Division Rankings: Authentic looks to tighten grip

Division Rankings: Authentic looks to tighten grip
Photo: Benoit

Kentucky Derby winner Authentic heads into Saturday's Preakness as the No. 2 ranked 3-year-old in these rankings, and with the No. 1 ranked Tiz the Law skipping this last leg of the 2020 Triple Crown, Authentic is poised to establish clear leadership of the division and Eclipse race.

With a win in the Preakness, Authentic will have two jewels of the Triple Crown on his resume, in most seasons that would all but guarantee the Eclipse.

Since the advent of the Eclipse Awards in 1971 there have been 28 dual classic winners, only two – Riva Ridge (1972) and Tabasco Cat (1994) – failed to win the Eclipse.

The Preakness will also be Authentic's second appearance in this year’s Triple Crown. Tiz the Law also ran in two jewels, previously winning the Belmont. The connections of Tiz the Law chose to skip this weekend’s Preakness to train up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Authentic is here and ready to run. This matters in an Eclipse race as close as this.

Authentic already owns a head to head win over Tiz the Law, and seemingly the best Tiz the Law could do is even that score in the Breeder’s Cup Classic should both be there to run.

Were Authentic to win the Preakness and skip the Breeders’ Cup, I contend that Authentic is the Eclipse winner of the division, regardless of what Tiz the Law does in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

As for the Authentic’s challengers this weekend? Art Collector and Thousand Words are the fresh horses. Both missed the Kentucky Derby for different reasons, and both come into the Preakness having not run for two months.

Art Collector would have been the second wagering choice in the Kentucky Derby. The Blue Grass winner comes into the Preakness on a four race win streak and has looked good and run fast. If Art Collector is 100% and has no ill effects from his left front heel issue that caused his to scratch from last month’s Kentucky Derby, he merits a strong chance to win on Saturday.

He is one of only two horses I can see upsetting Authentic on Saturday.

Thousand Words was 9-1 when he upset Honor A. P. in the Shared Belief Stakes in early August at Del Mar. The Shared Belief was at 8.5 furlongs, and prior to that race Thousand Words struggled when off the board in two stakes races. Ranked No. 5 now, I don’t believe he is capable of upsetting the field.

An intriguing entrant is the top ranked 3-year-old filly Swiss Skydiver. Swiss Skydiver already faced off against Art Collector and was beaten by 3 ½ lengths. She was no match for Art Collector that day, but if Art Collector doesn’t fire his best shot and Authentic regresses off of his career best effort last out in the Kentucky Derby, Swiss Skydiver is certainly capable of winning.

Remember, she defeated the other 11 males that were in the Blue Grass, and was flattered when the Rushie, a horse she defeated by more than four lengths, came back to win the Pat Day Mile (G2) on Kentucky Derby day.

With that, here's a look at this week's Division Rankings.

Older Dirt Males

1. Improbable – Don't look now but this guy has put together three Grade 1 wins in a row from coast to coast. Now the front-runner for Horse of the Year, he will head to the Breeders' Cup Classic as the favorite after his impressive Awesome Again (G1) score over the previous No. 1, Maximum Security.

2. Maximum Security – No real excuses when runner-up to Improbable, only the second time in his 13 race career he has finished behind a horse at the finish. Did finish up well after running on the wrong lead in the stretch. Still feel that 10 furlongs is his preferred distance, so don't count him out of the Breeders' Cup Classic or Horse of the Year race just yet. 

3. Tom's d'Etat – Loses nothing as far as his reputation is concerned as a result of his loss in the Whitney, where he stumbled at the start, losing ground in the process, and could not overcome the ridiculously slow fractions. However, I question the decision by his connections to train up to the Breeders' Cup, where he will try 10 furlongs for the first time off of a 98-day layoff. He stays here at No. 2 for now, but he faces a tall order to win the Breeders' Cup.

4. Vekoma – Off since his sensational win in the Met Mile (G1) last June, he is clearly one of the top older dirt males in the country. Since this year’s Breeders’ Cup is at Keeneland, the Dirt Mile would be run around two turns. Vekoma's lone win around two turns came in last year's Blue Grass (G2) at 1 1/8 miles. Back on the work tab, but seems increasingly unlikely he will get a race in prior to the Breeders' Cup.

