Division rankings: Cotillion may decide 1 Eclipse Award

Division rankings: Cotillion may decide 1 Eclipse Award
Photo: Alex Evers / Eclipse Sportswire

With two Grade 1 wins under her belt and another Grade 1 on her resume in name only, Pretty Mischievous has a stranglehold on the 3-year-old female division.  Since she took over as the divisional leader in May, following her Kentucky Oaks triumph, no other contender has posed a serious challenge to her top spot.

The Cotillion (G1) at Parx this weekend provides Pretty Mischievous with the opportunity to decisively settle the Eclipse race with a victory. In contrast to the Pennsylvania Derby taking place in the following race, the Cotillion has attracted a good field, featuring several graded stakes winners.

Before I take a brief look at what the Cotillion means for the rankings below, and the Eclipse, let's take a look at this week's updated division rankings.

Older dirt males

1. Cody's Wish
. In a historically weak season for this division, what other horse can reside here at this point? The answer is none. This guy controls his Eclipse fate no matter what any other in this division does for the remainder of the season. Despite his setback in the Whitney (G1), he maintains his position at the top because none of the others boasts a resume strong enough to challenge him. As expected, his distance limitations were exposed and he will be back sprinting next out in the Vosburgh (G2) later this month. Should he pass that test, he will set his sights on securing victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile for the second consecutive year. Achieving that feat would win the Eclipse award in this division.

2. White Abarrio. It speaks volumes about this division when I'm ranking a horse this high, despite having only one stakes win in his last nine starts spanning 16 months. His impressive victory in the Whitney came under the tutelage of his new trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr., who has returned to the scene after a 10-year suspension due to numerous medication and administrative violations. Notably, White Abarrio has delivered career-best speed figures in his two outings since joining Dutrow's stable. Is this merely a coincidence? Now, White Abarrio will focus his preparations on the Breeders' Cup Classic. Can he secure an Eclipse award with just two stakes wins? My answer is no. Given that resume, he won't receive my vote. He will be a big underlay and long shot at Santa Anita, in my opinion.

3. Zandon. He hasn't won this year in three starts, but he shows up every time and runs his race. He has finished runner-up three times in graded stakes, the last two being the Met Mile (G1) and the Whitney. With the division in the state it is, he deserves this spot for now.

4. ProxyThis guy has two graded-stakes wins from six starts this year, and ran well almost overcoming a ridiculously slow pace in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last out and losing by a nose. So by default, he sits here at No. 4. Will likely run next in the Breeders' Cup Classic and be a long shot.

5. Bright Future. The winner of the JCGC, he was allowed to set tepid fractions that no doubt helped him in his first stakes win. If they do indeed run in the Breeders' Cup Classic he too has little chance to come away with the win, in my opinion.

Next 5: Rattle N Roll, Smile Happy, Slow Down Andy, Defunded, Skippylongstocking

Older dirt females

ClairiereWas beaten with no excuses two back by Nest and then last out she ran a clunker in the slop in the Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga. She maintains this top spot because she has run in and won several big events this season. What happens in the prior six months matters to me in this sport, and Clairiere has shown up for all of the previous big events this division had to offer this year, winning two Grade 1 events, the most of any in this division. Still controls her own Eclipse fate.

Idiomatic. The Personal Ensign winner is on a roll now, winning her last three starts, all stakes. Overall she is 6-for-7 on the season and has put herself in serious contention for the Eclipse.

Adare Manor. The best of the west added another big win in the Clement Hirsch (G1). Now four of five on the season, she probably will have one more start before the Breeders' Cup Distaff at her home base of Santa Anita. No matter what happens with the top two, if this gal wins the Breeders' Cup Distaff, the Eclipse will be hers.

Secret OathThe winner of the Azeri (G2) earlier this season, she has been runner-up in three Grade 1 events in 2023, including the Personal Ensign last out.

5. Nest
. Based on resume alone for this season, Nest really doesn't belong this high in the rankings, but I will give her the benefit of doubt. Ran great in her return to the races two back in the Shuvee (G2), where she got the jump on her rival Clairiere and recorded a facile two-length win. But last out in the Personal Ensign she finished third. Sitting on the bench for the first half of the season will cost Nest the Eclipse in 2023.

Next 5: Search Results, Played Hard,
 Fun to Dream, Pauline's Pearl, A Mo Reay.

3-year-old males

 Arcangelo. Super impressive in the Travers (G1), defeating a quality field. Validating his Belmont win was critical, and he did that and more. Now he will train up to the Breeders' Cup Classic. He will face an even stiffer test at Santa Anita, but a win in the Classic will secure not only the Eclipse in this division, but horse of the year.

