Division Rankings: Sistercharlie carving out historic career

July 18, 2019 10:15am
Division Rankings: Sistercharlie carving out historic career
Photo: Courtesy of NYRA

The circumstances of Sistercharlie’s season debut in last weekend Diana Stakes (G1) at Saratoga certainly weren't ordinary. And yet she delivered an extraordinary performance.

There was the time off. The Eclipse Award winner as last year’s Champion Turf Female, Sistercharlie had not started since her Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf win more than eight months ago.

And then there was the competition. Chad Brown stablemate Rushing Fall had record of eight wins from nine starts, plus entered in top form off two Grade 1 scores.
Homerique, the French invader also from the Brown barn, was 2-for-2 in the U.S. and highly regarded.

Both of these rivals had run this year. Both had won consecutive graded stakes. Sistercharlie, meanwhile, had every reason to need a race. 
Then she won the Diana in with relative ease.

For me, it was a stunning victory that deserves more praise than it received. The Diana marked only her fourth straight win, but I feel as if it elevated Sistercharlie to some rare air.

Looking back over the past 20 years, one can safely now say that Sistercharlie is among the best U.S.-based female turf horses to have run. Tepin is up there, too, but I considered her more of a miler. As a true route horse, Sistercharlie has set herself apart.

The goal for Sistercharlie is undoubtedly another Breeders’ Cup appearance. After last year’s Breeders’ Cup win, some questioned her being deserving of the Eclipse, preferring Breeders’ Cup Turf heroine, Enable, for the honor.

I was confused by that, as Sistercharlie clearly had a standout season in this country, while Enable did most of her running overseas. I may be in the minority, but I believe if Sistercharlie were to face Enable at 10 furlongs, Sistercharlie would give her all she can handle.

In short, I am not convinced Enable can beat the Sistercharlie we saw last weekend. But that's a matchup we're unlikely to see, given that should Enable visit again for the Breeders' Cup, she'd be going her preferred 1 1/2-mile trip in the Turf.

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

Older Dirt Males

– Super impressive in the Met Mile (G1), and has been flattered since, with several horses he beat coming back to win stakes. The July 27 Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) at Saratoga is on the radar for his next start.

2.  McKinzie 
– Came running in the Met Mile, but it wasn’t quite enough. Will make his next start back around two turns in the Aug. 3 Whitney (G1) at Saratoga.

Thunder Snow 
– Ran a remarkable race in his first start since Dubai. He's the real deal and a serious player with longer U.S. races ahead. Per his trainer Saeed bin Suroor, he will also start next in the Whitney.

Seeking the Soul – I would like to see some consistency from the Stephen Foster (G2) winner. Will travel west for his next start in the August 17 Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar.

Vino Rosso – Finally broke through to win the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) at the Breeders' Cup Classic distance and over the track where the Classic runs Nov. 2. It makes him a contender here.

Next 5: Preservationist, Quip, Gift Box, Catholic Boy, Catalina Cruiser.

Older Dirt Females

Midnight Bisou  Her Ogden Phipps (G1) victory was also her second straight Grade 1 win and fourth graded stakes of 2019. She will looking to continue her roll and wrap this division before the fall. This weekend’s Molly Pitcher (G3) at Monmouth is next before Aug. 24 Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga.

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). They could meet again at Saratoga.

Blue Prize – A runner-up to Elate at Churchill Downs, she then finished third to the same mare in the Delaware Handicap.

Come Dancing 
 Second in the Ogden Phipps, she won her previous two stakes starts at lower levels this year by wide margins.

She’s a Julie – Just edged out for the place in the Fleur De Lis by Blue Prize. Well clear of the rest.

Next 5: Secret Spice, Escape Clause, La Force, Paradise Woods, Mia Mischief.


Maximum Security – Has done more than enough to keep this spot despite his post-Derby loss in Monmouth Park's Pegasus Stakes. The Haskell (G1) will be next this weekend, and I would be shocked if he lost. I expect a big effort.

2.  War of 
Will - The Preakness winner ran out of gas in the Belmont but should be a contender in the big races later on this summer. He arrived at Saratoga this month and will go for the Jim Dandy (G2)-Travers (G1) double.

Game Winner – Ran as expected in his Los Alamitos Derby (G3) romp. Will go next in the Travers as a possible favorite. He has a chance to take over leadership of this division from there.

Tacitus – Again came running in the stretch of a Triple Crown race but fell short of Sir Winston in the Belmont, where he was second best. Will run next in the Jim Dandy.

