Each week for the rest of the year, we will rank the best thoroughbred horses in America based on their divisions. Last week was all about Royal Ascot, as well as strong racing from Santa Anita and Thistledown. With the second half of the year now looming large, things will begin to heat up even more as these divisions start to take shape.
1. Arrogate – THE GOAT
2. Gun Runner – Back from Dubai and perhaps better than ever, he ROMPED in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. His level of improvement has been absolutely incredible.
3. Mor Spirit – His “WOW” performance in the Met Mile officially confirmed that he’s arrived in a major way. His progression from 3 to 4 has been impressive.
5. Cupid – I admit that his Gold Cup at Santa Anita win shocked me. He was awesome in that race and will be very successful in this division if he keeps up that type of effort. He’s currently pointing towards the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park on July 8.
Sleeper: Collected – Yet another Bob Baffert star! He earned a 111 Beyer for his dominate win in the Grade 3 Precisionist Stakes at Santa Anita. He may try the turf at Del Mar for his next start.
1. Stellar Wind – She’s earned the number one spot for now after her second Grade 1 win of the season. However, Songbird looms large…
2. Songbird – The CHAMP is BACK in a big way with a very easy win in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps. I’ll keep her at second for now, but she’ll have every chance to pass Stellar Wind this summer.
3. Forever Unbridled – She had an absolutely perfect return to the races in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs. She won under a hand ride and is now ready for bigger and better things.
4. Vale Dori – She was valiant in defeat in the Beholder Mile, only losing to Stellar Wind by a head. This quality filly has closed the gap on the division’s elite.
5. Finest City – She was never within range of Vale Dori or Stellar Wind in the Beholder Mile, but she’s still a quality filly. She needs to only go one turn from now on.
Sleeper: Terra Promessa – She’s been running fantastic this year and recently proved that she can win outside of Oaklawn Park. Had to move her down to “Sleeper” after a great performance by Forever Unbridled at Churchill Downs.
1. Always Dreaming – He’s the only horse in the division to have two Grade 1 wins, including the Kentucky Derby, the division’s biggest race of the year.
2. Cloud Computing – Both he and Classic Empire have one win this year, and Cloud Computing has the bigger of the two, when he beat Classic Empire head-to-head in the Preakness.
3. Classic Empire – It was very disappointing that he had to scratch out of the Belmont Stakes, but he’ll go into the summer fresher than if he would’ve run. He’ll have every chance to take over the top spot with a few wins in the big races coming up this summer.
4. Tapwrit – Happily, this horse won the Belmont Stakes and proved his worth within the division. Just like the top 3 here, Tapwrit will have every chance to move up the rankings with big wins this summer.
5. Irish War Cry – His solid bounce-back effort in the Belmont Stakes proved that, on his best days, he can be pretty tough to beat. Hopefully, he’ll have a big summer campaign.
Sleeper: Timeline – A beautifully-easy win in the Grade 3 Pegasus has him set up for the Haskell Invitational on July 30 at Monmouth Park, where he’ll take on the top dogs in the division. McCraken is worth a mention because he bounced back to win the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs. Also, how about the return of Battle of Midway in the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes, as well as Irap and Girvin in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby? This division is entertaining!
1. Abel Tasman – Mike Smith gave this filly an incredible ride in the Grade 1 Acorn when she picked up her second huge stakes win in five weeks. Even thought I think that Unique Bella is more talented, Abel Tasman is putting together a big-time resume.
2. Unique Bella – She’s easily number one based on talent, but we must respect Abel Tasman for winning the Kentucky Oaks and Acorn. If Unique Bella comes back and wins big races (like Songbird last year), she can overtake the top spot. No workouts in a long time is concerning.
3. Lady Aurelia – She gave us a quite a thrill at Royal Ascot when winning the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes. The long-term goal for this international star will be the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
4. Paradise Woods – Her Kentucky Oaks effort was a total joke when she got into a heated speed duel with Miss Sky Warrior. She hasn’t accomplished enough to rank her too high yet, but she has the potential to bounce back and move up the rankings quickly.
5. Miss Sky Warrior – Much like Paradise Woods, throw out the joke that was her Kentucky Oaks.
Sleeper: La Coronel – She was outclassed in her start at Royal Ascot, but don’t forget about her. She’ll be tough when she returns to face the competition in this country.
1. Drefong – He’s number one in the rankings for now, but his long absence is troublesome. Mind Your Biscuits and Whitmore are poised to take over if he doesn’t come back soon.
2. Mind Your Biscuits – What a dramatic run to win the Golden Shaheen at Meydan. He can overtake the top spot with a win over Drefong.
3. Whitmore – I’m giving him a mulligan for his poor True North performance. That was not the “real” Whitmore by any stretch. If he can rebound, he’s still one of the top horses in this group.
4. Sharp Azteca – He gave a solid performance in the Met Mile, finishing second behind Mor Spirit’s freak performance. Seems 7 furlongs might be his perfect distance.
5. A.P. Indian – Though he’s had a couple of tough losses to start the year, you can tell that he’s rounding back into form. Unfortunately, the division is loaded, and he might be a cut below.
Sleeper: Roy H – He’s put together two back-to-back FAST races and proved his class with a great win in the Grade 1 True North.