Each week for the rest of the year, we will rank the best thoroughbred horses in America based on their divisions. Arlington Park took center stage this past weekend with three Grade 1 races, highlighted by the Grade 1 Arlington Million. Lets see how the rankings changed from last week after several solid turf performances.
1. Arrogate – He seems to have bounced back from his upset Grade 2 San Diego loss in good order and will run in the Pacific Classic on Saturday. He’s still a clear number one at this point and could regain his “unbeatable” status if he returns to normal this weekend.
2. Gun Runner – He produced another brilliant performance in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga. Clearly the second-best older horse in the country, he is at least within range of the number-one spot in this division.
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 just like Gun Runner. Saratoga could be next for him.
4. Keen Ice – You have to love the consistency that this horse provides. He brings the same effort each and every time, and he proved that once again with a nice second-place effort in the Whitney.
5. Shaman Ghost – He had a tough loss to Keen Ice last time out in the Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park, but he’s working steadily for a start in the Woodward Stakes on closing weekend at Saratoga.
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’ll try his hand in the Pacific Classic this weekend.
1. Stellar Wind – She made it three Grade 1 wins in a row with another narrow win over Vale Dori once again in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch. At this point, she has a nice lead over Songbird in the division, but one race could change it all.
2. Songbird – She proved victorious in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap, but it was not as impressive as you would think. She’ll run in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga next.
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. Vale Dori – Even though she lost again to Stellar Wind, I moved her up a spot. She battled all the way down to the wire with before being narrowly defeated. She’s ranked behind three horses who are Hall of Fame-caliber.
5. 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.
Sleeper: Paulassilverlining – Quietly having a tremendous sprint season, she’s on target for the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga.
1. Oscar Performance – The Secretariat victory gives him back-to-back Grade 1 triumphs and easily puts him at number one. How the dirt horses fare over the next three months will be critical to him staying number one, but if the season ended today, he would win the Eclipse Award for this division.
2. Irap – He’s run two good races in a row and owns a win over the Haskell winner, so amazingly, he is the top dirt horse in the division. There is still plenty left to be decided here.
3. Girvin – What an incredible race for him in the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes when he defeated McCraken right at the wire despite not having the greatest trip. That’s two great races from him in a row, as he was also solid in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby.
4. Good Samaritan – Wow… maybe he wanted to run on dirt all along. He defeated the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness winners in what was basically a gallop for him. If he can win the Travers, he’ll move up to number one, and you have to think that he’ll have a big chance to do just that.
5. Always Dreaming – On resume alone, he’s still number one, and as poor as he was in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, I guess it’s meaningful that he finished third. However, he has been bad in his last two races, and I don’t see him winning another.
Sleeper: The Baffert duo of West Coast and American Anthem could easily come to Saratoga on Travers Day and win both the Travers and the Jerkens Stakes. Wins by either one will catapult them into the rankings and put them right in the mix.
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: American Gal – She deserves to be mentioned after dominating rivals in the Grade 1 Test. If she keeps running like that, she’ll be ranked in the top 5 very soon.
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. 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. With the craziness that happened to Drefong in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby, this horse may now be the number-one sprinter for Baffert.
3. El Deal – He absolutely destroyed the field in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt Handicap. Trainer Jorge Navarro has him running at a level that will make him hard to beat – his early speed is deadly.
4. Sharp Azteca – It’s easy to forget about him, but he is easily the second-best dirt mile horse in the country. He had a stellar return at Monmouth Park on Haskell Day.
5. Drefong – So we waited eight months for that… wow! The Bing Crosby was certainly an adventure, as he bucked jockey Mike Smith right at the start, and now I wonder how he’ll come back from that. He definitely has some proving to do after that disaster.
Sleeper: Imperial Hint – He’s been forgotten about because we haven’t seen him in a while. He was impressive in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint a couple of months back at Gulfstream Park.