 Arabian Knight. In February this guy was among the favorites for the Kentucky Derby. After his Southwest Stakes (G3) win, he was put on the shelf and didn't return until the Haskell (G1) in July, where he finished third. He obviously needed the race. Last out he was all heart in winning the Pacific Classic (G1) over older and fellow 3-year-olds. Will train up to the Breeders' Cup Classic run over his home track of Santa Anita. He would be the horse to beat and should get even better in his third start off that layoff. 

3. Geaux Rocket Ride. Was narrowly defeated in the Pacific Classic, but he lost nothing in defeat. the Haskell winner will be one of the horses to beat in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He too will train up to the race.

4. Forte. Disappointed in the Travers (G1), finishing fourth, beaten eight lengths. No way to spin the loss, no excuses. Considering that was his first subpar race we have seen in over a year, I will give him a mulligan. Will train up to the Breeders' Cup Classic and will be a horse you can't discount.

5. Mage. Finished last in the Travers, but he gets a mulligan off of that effort considering what he has done prior. Likely will train up to the Breeders' Cup Classic, where a win there would garner him the Eclipse in this division.

Next 5
: Angel of Empire, Disarm, National Treasure, Saudi Crown, Practical Move

3-year-old females

1. Pretty Mischievous. I know what the PPs say, but this gal finished runner-up in the Test (G1) last time out, and that is being generous as she would have actually finished third if not for the tragedy at the wire. She has the lead in this division, but the door is still open. Before the Test she won the Acorn (G1) and the Kentucky Oaks (G1). She has won the two biggest events that her division has to offer so far this season. Will run in the Cotillion (G1) at Parx this weekend where a win will lock down the Eclipse, but a loss opens the door for others because, as we know, many voters only pay attention to the last month or two of the season.

2. Wet Paint. The runner-up in the Alabama (G1) won by the loose-on-the-lead Randomized. Previously she got the job done in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), defeating four others. Still believe she is among the best in this division. Stuck behind loose-on-the lead types two of the last three races. Would have liked to see her at Parx this weekend as she is still in this Eclipse race.

Randomized. Won her first graded race when wiring the Alabama. In her previous attempt in a graded stakes she was sixth in the Acorn on Belmont Stakes day. She'll need to win it again before she moves up. Will run against older in the Beldame (G2) in her next start.

4. Window Shopping. Defeated The Alys Look to win the Summertime Oaks (G2) last out, and before that she was third in Faiza's Santa Anita Oaks (G1). Connections tried her on the grass last time out in the Del Mar Oaks (G1), where she finished sixth.

5. Defining Purpose. Won the Ashland (G1) earlier this year and last out was third in the Alabama (G1). Would need a win this weekend in the Cotillion (G1) to jump back into this Eclipse race. 

ext 5: Faiza, Hoosier Philly, Dorth Vader, Celing Crusher, Sacred Wish.

Turf males

1. Up to the Mark. Was superb last out winning the Manhattan (G1) at Belmont Park, giving him two Grade 1 wins on this season, a rarity for this division the last few years. But that was in June. The jury is out, but he is back working again, so perhaps we'll see him again soon. If we are being honest, the fields he has beaten were suspect, and earlier this season he was soundly defeated when third in the Makers Mark Mile (G1).

2. Casa Creed. Closed stoutly last out in the Fourstardave (G1) to defeat Annapolis. A really impressive effort. A 7-year-old, he is in the best form of his career after winning his last two starts. Could be a contender later this year in the Breeders' Cup Mile if he maintains this form. Will train up to that race.

3. Bolshoi Ballet. Ran them off their feet in the Sword Dancer (G1) last time out, and that alone bumps him this high, considering the state of this division. Before the Sword Dancer he was winless in four starts overseas.

4. Gold Phoenix. Remember this guy? He was ranked higher than this in March but was then off the board in his next two starts. Well, he is back in top form, having won his last two graded stakes, the Eddie Read (G2) and Del Mar Handicap (G2) last out. Will be one of our best hopes in the Breeders' Cup Turf this fall.

5. Exaulted. Was a tough-luck runner-up last out in the Del Mar Mile (G2), but before that he was four for four since being moved to the grass from the dirt. Won the Shoemaker Mile (G1) earlier this season and is a Breeders' Cup Mile contender.

Next 5: Master of the Seas, Set Piece, Chez Pierre, Annapolis, Du Jour.

