HRN Division Rankings: Eclipse Awards settled at Breeders' Cup

October 31, 2018 12:35pm

No major changes in the rankings as we gear up for the Breeders’ Cup this weekend at Churchill Downs. But following up on last week's Part 1, I'll narrow down which contenders are still in for a chance at five final Eclipse Awards divisions.

The most wide-open group of the season is the Male Turf division. To evidence that, I took a look at all of the Grade 1 and Grade 2 grass races this season that were run over a mile in which 4-year-olds and up were eligible to run.

By my count, there have been 16 Grade 1 races run, and we have 15 different winners. The only multiple Grade 1 winner this year is Heart to Heart, who isn't running in the Breeders' Cup. I count 24 Grade 2 races that have been run, and we have 20 different winners. Itsinthepost and Catapult are the only multiple Grade 2 winning horses this season. Itsinthepost has four and Catapult has two.

Having said all of that, what about the Eclipse? If any of the prior Grade 1 winners were to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf, he will most likely gain enough support for the Eclipse. A scenario exists where a horse like Oscar Performance, a previous Grade 1 winner, wins the Breeders’ Cup Mile and garners support from voters.

Again, it’s wide open with many scenarios out there.

The Female Turf division is much easier to decipher. In my opinion, Sistercharlie has already done enough for the Eclipse, regardless of where she finishes on Saturday. For those who say that Enable should get it should she win the Turf: No. Enough domestic females stand out, and Sistercharlie has been the best among them with a trio of Grade 1 wins already. She is a deserving winner.

For me, the Female Sprinter Eclipse comes down to Marley’s Freedom and Selcourt. Selcourt led this division the first half of the year, but due to inactivity and Marley’s Freedom's run of wins since their last meeting, the latter now leads the division. I don’t believe any other can steal the Eclipse from either of these two.

Finally, the 2-year-olds: There are several contenders, as is the case every year, on both the female and male side. Most of the time it will boil down to who wins the Juvenile races. For me, though, that isn’t the clincher. There are scenarios out there where the Eclipse winner isn’t the horse who won one of the Juvenile races. I take into account the entire resume of work.

Given all that, here is an updated look at HRN's Division Rankings:
 

Older Dirt Males

1.  
Accelerate – I can’t envision a scenario now where he doesn’t end up with the Eclipse. He should go postward as a strong favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic over a distance he loves. Horse of the Year is in play if he wins.

2.  
Mind Your Biscuits – Passed his latest route test with flying colors, as he easily won the Lukas Classic (G3) over the Churchill Downs strip. Next up is the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

3.  
Diversify – Never had a chance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) with the fast early fractions he set. Will skip the Breeders' Cup as the barn mourns the recent death of trainer Rick Violette.

4.  
Catalina Cruiser – He's unbeaten and has the makings of a superstar. Will be the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in his next start. 

5.  
Yoshida – Didn’t beat much in the Grade 1 Woodward, but he did look good switching to dirt. In a division that lacks depth, he moved into the Top 5. An intriguing long shot in the Classic.

Next 5: West Coast, Thunder Snow, City of Light, Pavel, Gunnevera.


Older Dirt Females

1.  
Abel Tasman – Experienced an elevated temperature in her last start, an abysmal off-the-board effort in the Zenyatta Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita. She will still run in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and, contrary to many pundits' beliefs, is the horse to beat.

2.  
Elate – Will miss the Breeders’ Cup due to injury but is expected to race in 2019.

3.  
Unique Bella – Although retired, she still has a shot at Eclipse votes should Abel Tasman falter in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

4.  
Wow Cat – The Chilean star was no match for the Top 2 in the Personal Ensign (G1) but came back to win the Beldame (G1) in convincing fashion. She should account for herself very well this weekend.

5.  
Blue Prize – This Argentinian mare has really put together a nice season winning her last three starts. The Spinster (G1) marked her breakthrough moment. She should also be taken seriously in the Distaff.

