HRN Division Rankings: Midnight Bisou's Eclipse implications

August 21, 2019 11:38am
HRN Division Rankings: Midnight Bisou's Eclipse implications
Photo: Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

With his recent win in the Arlington Million (G1), Bricks and Mortar has placed himself in a unique position. He looks like the only horse controlling his own destiny when it comes to the Horse of the Year race.

No other horse will pass him for No. 1 overall as long as he continues his winning ways at the top level. Should he slip up, though, there is one horse who will garner significant support for that award should she maintain her unblemished record in 2019.

Midnight Bisou has been nothing short of spectacular. She is unbeaten in five graded stakes, beating all comers. One of the problems for Midnight Bisou, however, is perception. It is the same problem Accelerate had last year.

Accelerate had a spectacular season in 2018, one in which many felt was Horse of the Year-worthy. The problem for Accelerate was that he ran in 2017 and 2016, and was nowhere near as good of a horse as he was in 2019. For many, they still remembered the previous versions of Accelerate. As a result, he wasn’t as appreciated as much as he should have been for his historic 2019 campaign.

Midnight Bisou was prominent last year, but she wasn’t nearly as good as she is now. Then, she was second-best in her division to Monomoy Girl. With a year in Steve Asmussen's barn, however, Midnight Bisou looks to be running on a new level.

When given the chance to run as they get older, many horses improve. Some show remarkable improvement. Accelerate and Midnight Bisou are textbook examples of this.

Midnight Bisou will run Saturday in Saratoga's Personal Ensign (G1), facing off against the presumed second-best older female, Elate. Midnight Bisou has already beaten Elate twice this season. Also set to run is Wow Cat, the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Distaff runner-up going second off the layoff.

Should Midnight Bisou win again this weekend -- running her 2019 record to 6-for-6 -- the division Eclipse, for all intents and purposes, is hers. 
Heading into the fall, she would also appear to be one of the few horses that could make a run at Bricks and Mortar for the bigger honor.

For a female to win Horse of the Year, several factors need to be in play. First, and most obvious, there has to be a standout female with standout resume; second, the 3-year-old male division has to be a mess; and third, the older dirt male division has to have a down year with no real standouts. All three of these conditions exist.

Given that, here's a look at this week's rankings:

Older Dirt Males

– Scored the biggest win of his career in the Whitney (G1), which is enough for him to take over leadership of this division. Still, with only one Grade 1 win this season, his hold on this spot is tenuous at best. Will get one more start before an expected run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

2.  Mitole 
– Super impressive in the Met Mile (G1) but came up short in the Vanderbilt (G1). Despite the defeat, he still has time to reclaim the top spot in this division. The Forego (G1) at Saratoga this weekend is next.

Thunder Snow – Was scratched from the Whitney due to an elevated temperature. Shipped back to England, but the Breeders’ Cup Classic remains the long-range goal.

Vino Rosso – The Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) winner found things a bit tougher in the Whitney where he was a well-beaten third. Should run in the Woodward (G1) next.

5.  Yoshida
– It speaks volumes to the lack of the depth this division has that this guy is ranked this high. Runner-up in the McKinzie last out, the Woodward (G1) could be next.

Next 5: Higher Power, Seeking the Soul, Preservationist, Gift Box, Catalina Cruiser.

Older Dirt Females

Midnight Bisou  A facile victory in the Molly Pitcher (G3) on the Haskell undercard only continued her run of dominance in 2019. The Personal Ensign at Saratoga this weekend will be a huge test.

Elate – With no Midnight Bisou to worry about, she found the winner's circle in the Fleur De Lis (G2) and dominated the Delaware Handicap (G2). Gets another shot at the leader this weekend.

Wow Cat - Breeder’s Cup Distaff runner-up finally made her 2019 debut in the Shuvee (G3), where she finished runner-up again. She's one of Midnight Bisou’s main challengers this weekend in the Personal Ensign.

Blue Prize – A runner-up to Elate at Churchill Downs, she then finished third to the same mare in the Delaware Handicap. Finally broke through last out with a win in the listed Summer Colony Stakes.

She’s a Julie – Just edged out for the place in the Fleur De Lis by Blue Prize but well clear of the rest. She was then third in the Shuvee. She too will go in the stacked Personal Ensign.

Next 5: Come Dancing, Secret Spice, Escape Clause, Ollie’s Candy, Golden Award.


Maximum Security – He doesn’t seem to get the respect he deserves and is clearly the leader of this division after his Haskell (G1) score. Crossing the wire first in three Grade 1 events this season, he has shown to be a very game horse in the stretch, proving difficult to get past. Will skip the Travers.

Game Winner – Ran as expected in his Los Alamitos Derby (G3) romp. Will skip the Travers due to an illness.

Tacitus – Rough start that may have cost him against Tax in the Jim Dandy (G2), but part of being good in this sport is breaking. He's the Travers morning line favorite.

Omaha Beach – Had some bad luck with the throat issues that caused him to scratch from the Derby and miss time. With another setback, the Awesome Again (G1) against older will likely be his comeback target.

War of Will – No real excuses in his off-the-board finish in the Jim Dandy. As the most traveled of the top-tier 3-year-olds, will get a rest and point to the Pennsylvania Derby (G1).

Next 5: Tax, Code of Honor, Sir Winston, Country House, Mr. Money.


