Division Rankings: Tom's d'Etat can move to top with Whitney win

Division Rankings: Tom's d'Etat can move to top with Whitney win
Photo: Courtesy Churchill Downs

This weekend’s $750,000 Whitney (G1) at Saratoga will present an opportunity for Tom’s d’Etat to do something no horse has been able to do for over 14 months, dethrone Maximum Security from the No. 1 spot he has held in the older dirt males division.

The Division Rankings serve as a barometer as to where the Eclipse races stand for each division, and with a win this weekend in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga, Tom’s d’Etat will surpass Maximum Security in his accomplishments on the racetrack in 2020.

Tom’s d’Etat, 7, has been around awhile. It’s hard to believe, but he is a member of the same 3-year-old class that Arrogate, Nyquist and Exaggerator were a part of. He only ran three times in that 2016 season, breaking his maiden at Saratoga.

At age four he ran four times in the optional claiming ranks, showing some flashes of brilliance, and the plan was to take on eventual Horse of the Year Gun Runner in the Woodward Stakes (G1). That was derailed when a shadow line on an X-ray indicated the possible start of a condylar fracture. The decision was made to be proactive and put in a surgical screw and Tom's d'Etat didn't run again for 15 months.

Since a ninth place finish in last year’s Pegasus World Cup (G1), Tom’s d’Etat has improved steadily. After running well in several stakes last spring and summer, he finally broke through with his first graded stakes win in the Grade 2 Fayette last fall at Keeneland. He capped off his 2019 campaign with a win in the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill Downs.

Heading into 2020 big things were expected for this son of Smart Strike. But, as with many horses this season, he has been lightly raced. The Whitney will be only his third start of the season and first in a Grade 1. But to be fair, Grade 1 opportunity’s around two-turns for the Older Dirt Male division have been sparse. The Whitney will be only the third Grade 1 event for this division around two turns in 2020 thus far.

In Tom’s d’Etat's only two starts this year he was impressive. He defeated Improbable in the ungraded Oaklawn Mile Stakes and then he defeated By My Standards in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster last month. Both of those rivals are back to try Tom again in the Whiney.

The question has been asked by many, why isn’t Tom’s d’Etat ranked No. 1 right now? The answer is that he hasn’t done enough to unseat the No. 1 ranked Maximum Security, who incidentally hasn’t lost a race in 2020 either.

Both Tom’s d’Etat and Maximum Security have run the same number of times in 2020. Both have run in an ungraded stakes and a Grade 2 event. The difference is that Maximum Security’s ungraded stakes win was the Saudi Cup where he defeated several Grade 1 winners. In their Grade 2 events, Maximum Security defeated two Grade 1 winners. Tom’s d’Etat didn’t face a Grade 1 winner in the Stephen Foster (G2) where he did defeat several graded stakes winners.

Regardless of how anyone view’s Maximum Security right now, he has earned his place at the top.

Tom’s d’Etat faces a compact field in this weekend’s Whitney. If he can defeat the aforementioned By My Standards and Improbable again, along with Code of Honor who is also entered, he will deserve to take over the No. 1 spot in this division, for now.

G M B Racing is the owner of Tom’s d’Etat. Run by Gayle Benson and Greg Bensel, they name most of their horses after Gayle’s late husband Tom. The “D’Etat” in Tom’s name comes from the popular Mardi Gras parade Krewe d'Etat.

With a win this weekend, Tom’s d’Etat will march straight to the No. 1 spot.

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

Older Dirt Males

1.  
Maximum Security - Finally made his much anticipated return to the races in last weekend's San Diego Handicap (G2). Didn't win by much, but a win is a win. No denying the heart and grit this guy has shown on the racetrack, it will be interesting to see how he runs in the Pacific Classic in August. He is better going longer. Remember, he has finished behind only one rival in 11 career starts, defeating over 90 others.

2.  Tom's d'Etat – Scorched the field in the Stephen Foster (G2) for his fourth straight win going back to 2019. It's how he is winning that is opening eyes as he has been extremely fast speed-figure-wise and is a serious Horse of the Year contender. He does not take over the No. 1 spot because these rankings are about 2020, and the Foster was his first graded stakes win. He will run next in this weekend's Whitney (G1) at Saratoga.

3.  Vekoma – Sensational in the Met Mile (G1), he jumps to No. 3 here based off of his two Grade 1 wins this season. Although he likely won't run around two turns for now, he is clearly one of the top older dirt males in the country. His connections have stated they will now wait for the Forego (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 29 in their march toward the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. 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.

4.  By My Standards – Was no match for Tom's d'Etat in the Stephen Foster but was easily the best of the rest. He started his season with a win in an optional claimer and then won the New Orleans Classic and Oaklawn Handicap, both Grade 2. He will point for a rematch with Tom's d'Etat in the Whitney.

5.  Code of Honor – Ran a good race in the Met Mile as he got up late for the show spot. Still not sure he belongs with the very best of this division, but we will know for sure next time out as he too will point to the Whitney.