Next 5: Salty, Martini Glass, La Force, Champagne Problems, Fault.


3-Year-Old-Males

1.  
Justify – Now retired, he will win the Eclipse as the top 3-year-old male, but the Horse of the Year is by no means a lock with Accelerate on a tear right now. 

2.  
Catholic Boy – It takes a very special horse to win Grade 1 races on the turf and dirt. The Breeders’ Cup Classic is next, and he has trained up to the race.

3.  McKinzie – Six months since his last start, this guy showed no rust as he dispatched the best of what is left of a very questionable class of 3-year-olds in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1). The Breeders' Cup Classic is next.

4.  
Audible – This guy will run Breeders’ Cup weekend, just not in the Breeders’ Cup. He will make his return this weekend at Churchill Downs in the Cherokee Run Stakes. It is a seven-furlong race restricted to 3-year-olds on the undercard. If all goes well he will then run in the Harlan’s Holiday on December 15 at Gulfstream as his final prep for the Pegasus World Cup.

5.  
Axelrod – This guy has matured into one of top horses in his class. He ran a strong second in the Pennsylvania Derby, 7 1/2 lengths clear of the rest of the field. With Phoenix Thoroughbreds purchasing ownership, he will go in the Breeders' Cup Classic. 

Next 5: Mendelssohn, Bravazo, Vino Rosso, Firenze Fire, Hofburg.  


3-Year-Old-Females

1.
  Monomoy Girl – She lost nothing in defeat as she was disqualified to second in the Cotillion (G1). Will win the Eclipse regardless of what takes place the remainder of the season. The Breeders’ Cup Distaff is next.

2.  
Midnight Bisou – She has been ranked second here most of the season for a reason. She is the second-best 3-year-old filly in training. She proved her worth with a gutsy run in the Cotillion finishing second, but elevated to first via the DQ of Monomoy Girl. The Breeders’ Cup Distaff is next for her, too.

3.  
Dream Tree - She was an impressive Prioress (G2) winner off a long layoff but will miss the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint due an epiglottic entrapment found after a recent workout.

4.  
Wonder Gadot – Finished 10 1/2 lengths behind the Top 2 in the Cotillion, but was best of the rest. A very nice filly, but a cut below the top ones.

5.  
Eskimo Kisses – Never factored against older in the Spinster. She likely prefers a longer distance and will skip the nine-furlong Distaff.

Next 5: Red Ruby, Talk Veuve to Me, Chocolate Martini, My Miss Lilly, Seperationofpowers.


Turf Males

1.  
Robert Bruce – Ran well in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) but couldn’t catch the front-running Channel Maker. Retains the top spot in what continues to be a wide-open division. One of several could who could be ranked here.

2.  
Glorious Empire – At age 7, this guy is in the best form of his career. The Sword Dancer (G1) marked his second straight graded stakes score, and his first Grade 1. He defeated Channel Maker in his last start, and that one came back to win the Joe Hirsch.

3.  
Channel Maker – The latest to join the growing list of turf horses who have won a Grade 1 race this year. His last three starts have been solid. Will win an Eclipse with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

4.  
Oscar Performance – With a Woodbine Mile (G1) score this guy is back in the thick of things in this wide-open division. A Breeders’ Cup Mile victory could win him the Eclipse.

5.  Arklow
  – Finished second in Keeneland's Sycamore Stakes (G3) last week. The Breeders’ Cup Turf is still next over the same distance.

Next 5:  Divisidero, Hi Happy, Almanaar, Heart to Heart, Spring Quality.


Turf Females

1.  Sistercharlie
 – Cemented her hold on this spot with a determined Beverly D. (G1) win and has since trained up to the Breeders’ Cup. The likely Eclipse winner regardless of what happens this weekend.

2.  
Fourstar Crook – Finally won her first Grade 1 race in the Flower Bowl. Will give the top one all she can handle in the Breeders’ Cup.