Guarana – 
Passed another test in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), but she had to work for it in the stretch after setting a slow pace. Only three starts into her career, she already has two Grade 1 wins. The Cotillion (G1) at Parx on Sept. 21 is next.

Dunbar Road – With the Alabama and Mother Goose wins now on her resume, she could reel in Guarana for the top spot with a win in her next start over older. The Beldame (G2) on Sept. 28 at Belmont or the Spinster (G1) at Keeneland on Oct. 6 could be next.

Serengeti Empress – Was game in a runner-up finish when sprinting in the Test Stakes (G1). Previous, she was simply second best in the Acorn but went extremely fast early.

4.  Point of Honor  
Black-Eyed Susan (G2) winner finished well in her runner-up finish to Guarana in the CCA Oaks (G1) but was no match for Dunbar Road in the Alabama.

5.  Covfefe
The Test Stakes (G1) winner has been super impressive this season in a deep class of female sprinters. She'll prep for the Breeders' Cup in Churchill Downs' Dogwood Stakes.

Next 5:
 Break Even, Bellafina, Jaywalk, Street Band, Concrete Rose 

Turf Males

Bricks and Mortar – With the Eclipse now seemingly sewn up, Horse of the Year is within reach. What path his connections choose for the remainder of the year is still up for debate. Can he compete against Europe’s best in the Breeders’ Cup? Magic Wand, who finished runner-up to him in the Arlington Million, was far behind Enable and Crystal Ocean in her previous start.

Robert Bruce  Ran OK when finishing fourth in the Arlington Million, beaten a little over two lengths.

World of Trouble – It will take a monumental effort to defeat this guy sprinting on the lawn. 

Channel Maker – The Man o’ War (G1) winner had every chance in the Bowling Green (G2) last month but couldn’t get it done when finishing fourth, beaten less than a length. Will run this weekend in the Sword Dancer (G1).

5.  Arklow
– In a division lacking depth, this guy has at least been consistent with placings in his last three graded stakes starts.

ext 5: Raging Bull, Channel Cat, Delta Prince, Catholic Boy, Almanaar.

Turf Females

Is quite simply one of the best turf female stars we have seen in quite a long time. Her course record Beverly D. (G1) win was outstanding, and another Eclipse is in her sights.

Rushing Fall – Was second best to Sistercharlie in the Diana, and I can’t envision her beating the No. 1 anytime soon. Will skip this weekend’s Ballston Spa (G2) at Saratoga after a reportedly bad work.

Vasilika – Beaten a half-length when third in last weekend’s Yellow Ribbon (G2) at Del Mar, Vasilika lost for only the second time in her last 14 starts. Still, she figures to have a say in this division with the Breeders’ Cup held in her backyard.

4.  Magic Wand 
– Another runner-up finish to Bricks and Mortar, this time in the Arlington Million. Although she hasn’t won this season, she has finished runner-up to males three times.

5.  Beau Recall 
– Has been very good this season winning three of her five starts. Her Yellow Ribbon (G1) win was her second graded stakes score.

Next 5: Got Stormy, Rymska, Homerique, Concrete Rose, I’m So Fancy.

Male Sprinters

Mitole – Don’t let the post-Vanderbilt overreaction fool you. He is still the best one-turn dirt horse in the world. He was stuck on a dead rail, returning after a grueling Met Mile and against an opponent who happens to freak once a year on the Saratoga surface. If he was going to lose a sprint race, the Vanderbilt was the perfect storm. Will run this weekend in the Forego (G1) at Saratoga.

World of Trouble – Was a late scratch in the Troy Stakes at Saratoga due to a foot bruise. Previously, his Jaipur (G1) score made him a Grade 1 winner this year on turf and dirt. If he recovers from the foot bruise in time, the Turf Monster (G3) going five furlongs on September 2 at Parx will be next.

Imperial Hint – Clearly, Saratoga is his favorite track. Won the Vanderbilt for the second year in a row in track-record time for his first win of 2019. He’ll need consistency to advance in this division. He will now target the Vosburgh (G1) at Belmont Park on September 28.

Promises Fulfilled – Got some class relief in the John A Nerud (G2), and he came through with an easy win. Has a tough assignment this weekend as he takes on Mitole in the Forego.

Roy H – Since scratching from the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), he's getting back into the swing of things and is expected to point to the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) before another title defense in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Next 5: X Y Jet, Cistron, Shancelot, Catalina Cruiser, Bobby’s Wicked One.

Female Sprinters

Marley’s Freedom – A model of consistency the last two seasons, she was back in the winner's circle in the Great Lady M. Stakes (G2) at Los Alamitos. She's taking a pass on Saturday's Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga.

Mia Mischief – Upset last time out in in the Honorable Miss (G2) when finishing fourth, she won the Humana Distaff (G1) earlier this season and defeated Covfefe two starts back. Will try and get back on track this weekend in the Ballerina. 

– This 3-year-old filly really stepped up her game in last weekend’s Test Stakes (G1) win over the Kentucky Oaks winner, Serengeti Empress.

Spiced Perfection – The Madison (G1) winner finished fourth in the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs in May, hasn’t raced since.

Break Even – The 3-year-old is still unbeaten after her sixth straight win in Saratoga’s Coronation Cup on the grass. The Prioress (G2) is next.

Next 5: Late Night Pow Wow, Amy’s Challenge, Serengeti Empress, Seperationofpowers, Chalon.


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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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