Division Rankings: Who’s the 2-year-old Eclipse Award leader?

December 03, 2019 10:15am

Last weekend's Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) was supposed to shed some light on the 2-year-old male Eclipse Award race. Champagne (G1) winner Tiz The Law entered unbeaten in two starts, and with the favorites floundering in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the door was open for the son of Constitution to move to the head of the class.

Sent off as the 3-5 favorite in the field of eight, Tiz the Law split horses in the stretch and for a moment he appeared on his way to victory and a championship. But Tiz the Law didn't have an answer for eventual winner Silver Prospector and runner-up Finnick the Fierce when beaten three-quarters of a length
.

So who is left with a shot at the Eclipse? The obvious contender many figure to turn to is the long
shot Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, Storm the Court

Regardless, this is a tough call. A month before his 45-1 shocker in the Breeders' Cup, he was beaten more than eight lengths by Eight Rings in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) when third.

Taking a closer look, the American Pharoah was the first race back for Storm the Court and Eight Rings after both lost their jockeys in the Del Mar Futurity (G1).

Remember, 
Eight Rings ducked in sharply, throwing jockey Drayden Van Dyke. Storm the Court, racing along the rail, bumped with Eight Rings and unseated jockey Flavien Prat. Luckily, both horses were later caught by outriders.

Horses react differently after incidents like this. Eight Rings came back to dominate the Del Mar Futurity in wire-to-wire fashion. Storm the Court, however, ran evenly when third. In other words, Storm the Court may have needed a race to get right.

Eight Rings
ran a clunker in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but if he comes back and wins the Los Alamitos Futurity this weekend, he deserves a second look.

Facing off against 
Anneau d’Or and Wrecking Crew, second and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Eight Rings has every right at the Eclipse if he can similarly right his ship with a win.  Lastly, we have Breeder's Cup Juvenile Turf winner Structor and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Four Wheel Drive to note. Both are 3-for-3. Four Wheel Drive has only won sprinting on the turf, and his Breeders' Cup division is a Grade 2 event. That makes him a longshot for this award. Structor, meanwhile, will certainly merit some support. For me it comes down to this: If Eight Rings comes back this weekend and wins the Los Alamitos Futurity, he will earn my vote as the Eclipse winner of this division. The Breeders' Cup is not the end all, be all for me. The horses don't know the difference between the Breeders' Cup or an allowance race on a Thursday. Sometimes they have off days, andEight Rings may have simply picked a bad day for his. Eight Rings has split his two meetings with Storm the Court. If he rebounds on Saturday to beat the same horses Storm the Court defeated in the Juvenile, that is enough for me to say that the Breeders' Cup was an aberration. His overall resume will be enough for me. If Eight Rings doesn't get the job done in the Los Alamitos Futurity, my vote will go to Storm the Court.   As previously noted, Storm the Court had every right to need a race after his mishap in the Del Mar Futurity. He also looked much-improved with blinkers on. In a year as wide open as this, a Breeders' Cup Juvenile victory could be enough. As far as the turf winner Structor, he certainly would deserve a look, but I am not quite ready to go the grass route yet.
This week's Division Rankings feature the Top 3 from each division that I plan to write into my ballot when the time comes. I take all three spots seriously, as No. 1 votes carry the most weight, but to be an Eclipse finalist is also a prestigious matter for connections.

Here's an updated look:

Older Dirt Males

1.
  Mitole – The Breeders' Cup Sprint winner will be the No. 1 horse on my ballot for this division. No other older male can match his resume: six wins at five tracks from seven starts. His four Grade 1 wins is double that of his next closest pursuer.

2.  
Vino Rosso – 
Made it clear to everyone that he is the best 10-furlong dirt horse in the country with a powerful win in the Breeders' Cup Classic. His margin of victory was the fifth-largest in the race's 36-year history. Winning three of six starts on the year, the Classic was his second Grade 1 win. Also remember he was disqualified in that Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), too.

3.  
McKinzie – The Breeders' Cup Classic favorite ran a game race when finishing a clear second. He likely ends his season with two wins from seven starts and a win in the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga.


Older Dirt Females

1.  
Midnight Bisou  She tried her hardest, but she couldn't quite catch Blue Prize in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. The loss not only spoiled her unbeaten season, but also her Horse of the Year chances. Maybe the long season caught up to her, or she didn't quite like the deep Santa Anita track. But she ends her season with seven graded wins.

2.
  Blue Prize
 – Joined Bayakoa and Paseana as Breeders' Cup Distaff winners bred in Argentina. After losing the first three starts of her season, she got hot and won her last three.