Next 5: Improbable, Mucho Gusto, Warrior's Charge, Tacitus, Midcourt.  

Older Dirt Females

1.  
Midnight Bisou – Romping in the Fleur De Lis (G2) for her first win of 2020, the Saudi Cup runner-up to Maximum Security has never finished off the board in 20 starts. Her career arc is now approaching the handful of past greats who have competed in the last 30 years. She will run this weekend in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga where I believe she is the most vulnerable she has been in quite some time. By no means a sure thing.

2.  Ce Ce  No excuses in the Santa Maria (G2) last out at Santa Anita, where she checked in a flat third. Still, with two Grade 1 wins already in 2020, she easily holds on to this spot. The Bo Hirsch homebred is expected to run in Sunday's Clement Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar .

3.  Ollie's Candy - You can throw a blanket over the next three or four here, but I am going to stick with Ollie's Candy for now even though she was beat last out in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps. She attended a very fast pace and gets extra credit for shipping across the country from her California home base to get beat a nose and a neck. She will go next in  the Clement Hirsch, a race she won in 2019.

4.  Fighting Mad - Won the Santa Maria (G2) in impressive fashion, defeating Ce Ce. Prior to that was off the board in the Desert Stormer Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita. We will find out in her next start if she is a contender in this division.

5.  Monomoy Girl - In her second start back after a lengthy layoff, she won the Ruffian (G2) last weekend. While the field was suspect at best, she did what she had to do in defeating Vexatious by two lengths. Still has some questions to be answered. She will run next in the La Troienne (G1) at Churchill Downs on Sept. 4.

Next 5: Dunbar Road, Point of Honor, Street Band, Guarana, She's a Julie. 

3-Year-Old-Males

1.  
Tiz the Law – Easily defeated an uninspiring Belmont field that was suspect at best. With several high-profile rivals out with injuries, I would expect him to hold down this spot for the entire summer. The Travers on Aug. 8 is his next scheduled start.

2.  Honor A. P. – The Santa Anita Derby winner will run this weekend in the ungraded Shared Belief Stakes run at a distance of 1 1/16 miles. I guess he heads to this spot because of the 50 points being awarded to the winner of this "Road to the Derby" points race. Not a big fan of this decision as he skipped major races such as the Haskell and Travers. Could drop from this spot soon.


3.  
Authentic – He barely held on in the Haskell (G1), but a win is a win. While I don't believe 10 furlongs is in his wheelhouse, he will nevertheless head to the Kentucky Derby for his next start. Based on his 2020 resume, he easily deserves this No. 3 spot. Won the San Felipe (G2) and Sham (G3) earlier this season.

4.  Art Collector - The winner of the Blue Grass (G2) for his first stakes win in his last start, he has really matured over his last two starts and appears to be a major player now for the upcoming Kentucky Derby. Love the move of running him in the Ellis Park Derby on Aug. 9 for his final race prior to the Kentucky Derby.

5.  King Guillermo - Impressed me with his runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby behind Nadal, showing everyone that his 49-1 upset win in his previous start, the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), was no fluke. Apparently his connections have decided to sit him now for 126 days and train up to the Kentucky Derby. It's a questionable decision at best, in my opinion.

Next 5: Ny Traffic, Maxfield, Uncle Chuck, Dr. Post, Rushie.

3-Year-Old-Females

1.  
Swiss Skydiver – Ran big in the Blue Grass (G2) against the boys where she beat all but the winner, Art Collector, quite handily. Widening her lead in this division, she will now set her sights on the Alabama (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 15.

2.  Gamine - Impressive winner of the Acorn by over 18 lengths for her first stakes win. She likely will appear again during the Saratoga meet in the seven-furlong Test Stakes (G1) on Aug. 8.

3.  Speech – Impressive winner of the Ashland (G1) last time out defeating Venetian Harbor, among others. Remember, in her two previous starts she was runner-up to Swiss Skydiver in the Santa Anita Oaks and to Gamine in an optional claimer at Oaklawn.

4.  Venetian Harbor– Runner-up to Speech and Swiss Skydiver in her last two starts, she previously won the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita.

5.  Paris Lights – The Bill Mott trained daughter of Curlin broke through in a big way in her stakes debut, a win in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.

Next 5: Donna Veloce, Finite, Shedaresthedevil, Sharing, Crystal Ball. 

Turf Males

1.  
United - Back in the No. 1 spot this week after his third graded stakes win this season in the Eddie Read (G2) at Del Mar. Now 3-for-3 this season, he appears to be the horse to beat in this division

2.  Zulu Alpha - Back from a brief freshening, the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) winner was impressive winning the Elkhorn (G2) in his last start at Keeneland. 

3.  Factor This - Made it three straight graded stakes wins, all in wire-to-wire fashion, with his narrow win in the Wise Dan (G2) at Churchill Downs. This 5-year-old is in the best form of his career and an Eclipse contender for trainer Brad Cox.