Turf females

1. In Italian. Was stunned last time out, tasting defeat for the first time in over a year to another in this division. Her narrow runner-up finish in the Diana (G1) won't knock her off the top spot here, and that likely will be the last time she runs nine furlongs. Look for her to run shorter as she charts a course for a return engagement in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

2. WhitebeamUpset In Italian in the Diana for her first Grade 1 win and second graded-stakes victory overall. Before the Diana she won the Gallorette (G3) on Preakness day at Pimlico. Was flattered by Fev Rover's Beverly D. win as that one finished third in the Diana. Will make her next start at Keeneland in the First Lady (G1).

3. War Like Goddess. Suffered another loss, the first time she has lost back-to-back races in her 16-race career. It wasn't a bad effort, finishing runner-up in the Glens Falls (G2) and losing by a neck. But if we are being fair, the War Like Goddess of old would beat that bunch handily. I believe she has lost a step or two now, but the connections likely will give her another shot to turn it around.

4. Fev Rover. Impressed in the Beverly D. (G1) for her second win this season. Previous to her win last out, she was third to Whitebeam and In Italian in the Diana. Won the Nassau Stakes (G2) two starts back.

5. Caravel. Defeated last out when facing males in the Troy Stakes (G3) at Saratoga, which was run on a soft turf because of the rain. Both of her prior graded-stakes wins this season have come over males, so this last loss was a disappointment.

Next 5: Moira, Marketsegmentation, McKulick, Didia, Macadamia

Male sprinters

1. Elite PowerWas upset by Gunite in the Forego (G1) after the latter again was allowed to get away with slow fractions. Still the best in this division by a wide margin, he will head to the Breeders' Cup Sprint with an eye on a repeat win and another Eclipse. In the same boat as Jackie's Warrior last year, dominating this division for three-quarters of the season only to lose the Eclipse because of late-season voting bias. Has defeated Gunite in two of their three meetings this season.

2. Gunite. Defeated Elite Power in a major upset in the Forego (G1). The Forego was his first graded stakes win this season. Interestingly he is entered to run this weekend at Parx in the listed Parx Dirt Mile. If he does indeed run, I have to believe it's because of his stablemate, Echo Zulu, who is owned by the same connections. You see, a Parx Mile win would give the connections the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile as an option and open the door for Echo Zulu to run against males in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, where she would be favored.

3. Cody's Wish. Do we keep him ranked down here with the sprinters? Sure we do. He has one Grade 1 sprint race win this year, the Churchill Downs Stakes (G1), and after his loss in the Whitney will cut back to shorter distances. The Vosburgh (G2) is likely up next. Though it will never happen, an Elite Power vs. Cody's Wish Breeders' Cup Sprint would steal the show. 

4. The Chosen Vron. Won the Bing Crosby (G1) last out for his eighth straight win, and the previous seven wins all were listed stakes. This California-bred gelding loves sprinting and belongs here for now.

5. Anarchist. Won the Pat O'Brien (G2) after previously finishing runner-up to The Chosen Vron in the Bing Crosby. This guy has put together a good record this year, running eight times and never finishing worse than second. Has two graded-stakes wins in 2023.

Next 5: Sibelius, Repo Rocks, Doppelganger, Spirit of Makena, Skelly

Female sprinters

1. Echo Zulu. Folks, this isn't hyperbole. Though her resume is somewhat light, I believe this is the best female sprinter we have seen in over 20 years. She is clearly the fastest speed-figurewise, and she dominated last year's Eclipse winner, Goodnight Olive, in the Ballerina (G1) last out. Now her connections likely will target the Breeders' Cup. With her stablemate, Gunite possibly pointing for the Sprint, we might not get to see this gal against the males and instead see her in the Filly & Mare Sprint. No sprinter, male or female, has run as fast as this gal in 2023. She's three for three this season, and she hasn't been tested.

2. Goodnight Olive. Ran her race in the Ballerina, but she faced a monster in Echo Zulu. The Eclipse winner from last season started her season with a win in the Madison (G1) at Keeneland. Will train up to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

3. Wicked Halo. Runner-up again in another huge effort in the Bed o' Roses (G2), this time to Goodnight Olive, and then won a listed stakes at Ellis Park. She is most certainly a serious contender for the Eclipse in this division and appears to be just getting better. Before the Bed o' Roses she was runner-up in the Derby City Distaff (G1) to Matareya. She was cross-entered in the Ballerina and the Misty Bennett Pink Ribbon at Charles Town but didn't start in either.

4. Matareya. Won the Derby City Distaff two starts back, defeating Goodnight Olive. Last time out she finished third in the Ballerina. Is capable of big efforts.