5  By My Standards – Came up a winner in the recent Alysheba (G2). Now four for six on the year, he has quietly put together an outstanding season. Earlier this season, he won the New Orleans Classic (G2) and Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Just a cut below the top ones right now. The Breeders' Cup Classic will be his next start; don't count him out.

Next 5: Code of Honor, Global Campaign, Tacitus, Midcourt, Mr. Money.

Older Dirt Females

1. Monomoy Girl – With the retirement of Midnight Bisou and Fighting Mad's loss in last weekend's Zenyatta, this gal will likely win the Eclipse regardless of what she does in the Breeders' Cup. She has made it all the way back on top after crossing the wire a winner in her 10th straight race. Her win in the La Troienne (G1) was much like the others, won with relative ease. 

2. Midnight Bisou – Retired this week, she finished her career with a stellar running line of 23: 16-6-3.

3. Fighting Mad – Never looked like a winner in last weekend's Zenyatta where she was 2-5. Was the impressive winner of the Clement L Hirsch (G1) in her previous start, defeating several who are ranked below.

4. Ollie's Candy – Ran another stellar race in the Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar, where she was runner-up to Fighting Mad. She is Grade 1 placed four times in 2020 and will get another chance at a top level win in Sunday's Spinster at Keeneland.

5. Vexatious – After two straight stellar efforts, she took a step back when finishing fifth behind Monomoy Girl in the the La Troienne. She previously won the Personal Ensign (G1), defeating Midnight Bisou.

Next 5: Dunbar Road, Point of Honor, Serengeti Empress, Hard Not to Love, Guarana.

3-Year-Old-Males

1. Tiz the Law – Ran his race in the Kentucky Derby, but he met his match in the ultra-game Authentic. He had no excuses. He still holds on to this spot, but only narrowly. His previous wins will not be ignored here, and his resume is still the best in this division. His connections chose to skip the Preakness and train up to the Breeders' Cup Classic.

2. Authentic – Ran a remarkable race in the Kentucky Derby, showing tremendous grit in the Churchill Downs stretch to pull away late for the win. Silences all distance critics and would take over the top spot with a win in the Preakness this weekend.

3. Art Collector – Scratched out of the Kentucky Derby because of a minor foot problem, now he runs in this weekend's Preakness. The winner of the Ellis Park Derby and Blue Grass (G2) in his previous two starts, he will be Authentic's biggest obstacle.

4. Honor A. P. – Recently retired, he will drop from this spot. Never a threat to win, but ran a good race to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Have to question the route his connections took to get him to Churchill Downs as one of the reasons he wasn't there at the end.

5. Thousand Words – After struggling in a few races earlier this season he put it all together in his last start, the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar. Still not sold on him, but he runs this weekend in the Preakness where he can certainly move up.

Next 5: King Guillermo, Rushie, Max Player, Ny Traffic, Mr. Big News.

3-Year-Old-Females

1. Swiss Skydiver – Although she finished runner-up to Shedaresthedevil in the Kentucky Oaks, she loses nothing in stature and is still the clear leader in the division and Eclipse race. Remember, she has put together an impressive resume in 2020. The Alabama (G1) winner has won three other graded stakes and was runner-up to the boys in the Blue Grass. I commend her connections for the sporting gesture of running in this weekend's Preakness where she is a legitimate contender for the win.

2. Shedaresthedevil – Jumps from No. 8 to this spot here based off of her third straight win, this time in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). She has matured greatly since her last loss, a third-place finish in the Fantasy (G3), where she was beaten by Swiss Skydiver by 13 lengths. The Eclipse is still a long shot for this gal, though.

3. Gamine – No excuses in her Kentucky Oaks try, where she set soft fractions but couldn't hold on. Always felt the Kentucky Oaks would be too far for her; connections will now point to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She was spectacular when sprinting during the summer.