3.  
A Raving Beauty– Won the First Lady (G1) on the lead. Don’t overlook her in the Breeders’ Cup coming from off the pace.

4.  
Ultra Brat – Her last two starts have been solid. She was a hard-luck Diana (G1) loser when Sistercharlie changed leads late and surged at the wire.

5.  
Daddys Lil Darling – Consistent filly is always there at the finish.

Next 5: Rushing Fall, Californiagoldrush, Uni, Vasilika, Dona Bruja.

 
Male Sprinters

1.  
Imperial Hint – Cemented his position in this spot with his Vosburgh (G1) score. Will face a tough field in the Breeders’’ Cup Sprint on a track he has run over twice, both off the board finishes.

2.  
Roy H – The Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) showed that this guy is not done yet. Could repeat in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

3. 
Promises Fulfilled – This 3-year-old has matured into a serious sprinter. He tackled some tough older horses in his latest win and came away a winner, his third straight victory.

4.  
X Y Jet – Has only run once since Dubai, as he easily took care of business in the Smile Sprint. Will bypass the Breeders' Cup and could run back later this year at Gulfstream Park.

5.  
Mind Your Biscuits – With his latest win over a route of ground, he likely won't be sprinting again anytime soon.

Next 5: City of Light, Whitmore, Limousine Liberal, Ransom the Moon, CZ Rocket.


Female Sprinters

1.
  Selcourt – Was flattered with Marley’s Freedom's win in the Ballerina (G1). She handed Marley’s Freedom her last loss back in March, but will need to be at her best in their next meeting.

2.  
Marley’s Freedom – Dominant win in the Ballerina in her first cross-country trip as she handled the best sprinters in the East. She's been on fire since transferred to Bob Baffert.

3.  
Finley'sluckycharm – Did not run well on a sensible lead in the Ballerina. Her last two starts at seven furlongs resulted in off-the-board finishes.

4.  
Union Strike – Her win in the Gallant Bloom (G2) also flattered Marley’s Freedom, who beat her by five in her last start, the Ballerina.

5.  
Skye Diamonds – Fourth in last year’s Filly & Mare Sprint, she won for the first time this year in the LA Woman (G3) at Santa Anita.

Next 5: Lewis BayIvy Bell, Golden Mischief, Separationofpowers, Hotshot Anna.


2-Year-Old Males

1.  
Game Winner – Has a hold on the top spot after an impressive American Pharoah Stakes (G1) win. This guy will only get better the longer he goes. He's the horse to beat in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

2.  
Instagrand – So far has looked like a monster, winning his two starts by a combined 20 1/4 lengths. He will now sit until 2019 to point for his 3-year-old campaign. 

3.  
Complexity  – Not sure how far he can run, but right now it doesn’t matter. Impressive win in the Champagne (G1).

4.  
Code of Honor – Was second after an early stumble in the Champagne, and I get the feeling he will be much better around two turns.

5.  
Gunmetal Gray – Disappointed some in the American Pharoah. 

Next 5: Rowayton, Call Paul, Knicks Go, Ahead of Plan, Tale of the Union.


2-Year-Old Females

1.  
Bellafina – Dominated the Chandelier (G1) in her first start around two turns. Clear leader in the division for now.

2.  
Sippican Harbor  The Spinaway (G1) winner should get better as she goes longer.

3.  
Restless Rider – Impressive win in the Alcibiades (G1), making her one of the few to already claim two stakes wins.

4.  
Serengeti Empress – It is not often you see any horse win a Grade 2 event by more than 19 lengths. She's on to the Breeders' Cup after her Pocahontas Stakes romp.

5.  
Jaywalk – Looked very good in the Frizette (G1) in a wire-to-wire win.

Next 7: 
Mother Mother, Feedback, Chasing Yesterday, Vibrance, Del Mar May, Brill, Newspaperofrecord.

 

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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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