Division Rankings: Swiss Skydiver enters race for HOY

Division Rankings: Swiss Skydiver enters race for HOY
Photo: Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire

I’ll be honest, I was stunned in the immediate aftermath of last weekend’s Preakness Stakes. I believe most racing fans were also. Many thoughts came to mind when the filly Swiss Skydiver and the Kentucky Derby winner Authentic crossed the wire nearly 10 lengths clear of their next closest pursuers. I knew what we had just witnessed had major historical significance, but needed a few days to process it all.

Nearly a week removed, there can be no overstatement or exaggeration to describe the 2020 Preakness.

What made this 2020 Preakness extraordinary was the obvious, the circumstances.

The top 3-year-old filly, who so many discounted because they felt she was ambitiously placed and had a demanding schedule this year that was sure to catch up with her, took on Kentucky Derby winner Authentic on the far turn and what transpired from there will be replayed for many years to come.

You want to attract new fans to this sport? Send them the video of this race. Immediately.

It was female against male on the biggest stage and these two stars put on a show for the ages. This wasn't just a brief confrontation, these two went head and head for the last half-mile of the race with no other horse close to threatening. It was a prolonged battle the likes of which we rarely see in a Triple Crown event resulting in the second fastest Preakness ever run.

I have been at this for a long time, and it was simply one of the best Triple Crown races ever run in the Eclipse award era. For some historical perspective, it certainly ranks near the top next to the 1989 Preakness with the Sunday Silence/Easy Goer as the best Preakness we have ever seen.

Swiss Skydiver is nothing like the modern day thoroughbred, she is a reminder of what racehorses used to be.

Hard knocking and hard trying with a heart of gold.

Remarkably, she has started 9 times over 9 different racetracks in 7 states this season and won from coast to coast.

In this day and age those are stunning facts.

Fans of Authentic should be proud, he was dead game and left the others far back. I believe he ran better in the Preakness than he did in the Kentucky Derby, and in my opinion, he only enhanced his reputation with his close loss.

For Swiss Skydiver, this clinches the Eclipse in her division, but now things get interesting as her connections have a big decision to make.

Should Swiss Skydiver run in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff against fellow females or try the Breeders’ Cup Classic and go for Horse of the Year there.

With a run in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Swiss Skydiver has little to gain other than monetary reasons. As I stated above, she has already clinched the Eclipse in her division.

By choosing the Breeders’ Cup Classic over the Distaff, it opens a door for Swiss Skydiver that no one thought was possible just a few months ago, Horse of the Year.

Were she to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic over older males, she would most certainly be at the front of the line for Horse of the Year.

We know Swiss Skydiver can compete and beat the very best 3-year-old males, but how does she stack up against the very best older males?

Well, Swiss Skydiver and Authentic were assigned only a 105 Beyer speed figures for their Preakness runs. I find that figure out of line and more along the lines of 111-112 based off of the track variant the day of the races and also taking into account where Jesus’ Team and Art Collector finished.

The No. 1 ranked Older Dirt Male, Improbable, has run a high of 108 this season. Swiss Skydiver fits in the Classic picture. The distance of 10 furlongs only enhances her chances as well.

Only one 3-year-old filly has ever run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Jolypha finished third to A. P. Indy in 1992.

2020 has been a year of any firsts in thoroughbred racing. From the Triple Crown starting in June with the Belmont, to the Travers being run as a prep for a September Kentucky Derby to the Preakness capping off a 15 week Triple Crown.  

Perhaps this is the year we will conclude the Breeders’ Cup with a 3-year-old filly in the Classic winner’s circle for the first time in history.

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

Older Dirt Males

1. Improbable – Don't look now but this guy has put together three Grade 1 wins in a row from coast to coast. Now the front-runner for Horse of the Year, he will head to the Breeders' Cup Classic as the favorite after his impressive Awesome Again (G1) score over the previous No. 1, Maximum Security.

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 – 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 could not overcome the ridiculously slow fractions. 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 stays here at No. 2 for now, but he faces a tall order to win the Breeders' Cup.

4. Vekoma – Off since his sensational win in the Met Mile (G1) last June, he is clearly one of the top older dirt males in the country. 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. Is by no means a lock to win in the Dirt Mile considering the long layoff.

5  By My Standards – Came up a winner in the recent Alysheba (G2). Now four for six 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.

Next 5: Global Campaign, Tacitus, Midcourt, Complexity, Mr. Money.

Older Dirt Females

1. Monomoy Girl – With the retirement of Midnight Bisou and Fighting Mad's recent loss in the Zenyatta Stakes, this gal will likely 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 win in the La Troienne (G1) was much like the others, won with relative ease. 

2. Midnight Bisou – Retired now, she finished her career with a stellar running line of 23: 16-6-3.

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. She is allowed one mulligan and stays here at No. 3.

4. Ollie's Candy – This gal ran another stellar race when finishing a tough luck runner-up in last weekend's 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.

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.

Next 5: Horologist, Dunbar Road, Point of Honor, Hard Not to Love, Valiance.

3-Year-Old-Males

1. Authentic – The Kentucky Derby winner showed up and ran 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 where he was dead game in defeat in one of the best Triple Crown races in history.

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.