4. Speech – No real excuses when checking in fourth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). While she didn't have much of a pace, she was never too far back. The Ashland (G1) at Keeneland is her lone stakes win so far this season.

5. Harvest Moon – Didn't start racing until last June and is now a Grade 1 winner as she defeated the strong favorite, Fighting Mad, in last weekend's Zenyatta (G1). She is now 4 for 5.

Next 5: Venetian Harbor, Sharing, Paris Lights, Donna Veloce, Magic Attitude.

Turf Males

1. United – Moves back to No. 1 after his facile win in the John Henry Turf Championship (G2) last weekend. He is 4 for 5 on the season but has yet to win a Grade 1 event. Will head to the Breeders' Cup Turf with a narrow lead in this divisional Eclipse race.

2. Zulu Alpha – No excuses when third in the recent Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) beaten by Arklow. Not much separates the top few in this division. Has won three graded stakes this season

3. Factor This – His four-race win streak came to an end in the recent Turf Classic (G1) loss to Digital Age at Churchill Downs, but he stays here at No. 3. Still an Eclipse contender who might train up to the Breeders' Cup Turf.

4. War of Will – Somewhat of a disappointment in the Woodbine Mile, where he checked in third. He previously won the Maker's Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland. Will be interesting to see where his connections point him to next, but I think he deserves a shot in the Breeders' Cup Mile for his best chance to win on Breeders' Cup day.

5. Mo Forza – Returned after a seven-month layoff to demolish his competition in the Del Mar Mile (G2) last out. He was a three-time graded stakes winner in 2019.

Next 5: Halladay, Digital Age, Red King, Arklow, Rockemperor.

Turf Females

1. 
Rushing Fall – Clearly, this is a different Rushing Fall as compared with the version that ran the last two seasons. Was sensational in a win over the very best in her division in her last start, the Diana (G1). Now 3-for-3 with three Grade 1 wins this season, she might finally win the Eclipse that has eluded her for years. The Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf will be next.

2. Starship Jubilee – Stellar in her Woodbine Mile (G1) win over the boys, where she showed she is still in this Eclipse race. She is 5 for 6 on the season and a trip to the Breeders' Cup is likely next.

3. Mean Mary – Was very game in defeat to Rushing Fall in the Diana. In her last start, she romped in the New York Stakes (G2). With three graded stakes wins now on the season, previously winning the Le Prevoyante Stakes (G3) and Orchid Stakes (G3), she is a surprise contender in this division.

4. Jolie Olimpica – Ran a winning race in the Jenny Wiley when runner-up to Rushing Fall. Earlier this season, she won the Monrovia (G2) and Las Cienegas Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita. Recovered from a fever and is back galloping but won't have a work for a few more days before trainer Richard Mandella decides on whether to point to the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1)

5. 
Newspaperofrecord – No way around it, she disappointed as the huge favorite in the Distaff Turf Mile (G1) at Churchill Downs. Her Breeders' Cup aspirations are on the line this weekend in the First Lady (G1) where she will face off against Uni and Beau Recall, among others.

Next 5: Beau Recall, Sistercharlie, Sharing, Got Stormy, Mucho Unusual.

Male Sprinters

1. Vekoma – His lack of a race since the Met Mile has left this divisional Eclipse open for others to take and also has helped his Horse of the Year chances evaporate. 3-for-3 on the season, he is finally back on the work tab. Would like to see him once more prior to the Breeders' Cup, where a run in the Dirt Mile or Sprint are on the table.

2. Volatile – Retired because of an injury, he could still end up with this Eclipse so he stays here at No. 2. Nice win in the Vanderbilt (G1) over several others ranked below. Not nearly as dominant as he was at Churchill, but as the controlling speed, he should be commended for quick finishing fractions to hold off all comers.

3. C Z Rocket – You could have claimed this guy earlier this year, and trainer Peter Miller did just that on April 30 for 40k. Since that claim, C Z Rocket has won five races in a row, his last two in Grade 2 events - the Pat O'Brien in August and the Santa Anita Sprint Championship last weekend.