3.  
It's undecided between 
Elatewho went 2-for-7 this season and capped her career with a fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and Come Dancing, who was 4-for-6 and didn't run her race in the Filly & Mare Sprint but did win four graded events in 2019.

3-Year-Old-Males

1.  
Maximum Security – The No. 1 horse here since early May, he will likely stay in this spot for the remainder of the season. Clearly has the best overall resume of any in this division with two Grade 1 wins, and he has hit the wire behind only one horse in his whole career. Though controversially disqualified from that victory in the Kentucky Derby, the image of him overpowering the field in a wire-to-wire performance won't be forgotten by this voter. He can seal the Eclipse in this weekend's Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.

2.  
Code of Honor – Off the board in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the Travers (G1) winner simply didn't fire over the Santa Anita track. He finished the season with four wins from eight starts, with one of those via DQ in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

3.  
Omaha Beach – Connections decided against shipping to New York to take on Maximum Security, ending any hope of an Eclipse. The runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile to fellow 3-year-old Spun to Run is pointing to the Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita in late December. He has run in four graded stakes this season, winning three.

3-Year-Old-Females

1.  
Covfefe 
- Will likely get my vote for the Eclipse in this division based on her outstanding season.

2.  Serengeti Empress 
- The Kentucky Oaks winner ran a full season and should be commended for it. She ran a big race when third in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

3.  Guarana - Her Cotillion loss and non-participation in the Breeders' Cup will cost her the Eclipse in this division.

Turf Males

1.  
Bricks and Mortar – If he isn't a unanimous choice in the vote for this division, there should be an investigation. Simply an outstanding season and is set to join Wise Dan, Kotashaan and John Henry as the only grass horses to win Horse of the Year in the Breeders' Cup era.

2.  Arklow - 
There's quite a gap between Bricks and Mortar and everyone else. You can take any one of half a dozen horses and round out the second and third spots on your Eclipse ballot in this division. Although he was up the track in the Breeders' Cup Turf, Arklow won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and placed in four other graded stakes.

3.  World of Trouble - 
Thinking outside the box here, but this guy was brilliant on the grass, winning all three of his starts on that surface in 2019.

Turf Females

1.  
Sistercharlie  Had a six-race win streak snapped when third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. As the incumbent Eclipse winner of this division, Sistercharlie’s three Grade 1 wins this season are enough for me to place her above her main rival for the Eclipse, Uni. 

2.  
Uni 
– The Breeders’ Cup Mile heroine was spectacular in victory over Got Stormy. Overall on the season she won two Grade 1 races with three wins from four starts. She won’t dethrone Sistercharlie on my ballot. Both ran four times, but Sistercharlie did more with her four starts.

3.  
Vasilika – Validated her season-long ranking here with a game runner-up performance in the Filly & Mare Turf. Overall on the season she won five graded stakes.

Male Sprinters

1.  
Mitole  A lock for the Eclipse in this division, he is one of the best sprinters we have seen in the last 20 years.

2.  
Imperial Hint – Scratched from the Breeders' Cup Sprint, he won two Grade 1 races before that, finishing 2-for-4 on the season.

3.  Shancelot
 - The Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up is certainly a talented colt. But I acknowledge it's a stretch to place him third on the ballot with a single graded win. Others could be considered here.

Female Sprinters

1.  
Covfefe –  Simply overwhelmed the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint competition. Finished her season with five wins from six starts, and she bagged two Grade 1 wins this season. A sure bet to win the Eclipse in this division.

2.  
Come Dancing – Was the leader of this division before her showdown with Covfefe in the Breeders' Cup, where she simply didn't fire in her sixth-place finish. She won four graded stakes this year, including the Ballerina (G1).

3.
  
Belvoir Bay -  The Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint heroine started her season in January and won her first two starts before her narrow loss in Dubai's Al Quoz Sprint (G1). She finishes her season with three wins from six starts.

2-Year-Old Males

This division is still wide open with another meaningful races yet to be run. Currently, Storm the Court, the upset Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, leads my list. American Pharoah (G1) winner Eight Rings could pass him pending results of this weekend's Los Alamitos Futurity.

Juvenile Turf winner Structor is 3-for-3 with two graded wins.

2-Year-Old Females

1.
  British Idiom – Narrow winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, she will win the Eclipse in this division. She finishes her season 3-for-3 with a pair of Grade 1 scores.

2.
  Donna Veloce - Remarkable runner-up finish to British Idiom in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies after making her career debut only one month earlier.

3.  
Bast 
 Found the top two a bit too much to handle in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies after working near the front end early but was the best of the rest. Previously won the Chandelier (G1) and Del Mar Debutante (G1).

 

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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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