3. Art Collector – Never really got untrack 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.

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. Thousand Words – Really could be any one of a half dozen different horses who could occupy this No. 5 spot, the top two have a gigantic lead over the rest. This guy was forwardly placed in the Preakness but had no answer after a half-mile and faded to finish eighth. Previously won the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar.

Next 5: King Guillermo, Rushie, Max Player, Jesus' Team, Yaupon.

3-Year-Old-Females

1. Swiss Skydiver – Simply put, she ran one the gutsiest races a 3-year-old filly has ever run when winning the Preakness. With Eclipse in the bag, I would love to see her connections go for Horse of the Year in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

2. Shedaresthedevil – The Kentucky Oaks winner returned to action last weekend and was somewhat of a disappointment when finishing third in the Spinster (G1). She stays in this No. 2 spot, though, and her connections have stated they will skip the Breeders' Cup and get her ready for 2021 and a 4-year-old campaign. 

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 will now 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 (G1). 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. Her connections are mulling over a Breeders' Cup run in either the Distaff or Filly & Mare Sprint.

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 (G1). She is now 4 for 5.

Next 5: Venetian Harbor, Sharing, Paris Lights, Magic Attitude, Frank's Rockette.

Turf Males

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 be tough to beat if he runs in the Breeders' Cup.

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.

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 weekend 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.

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 last weekend's City of Hope Mile (G1) at Santa Anita.

Next 5: Halladay, Digital Age, War of Will, Red King, Arklow.

Turf Females

1. 
Rushing Fall – Clearly, this is a different Rushing Fall as compared with the version that ran the last two seasons. Was sensational in a win over the very best in her division in her last start, the Diana (G1). Now 3-for-3 with three Grade 1 wins this season, she might finally win the Eclipse that has eluded her for years. The Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf will be next.

2. Starship Jubilee – Stellar in her Woodbine Mile (G1) win over the boys, where she showed she is still in this Eclipse race. She is 5 for 6 on the season and a trip to the Breeders' Cup is likely next.

3. Mean Mary – Was very game in defeat to Rushing Fall in the Diana. In her last start, she romped in the New York Stakes (G2). With three graded stakes wins now on the season, previously winning the Le Prevoyante Stakes (G3) and Orchid Stakes (G3), she is a surprise contender in this division. She will train up to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

4. 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. Recovered from a fever and is back galloping and has had one work, still a decision to be made on whether to point to the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1)

5.
Uni – Showed she isn't done yet as she won her first start of 2020 defeating Newspaperofrecord and Beau Recall. I still don't believe she is the same mare we saw last season and a repeat in the Vreeders' Cup Mile seems to be a tall order.

Next 5: Beau Recall, Newspaperofrecord, Sistercharlie, Got Stormy, Sharing.

Male Sprinters

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 is back on the work tab and training up to the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

2. Volatile – Retired because of an injury, he could still end up with this Eclipse so he stays here at No. 2. 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.

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 weekend.

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 week 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 Grade 1 Bring Crosby at Del Mar, but was defeated by the older C Z Rocket in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship where he checked in third.

Next 5: Diamond Oops, Complexity, Firenze Fire, Whitmore, Flagstaff. 

Female Sprinters

1. Serengeti Empress – Yes, she came up a nose short in the Derby City Distaff (G1), but once 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. Guarana – Hasn't run since her Madison win last June. At the time, trainer Chad Brown stated the year-end goal was the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, but she suffered a setback in training and was forced to miss the Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga. The Breeders' Cup is still on the table, but it looks like a long shot that she will make the race.

3. 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.

4. Frank's Rockette – Four wins in a row now, the last three in graded stakes. She blew up away older rivals in last weekend's Gallant Bloom (G2) at Belmont Park. Will be a serious player if she runs in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

5. 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.

Next 5: Mia Mischief, Bellafina, Come Dancing, Kimari, Break Even.

2-Year-Old Males

1. Jackie's Warrior – The first horse since Favorite Trick in 1997 to pull off the Saratoga Special (G2) and Hopeful (G1) double at Saratoga. Has built a large lead in this division, winning all three of his starts. Big test this weekend when he will run in the one mile Champagne (G1).

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 should start next in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 3.

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 – Impressive maiden winner was runner-up to Jackie's Warrior in the Hopeful. I get the sense that this guy will enjoy going longer and he gets his chance in this weekend's Champagne at Belmont.

5. Dr. Schivel – Winner of the Del Mar Futurity 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.

2-Year-Old Females

1. Vequist – Dominant winner of the Spinaway (G1) in her second start, she has run the fastest of all of the graded stakes winners in this division. The daughter of Nyquist seems to have a bright future, as her pedigree suggests she will relish the longer distances. Will run this weekend in a loaded Frizette (G1) at Belmont.

2. Dayoutoftheoffice – Not much separates this gal from Vequist. Winner of her first two starts, she was impressive in the Schuylerville  (G3). Finally back on the work tab, will also run this weekend in the Frizette.

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, it was a historically slow last out win in the Chandelier. She 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.

5. Simply Ravishing – Runaway winner of the Alcibiadess (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: ThoughtfullyCrazy Beautiful, Forest Caraway, Cantata, Campanelle.


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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