5. Society. Rebounded from a rough start to her season with a 10-length win over Matareya in the Chicago Stakes (G3). Before that she was ninth in the La Troienne (G1) and third in the Madison (G1). Perhaps she is a player in this division? Not sure. Won the listed Pink Ribbon Stakes at Charles Town last time out.

Next 5: Frank's Rockette, Fun to Dream, Caramel Swirl, Maryquitecontrary, Eda

2-year-old males

1. Prince of Monaco. Won the Del Mar Futurity (G3) last week to stay unbeaten in three starts. He likely will be the Breeders' Cup Juvenile favorite on his home track of Santa Anita, but I am of the opinion he will be an underlay and fired his best shot in this last race. He also looked a little off to me on the right side when switching leads in the stretch.

2. Nutella Fella
. Won the Hopeful (G1) last out at 54-1 odds. Two for two so far in his career.

3. Timberlake
. The beaten favorite in the Hopeful, he finished runner-up to Nutella Fella.

4. Muth
. This guy was the favorite for the Hopeful but was scratched and will run next in the American Pharoah (G1) on Oct. 7 at Santa Anita.
5. Noted
. The Sapling winner certainly has the connections, Todd Pletcher and Mike Repole. He is two for three on his career.
Next 5
: Mirahmadi, The Wine Steward, West Saratoga, Gold Sweep, Pirate. 

2-year-old females

1. Brightwork
. Defeated the highly regarded Ways and Means last out in the Spinaway (G1) and has four wins already in her career. This unbeaten gal won the Adironack (G3) before the Spinaway.

Tamara. This daughter of Beholder won the Del Mar Debutante (G1) rather easily for her second win in as many starts. She no doubt gets a bump in her reputation given her pedigree and likely will be the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

3. Ways and Means
. The heavy favorite in the Spinaway (G1) after winning her maiden race impressively, she was defeated by Brightwork. Now done racing this season due to a chipped ankle.

4. Wonder Ride
. Closed well to finish third in the Spinaway, won her only previous race, a maiden event at Saratoga.

5. Here U Come Again
. This Brad Cox-trained daughter of Liam's Map was runner-up to Brightwork in the Adirondack (G3) after breaking her maiden at Ellis Park.
Next 5
: VV's Dream, Dreamfyre, Laurent, Saratoga Secret, Dua.

More on Pretty Mischievous 

The 3-year-old filly division this season has been somewhat of a disappointment to me. Perhaps it's due to the exceptionally high standards set in previous seasons, or it could be attributed to the lingering bitterness from witnessing the unfortunate outcome in the division's premier sprint race, the Test Stakes, where the winner, Maple Leaf Mel, made the ultimate sacrifice for our entertainment.

Pretty Mischievous ran in the Test and would have finished third. But, due to the unfortunate event, she crossed the wire in second and was given the win. For the purposes of resume and Eclipse voting, in no way shape or form do I count this among her grade 1 wins.

None of this is Pretty Mischievous’ fault, she has been outstanding in 2023, winning four of her six starts. After her Kentucky Oaks (G1) win she headed east and ran on Belmont Day in the Acorn (G1), facing several big guns from this division. Pretty Mischievous validated her Kentucky Oaks win with a gutsy Acorn win to put some distance between her and all others in the race for the Eclipse.

Following her performance in the Acorn, Pretty Mischievous has only competed once, as mentioned earlier, in the Test Stakes.  Others have had their chances to make a run at Pretty Mischievous, but none has stepped up. So, this weekend’s Cotillion presents an opportunity for the daughter of Into Mischief: Win the Cotillion (G1) and the Eclipse award is essentially locked up. In this day and age, wrapping up an Eclipse prior to the Breeders’ Cup is no easy feat given the rampant recency bias that exists in this sport.

Pretty Mischievous will face eight others, and a couple entered can certainly end up in the winner’s circle. The up-and-coming Ceiling Crusher (No. 9) has won five of six and ships in from California fresh off of a very fast Torrey Pines (G3) win. Defining Purpose (No. 5) won the Ashland (G1) and was third last out in the Alabama (G1) won by Randomized. Occult is fresh off a win in the Monmouth Oaks (G3) and prior to that was third in the Acorn (G1).

Absent from this race are Wet Paint (No.2) and Randomized (No. 3), but Pretty Mischievous has already handed them defeats earlier this season.

The path to the Cotillion and the Eclipse award runs directly through Pretty Mischievous.

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 used to frequent the press box many weekends during the Arlington Park meets. 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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