Division Rankings: Starship Jubilee still has Eclipse chance

Division Rankings: Starship Jubilee still has Eclipse chance
Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA

When we began the 2020 season and these rankings kicked of in early February, it was Uni who held the No. 1 ranking in the Turf Female division. As the defending Eclipse winner of the division, this made sense, and she was slated to return to action at age 6 to try to win another Eclipse. 

As the season wore on and got into May, none of the expected female turf stars had run yet, and to win Eclipse awards you have to run. With that, Uni and others who had not run yet were dropped from the rankings and a newcomer, Starship Jubilee, took over the No. 1 spot. 

For two months, Starship Jubilee held down the No. 1 ranking in the Turf Female division based off of her early-season exploits. Starship Jubilee was impressive with wins in her first three starts of the year, but then we was idle for for over four months. She fell out of the No. 1 spot for the same reason Uni did — lack of races.

She finally made it back to the races in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga in late July and won her fourth straight, this time defeating Sistercharlie. Starship Jubilee was back and entrenched in the No. 2 spot behind the resurgent Rushing Fall, who was dominant in her first two 2020 starts.

Last month, these two met on the racetrack in the Diana (G1) at Saratoga; also present were Mean Mary and Sistercharlie. Rushing Fall validated her spot at the top with a gutsy win over a stubborn Mean Mary. Starship Jubilee checked in fourth, beaten four lengths.

At the time, I wrote that Starship Jubilee ran her race, but it just wasn't good enough. I wondered if perhaps she was just a slight cut below the very best in this division. Still ranked No. 3, she was still in the Eclipse race, but she needed to make something happen soon to get her name back in the minds of the voters.

Her connections made the bold choice to take on males in last weekend's Woodbine Mile (G1). I loved the outside-the-box thinking — it was just what was needed to elevate her Eclipse resume. Starship Jubilee made her connections look brilliant by winning the Woodbine Mile convincingly.

In the best form of her career at age 7, the 2019 Canadian Horse of the Year now sports an outstanding record of 19 wins from 38 starts in her career and has won five of her six starts in 2020.

Now things get interesting.

The Eclipse is very likely going to come down to Rushing Fall and Starship Jubilee. Sure, Mean Many, Newspaperofrecord and perhaps Beau Recall could stake a claim with Breeders' Cup wins, but the two that have occupied the No. 1 spot in this division for the most weeks this season are now the favorites to battle it out for the Eclipse.

Starship Jubilee likely will run next in the Breeders' Cup Mile, where she could face off against Newspaperofrecord and Beau Recall. Rushing Fall will run in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Things will get settled on the track, sort of. What if both win their respective Breeders' Cup races? 

The Eclipse would have to go to Rushing Fall based on her head-to-head win over Starship Jubilee.

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

Older Dirt Males

1. Maximum Security – Set for a showdown with Whitney (G1) winner Improbable in this weekend's Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita. Last time out he won the Pacific Classic (G1)  for his 10th win in 12 starts. Another win should silence even more doubters as he looks to be on his way to another Eclipse award.

2. 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.

3. Improbable – Certainly has redeemed himself in a big way from his somewhat disappointing 3-year-old campaign. Now a winner of two straight Grade 1 races this season after his Whitney win, he is an Eclipse contender. But he will never have the setup he had in the Whitney again. Faces a huge test against Maximum Security in this weekend's Awesome Again.

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, would like to see him 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, Warrior's Charge.

Older Dirt Females

1. Monomoy Girl – 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. Now with three wins in three starts in 2020, the Eclipse likely will come down to a much anticipated matchup with Midnight Bisou.

2. Midnight Bisou – Her loss in the Personal Ensign opened the door for others in this division, and she has only one win this year, in the Fleur De Lis (G2). Runner-up to Maximum Security in the Saudi Cup, she has never finished off the board in 21 starts. Will point to the Spinster (G1) at Keeneland for her next start, where she needs a win to right the ship.

3. Fighting Mad – Impressive winner of the Clement L Hirsch (G1), defeating several who are ranked below, she deserves this spot. Previously won the Santa Maria (G2) in impressive fashion, defeating Ce Ce. Will have a shot to win this Eclipse in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She will go next this weekend in the Zenyatta Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita.

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 more chances to break through.

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, Guarana, Serengeti Empress, Ce Ce.

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 next month.

3. Art Collector – Scratched out of the Kentucky Derby because of a minor foot problem, he now will be pointed to the Preakness. The winner of the Ellis Park Derby and Blue Grass (G2) in his previous two starts, he will be Authentic's biggest obstacle if Tiz the Law doesn't run.

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. King Guillermo – His connections decided to sit him for 126 days after his Arkansas Derby runner-up finish and train up to the Kentucky Derby. It was a decision that backfired and cost them an entire summer of racing. He was scratched because of a fever, and now he will miss the Preakness because of suspensory problems.

Next 5: Thousand Words, Rushie, Max Player, Ny Traffic, Dr Post.

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. She is very likely to enter the Preakness against the males for her next start.

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. Venetian Harbor – She hit the trifecta of runner-up finishes with her Test (G1) runner-up to Gamine. In her last three starts, she has finished second to Speech, Swiss Skydiver and now Gamine. Earlier this season, she won the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. Skipped the Kentucky Oaks and is expected to stick to sprinting.

Next 5: Sharing, Paris Lights, Crystal Ball, Finite, Donna Veloce.

Turf Males

1. 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.

2. United – No excuses for this guy either when disappointing as runner-up in the Del Mar Handicap (G2). He previously won three graded stakes in a row, including the Eddie Read (G2) in his last start. Will get a chance to move back to the No. 1 spot if he can take care of business in this weekend's John Henry Turf Championship (G2) at Santa Anita.

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.

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. Could be a major player in the Breeders' Cup Mile in the fall. She was slated to run in the recent Ladies Sprint (G3) at Kentucky Downs, but reportedly fell ill and did not make the trip from Southern California for trainer Richard Mandella.

5. 
Newspaperofrecord – No way around it, she disappointed as the huge favorite in the Distaff Turf Mile (G1) at Churchill Downs. It will be interesting to see whether her connections point to the Breeders' Cup Mile. In her previous two starts this season, she rebounded very nicely from a disappointing 3-year-old season to take the Just a Game (G1) and Intercontinental Stakes (G3) at Belmont.

Next 5: Beau Recall, Sistercharlie, Sharing, Got Stormy, Uni.

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. 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. 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.

4. Collusion Illusion – Unbeaten in three starts this year, he won the Bing Crosby (G1) in his last start. Not convinced he is anywhere near the top two, but he will get chances to prove me wrong. Will get one more start prior to the Breeders' Cup, the Santa Anita Sprint (G1) in October.

5. Complexity – Maybe a bit highly ranked here, but not much separates the next half-dozen in this division. In only his second start of 2020, he was runner-up in the sloppy Forego. I get the feeling he could be a contender in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Next 5: Network Effect, Win Win Win, C Z Rocket, Mind Control, 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 is kept sprinting. 

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. Breeze on By – Unbeaten in South Florida, where he has won all three of his starts easily. The In Reality Stakes at Gulfstream on Sept. 26 will be his next start.

Next 5: Calibrate, Golden Pal, Spielberg, Freedom Fighter, Midnight Bourbon.

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. Look for her to appear at Keeneland for her next start.

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 – Certainly the leader of this division out West, she won the Del Mar Debutante (G1) by six widening lengths. Will run this weekend in the Chandelier (G2) at Santa Anita; she is 2-for-2 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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