Omaha Beach – Had some bad luck with the throat issues that caused him to scratch from the Derby and miss time. No works yet, but his comeback could happen in the Aug. 25 Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar.

Next 5: Code of Honor, Sir Winston, Country House, Owendale, Mucho Gusto.


Guarana – 
The Acorn (G1) winner has been spectacular in her two career starts. Will go next in Saturday's Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga, where it will be interesting to see how she performs. She has a tenuous hold on this spot due to inexperience.

Serengeti Empress – She was simply second best in the Acorn but went extremely fast early. The loaded Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga will be her next start.

Bellafina  Her fifth-place finish in the Oaks was disappointing for her connections. Nine furlongs may be a bit too far for the daughter of Quality Road. Will also go in the Test Stakes.

Lady Apple – Got the job done with a half-length win in the Iowa Oaks (G3). The Fantasy Stakes (G3) winner also gave a good account of herself in the Kentucky Oaks with her third-place finish. 

Dunbar Road – Last month's Mother Goose (G2) winner looked good in victory, but I question who she really defeated.

Next 6: Champagne Anyone, Break Even, Jaywalk, Concrete Rose, Covfeve,
Royal Charlotte

Turf Males

Bricks and Mortar – Has about as big of a lead in a division as you can with a last out Manhattan (G1) win. Will appear next in the Arlington Million (G1).

Catholic Boy – Although he may focus more on dirt races now, I believe he is better on the grass. Will we see him on it again, though? His connections seem intent on keeping him on the dirt.

Robert Bruce  Ran a great race when second to “Bricks” in the Manhattan, with a rematch up next at Arlington Park.

Channel Maker – Got back into the win column with a gritty victory in the Man o’ War (G1) before an even fourth in the Manhattan.

– Finished a disappointing third in the Forbidden Apple (G3) at Saratoga in his last start. Still hasn’t won this year.

Next 5: Almanaar, Catapult, Delta Prince, Arklow, World of Trouble.

Turf Females

Sistercharlie -
Eight months removed from her last start, the reigning Eclipse Award winner from this division was outstanding in her Diana (G1) win over Rushing Fall and Homerique. She's rapidly moving up the list of the best U.S.-based females this division has had in many years.

Vasilika – The wins keep piling up, with her latest score in the Gamely Stakes (G1). It’s hard to envision her losing to her California rivals in this form, but you have to wonder about trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's status out West. We could see her next in the Beverly D. (G1) at Arlington.

Rushing Fall – Was second best to Sistercharlie in the Diana, and can’t envision her beating the No. 1 anytime soon.

Magic Wand
 – Did well running against the boys here in the U.S., and recently posted runner-ups in Royal Ascot's Wolferton Stakes and the Juddmonte's Pretty Polly Stakes (G1) 10 days later.

Uni – Finally made her 2019 debut in the Perfect Sting Stakes and came through with her fifth straight win at Belmont Park. Prior to that, she was last seen defeating Vasilika last fall at Del Mar.

Next 5: Rymska, Homerique, Competitionofideas, Beau Recall, Concrete Rose.

Male Sprinters

Mitole – It will take an extraordinary effort to defeat this one in a sprint, and his connections feel he can go longer if needed, too.

World of Trouble – Would love to see this guy go against Mitole and the others this summer. His Jaipur (G1) score made him a Grade 1 winner this year on turf and dirt.

3.  Promises Fulfilled 
– Got some class relief in the John A Nerud (G2), and he came through with an easy win. The Breeders’ Cup Sprint or the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile are his long-range goals. The August 24 Forego (G1) at Saratoga should be next.

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.

X Y Jet – After two near misses and multiple knee surgeries, he put it all together to finally win the Dubai Golden Shaheen, looking like a force on the front end. As with Roy H, hasn’t been seen on the work tab since.

Next 5: Bobby’s Wicked One, Whitmore, Imperial Hint, Catalina Cruiser, Imprimis.

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. Next, it's back to Saratoga for a defense of the Ballerina (G1).

Mia Mischief – Defeated Covfefe in the Roxelana at Churchill Downs and has done enough now to take over this spot.

Dream Pauline  Easily took care of business in her first start this year, the Hurricane Bertie (G3). Champion Shamrock Rose was among those left her in wake.

Spiced Perfection – The Madison (G1) winner finished fourth in the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs.

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

Next 5: Spiced Perfection, Amy’s Challenge, Late Night Pow Wow, Covfefe, Anonymity.


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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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