4.  Instilled Regard - Quite the 
career renaissance this son Arch is in the midst of.  Grade 1 placed at age two on the dirt, he finished fourth in the 2018 Kentucky Derby. He has found a home now on the grass at age 5 as he won his first Grade 1 race, the Manhattan at Belmont Park last time out. Now with two graded wins in the grass this season, he is very much in the Eclipse race here. Will go next in the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) on Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs.

5.  War of Will - A major player on the grass now as he pulled off a remarkable win in the Maker's Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland last time out. He joined Secretariat and California Chrome as just the third horse in modern history to win a Triple Crown event and a Grade 1 turf race. He will continue on the lawn for his next start in the Woodbine Mile on Sept. 19.

Next 5: Raging Bull, Admission Office, Bemma's Boy, Rockemperor, Decorated Invader.

Turf Females

1.  Rushing Fall 
– Very impressive winner of the Jenny Wiley (G1) in her last start. 
Clearly, this is a different Rushing Fall as compared with the version that ran the past two seasons. Last year, she simply wasn't good enough, and the previous season her connections ducked the top mares in the division.  The Wiley was her career best effort, and she beat a top notch filly in Jolie Olimpica. This could be the year she may finally win the Eclipse that so many have felt she had the talent to do.

2.  
Starship Jubilee – Remember, she held the No. 1 sport for most of the season until recently. She showed why when she defeated Sistercharlie in the 
Ballston Spa Stakes (G2) at Saratoga. Now 4-for-4 this season, she is a leading contender for the Eclipse in this division.
3.  Mean Mary
 – Took it to a new level last out when she romped in the New York Stakes (G2). With three graded stakes wins now on the season, previously winning Le Prevoyante Stakes (G3) and Orchid Stakes (G3) she is a surprise contender in this division. She will go next in the Grade 1 Diana on August 23 at Saratoga.

4.  Newspaperofrecord - Has rebounded very nicely from a disappointing 3-year-old season to take her first two races in 2020, both graded stakes. Her win in the Just a Game (G1) last out came at the expense of the defending champ of this division, Uni.
5.  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.

Next 5: Keeper Ofthe Stars, Juliet Foxtrot, Uni, Sistercharlie, Beau Recall.

Male Sprinters

1.  Vekoma 
- Like Mitole last year, he may run away and hide in this division as he now has a commanding lead here after his second straight Grade 1 win, this one in the Met Mile. Now 3-for-3 on the season. May run in the Forego (G1) at Saratoga in August.

2.  Volatile - 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. Will be interesting to see how he handles Vekoma down the road, should they face one another.

3.  Whitmore -  After breaking through the gate prior to the start, he still ran his race in the Vanderbilt when only defeated by 1 3/4 lengths. Earlier this season, he won the Count Fleet Sprint (G3) at Oaklawn. Shows no signs of slowing down at age seven.

4.  Mind Control - He too ran big in the Vanderbilt, beaten just two lengths. Started off 2020 with a win in the Toboggan Stakes (G3) and the Tom Fool (G3) at Aqueduct. 

5.  Network Effect - Has to move up here based off of his last two starts, where he was runner-up twice to Vekoma in the Grade 1 Carter and Met Mile. 

Next 5: Firenze Fire, McKinzie, No Parole, Flagstaff, New York Central.

Female Sprinters

1.  Guarana 
- Finally some clarity in this division as this gal takes over the top spot here after her game win in the Madison (G1) over a tough customer in Mia Mischief. Trainer Chad Brown has stated the year-end goal is the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Her next start will be the Ballerina at Saratoga on Aug. 8.

2.  Mia Mischief - Passed Guarana turning for home in the Ballerina and looked on her way to victory. A tough loss for sure, but she was clearly the best of the rest and will get more chances later this year to avenge the loss.

3.  Hard Not to Love - Hard Not to Love won the seven-furlong Santa Monica (G2) at Santa Anita, but in her last two starts she has tried to stretch out in the Beholder Mile and Santa Maria at Santa Anita, where she has performed admirably with a second and a third. She may need to be removed from this division because she will continue around two turns for her next start, the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar on August 2.


4.  
Bell's the One – Ran a good race in the Madison, where she finished third. Belongs in the top tier of this division and could also run next in the Ballerina at Saratoga.

5.  Kimari - Second to the boys in the Group 1 Commonwealth at Royal Ascot, she was well clear of the 14 others. Her only other start this year resulted in a win at Oaklawn in the Purple Mountain Stakes. Her connections have the Breeders' Cup Sprint against males as their long-range goal.

Next 5: Come Dancing, Break Even, Special Relativity, Jean Elizabeth, Frank's Rockette.


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.

" Manila and the Arlington Million

" California Chrome in Rarified Air

" Cigar and the Pacific Classic

" Spending Time With Game on Dude

" Go For Wand: Gone But Not Forgotten


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