Each week for the rest of the year, we will rank the best thoroughbred horses in America based on their divisions. Last weekend marked the beginning of Del Mar and Saratoga which means these rankings could change in major ways over the next six weeks. Lets see how things changed after week one at the two historic tracks:
1. Arrogate – Uh oh… the “unbeatable” Arrogate was an eye-popping fourth in the San Diego Handicap. He now must regroup in a major way following that kind of performance.
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. On target for the Whitney Handicap, the door is open every so slightly for him to now reach the number one spot.
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; however, he hasn’t been training well as of late.
4. Shaman Ghost – He still looks like he belongs in this spot, but his loss to Keen Ice in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap was disappointing. Could he be tailing off?
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 earned the number one spot after her second Grade 1 win of the season. She’ll be running at Del Mar this weekend in the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Stakes. A win will widen her lead in the division.
2. Songbird – She proved victorious in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap, but it was not as impressive as you would think. Now it’s being said that we may not see her again unit the Zenyatta Stakes in late September. I’m content with leaving Stellar Wind first for now.
3. Lady Eli – Her tremendous performance in the Grade 1 Diana now gives her a shot in this division as it was her second Grade 1 win of the year (following the Gamely). It’s going to be tough to overtake the top two, but she is now within range.
4. 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.
5. 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.
Sleeper: Dona Bruja – This turf filly is one to look out for this year. Since coming to the United States, she’s won both starts in impressive fashion, including most recently in the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap at Belmont Park.
1. Always Dreaming – The Kentucky Derby winner returns this weekend in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. He’s been training well leading up to this race.
2. Cloud Computing – Also returning this weekend in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, he and Always Dreaming will be an early summer showdown! He doesn’t get much respect yet, but that could change.
3. Classic Empire – He was targeting a start in the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes but will now point for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes instead because of lingering foot issues. Not a great sign for this star-crossed 3-year-old.
4. Tapwrit – Pointing for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, it looks like he will also skip the Haskell/Jim Dandy. I’m not sure that’s a good sign.
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. He will run this Sunday in the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park.
Sleeper: Timeline – A beautifully-easy win in the Grade 3 Pegasus has him set up for the Haskell Invitational this weekend, 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, and could run in the Haskell Stakes as well. Also, how about the return of Battle of Midway in the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes? But the list doesn’t end there. Irap now has two nice wins in a row (winning premier events in Ohio and Indiana), and West Coast was simply awesome in the Los Alamitos Derby. This division is deep with talent!
1. Abel Tasman – Thoroughly entrenched now as the number one horse in this division after her third straight Grade 1 victory, she should have the Eclipse Award in the bag – as long as she doesn’t completely fall apart.
2. Unique Bella – She’s easily number one based on talent, but we must respect Abel Tasman for winning the Kentucky Oaks and Acorn. At this point, her passing Abel Tasman is becoming more and more unlikely.
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. Unchained Melody – She defeated a decent field in the Grade 2 Mother Goose with ease. She looks to be the rising star in the division after dominating the year so far and could be a really good horse this summer.
Sleeper: Elate – Could we finally be seeing her full talents coming forward? She ws probably the best horse in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.
1. Mind Your Biscuits – He demolished the field in the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship to earn the number-one spot. His level of improvement is off the charts.
2. Drefong – He’s lost his top spot spot for now, but a big return this summer could change things. He holds a two-race head-to-head lead over Mind Your Biscuits and looks to return this weekend at Del Mar in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby.
3. Danzing Candy – It’s hard to deny how good he’s looked in his last two races, and his 107 Beyer speed figure in the Grade 2 San Carlos is scary-good. Bob Baffert continues to be on fire.
4. 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. He’s pointing to the Grade 1 Vanderbilt Handicap this weekend at Saratoga.
5. Imperial Hint – His strong effort in the Smile Sprint could be his coming-out party this year. He looked like a horse that could be turning into a beast.
Sleeper: 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.