4. Whitmore – I am tossing his last in the Forego, which was run in a torrential downpour over a sloppy track. Previously, he ran his race in the Vanderbilt when defeated by only 1 3/4 lengths by Volatile. Earlier this season, he won the Count Fleet Sprint (G3) at Oaklawn. Will run in this weekend's Phoenix Stakes (G2) in his final start before the Breeders' Cup.

5. Collusion Illusion – This 3-year-old has been superb sprinting as he beat older two back in the Grade 1 Bring Crosby at Del Mar, but was defeated by the older C Z Rocket in last weekend's Santa Anita Sprint Championship where he checked in third.

Next 5: Complexity, Firenze Fire, Network Effect, Flagstaff, Yaupon. 

Female Sprinters

1. Serengeti Empress – Yes, she came up a nose short in the Derby City Distaff (G1), but once again she set ridiculous early fractions and was there at the wire. With two straight outstanding sprints, she is the best in this division when she is on her game. The front-runner for the Eclipse right now.

2. Guarana – Hasn't run since her Madison win last June. At the time, trainer Chad Brown stated the year-end goal was the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, but she suffered a setback in training and was forced to miss the Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga. The Breeders' Cup is still on the table, but it looks like a long shot that she will make the race.

3. Gamine – As expected, her connections have made the wise choice to keep her around one turn. The Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint will be next. A real Eclipse contender if she were to win the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

4. Bell's the One – Ran a strong race to nail Serengeti Empress on the wire in the Derby City Distaff, where her closing kick was aided by a fast pace. Prior to her win in the Derby City, she was third in the Madison (G1) at Keeneland.

5. Mia Mischief – Passed Guarana turning for home in the Madison (G1) at Keeneland and looked on her way to victory but was beaten to the wire by a very game Guarana. Scratched out of the recent Derby City Distaff.

Next 5: Bellafina, Come Dancing, Frank's Rockette, Kimari, Break Even.

2-Year-Old Males

1. Jackie's Warrior – The first horse since Favorite Trick in 1997 to pull off the Saratoga Special (G2) and Hopeful (G1) double at Saratoga. Has built a large lead in this division, winning all three of his starts. The real question is, can he maintain this form around two turns?

2. Sittin On Go – Certainly was impressive in the Iroquois (G3), where he won going away at the mile distance. He is 2-for-2 on his career and should start next in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 3.

3. Reinvestment Risk – Impressive maiden winner was runner-up to Jackie's Warrior in the Hopeful. I get the sense that this guy will enjoy going longer.

4. Dr. Schivel – Winner of the Del Mar Futurity on Labor Day, but beat only five others. Likely done racing in 2020.

5. Get Her Number – Dialed In colt made his first win on the dirt a big one, last weekend's Grade 1 American Pharoah at Santa Anita. Previously was off the board in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes.

Next 5: Calibrate, Golden Pal, Midnight Bourbon, Breeze on By, Spielberg.

2-Year-Old Females

1. Vequist – Dominant winner of the Spinaway (G1) in her second start, she has run the fastest of all of the graded stakes winners in this division. The daughter of Nyquist seems to have a bright future, as her pedigree suggests she will relish the longer distances. Her connections have stated her next start will be around two turns.

2. Dayoutoftheoffice – Not much separates this gal from Vequist. Winner of her first two starts, she was impressive in the Schuylerville  (G3). Finally back on the work tab, she could run next in the Frizette (G1) at Belmont on Oct. 10.

3. Princess Noor – Easy winner of the Chandelier (G2) at Santa Anita and the Del Mar Debutante (G1) out west. The only knock against her are her speed figures, it was a historically slow last out win in the Chandelier. She is 3-for-3 on her career.

4. Girl Daddy – Best of the Midwest so far, she is also 2-for-2 on her career. Her Pocahontas (G3) win at Churchill Downs was over the one-mile distance.

5. Thoughtfully – Adironack (G2) winner has won both of her career starts and will stretch out in her next start, possibly in the Frizette.

Next 5: Toby's Heart, Crazy Beautiful, Forest Caraway, Cantata, Campanelle.


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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