saratoga Special (G2), Hopeful (G1) and Champagne triple. He has built a such a large lead in this division that he deserves the Eclipse regardless of what happens in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
2. Sittin On Go – Certainly was impressive in the Iroquois (G3), where he won going away at the mile distance. He is 2-for-2 on his career, and certainly a player in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
3. Essential Quality – Won the Breeders' Futurity (G1) is his second career start last weekend at Keeneland, giving him a valuable race over the track where his next start, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, will be.
4. Reinvestment Risk – Was runner-up again to Jackie's Warrior, this time in recent Champagne. Previously, he was runner-up to Jackie's Warrior in the Hopeful. He did finish over eight lengths clear of the highly regarded Midnight Bourbon. Will try Jackie's Warrior again in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
5. Dr. Schivel – Winner of the Del Mar Futurity (G1) on Labor Day, but beat only five others. Likely done racing in 2020.
Next 5: Get Her Number, Golden Pal, Midnight Bourbon, Breeze on By, Spielberg.
1. Dayoutoftheoffice – Super impressive in the Frizette (G1) where she defeated Spinaway (G1) winner, Vequist. Now 3-for-4, this daughter of Into Mischief could be the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
2. Vequist – Ran well in defeat as she was over 10 lengths clear of the rest of the field in the Frizette. Still believe the daughter of Nyquist has a bright future and will be very dangerous in the Juvenile Fillies.
3. Princess Noor – Easy winner of the Chandelier (G2) at Santa Anita and the Del Mar Debutante (G1) out west. The only knock against her are her speed figures, as it was a historically slow last out win in the Chandelier. The Bob Baffert trained daughter of Not This Time is 3-for-3 on her career.
4. Girl Daddy – Best of the Midwest so far, she is also 2-for-2 on her career. Her Pocahontas (G3) win at Churchill Downs was over the one-mile distance. Will also run in the Breeders' Cup.
5. Simply Ravishing – Runaway winner of the Alcibiades (G1) she is now 3-for-3 in her career. She will head to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with one of the fastest last out speed figures.
Next 5: Thoughtfully, Crazy Beautiful, Forest Caraway, Campanelle, Aunt Pearl.