J.N. Campbell’s NTRA T-bred Poll Submission: Week 27 ... Domestic Spending spent ...

Week 27 of Turfwriter J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Poll is here...
Week 27 of Turfwriter J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Poll is here...

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J.N. Campbell’s NTRA Thoroughbred Poll Submissions: Week 27

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Top Thoroughbred and Top 3-Year-Old Categories are determined by weekly polls of the nation’s leading writers and broadcasters that regularly cover the sport. Eligible media cast votes for their “Top 10” horses, with points awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.

The NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll is conducted weekly from February through the Monday following the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll is conducted weekly from February through the Monday following the Belmont Stakes, which concludes the Triple Crown Trail.

As a member of the Turfwriting Media, I will be posting my weekly contributions, and offering editorials about horses that rise or fall in the polls. You can look for a full list of the Polls at the following NTRA website. It should make for another exciting season of Thoroughbred racing in North America!

Here is my 27th submission for this week’s action…

Top Thoroughbred Poll w/Notes …

1. LETRUSKA: Fausto Gutierrez’s ace looked like she was going to run out of her horseshoes in both the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) @SHRP, all the way to the Apple Blossom (G1) @OP; she did not disappoint, besting Monomoy Girl down the stretch in that last one. Then she took on some of the best in the division in the Ogden Phipps (G1) at Belmont. It was one of the highlights of the day. Gutierrez then got bold, sending her unexpectedly to the Grade II Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs. She won easily, scoring an automatic bid to the Breeders’ Cup. Now, moving forward she has the potential for both a run at Saratoga (Grade 1 Personal Ensign S.), and to be the favorite in the Distaff (G1) at Del Mar. Sky is the limit; holds the top spot …

2. ESSENTIAL QUALITY: Trainer Brad Cox said a little less than a year ago that this Tapit colt and Godolphin homebred had all the tools to get the 1½ distance in the Belmont Stakes … he did. Race after race, he has met a series of challenges and with Luis Saez along for the ride, he just keeps going and going … The Kentucky Derby (G1) was the only blemish on what has been a perfect record. Though he was caught wide, he still was game. The same happened this past weekend in the Jim Dandy (G2). But “EQ” responded with a score. Now, he seems poised to take the Travers (G1). Come one … come all …

3. KNICKS GO: Brad Cox’s front-running ace came back strong on Saturday ... clearly that race at Prairie Meadows was just the ticket to round him into shape. Joel Rosario did what he needed to do … get to the front … and the rest was history. This is a special horse because few can run like he does. It is the “Catch Me If You Can” approach … If he makes the lead, then it could well be over. How that will play out at Del Mar in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) will be insanely interesting. The Korean Horse Racing Authority has quite a runner from a barn that just continues to churn out victories.

4. MAX PLAYER: The Steve Asmussen-trainee out of Honor Code cracks the Top Ten after a command performance in the Suburban (G2) at Belmont. It was an impressive win, as he was taking on fellow 4-yr-olds Mystic Guide and Happy Saver. Jockey Ricardo Santana wait for just the right moment as the stretch arrived for the “ask,” and his mount did not disappoint. Now, with BC Classic tickets in his saddle, Asmussen has options moving forward. He can test the waters of Saratoga, and that makes him a dangerous runner as we head towards the second half of the summer. Maybe he is a “player” that we need to consider as a potential major contender in the Classic Division.

5. EXPRESS TRAIN: Trainer John Shirreffs never quits … he continues to work hard and condition the next generation of champions. Here is one that continues to move forward, despite the occasional setback. The now 4-yr-old cracks the Top Ten after a gutsy performance at Del Mar in the Grade II San Diego Handicap. Beating out the likes of Rushie and the heavily-favored Royal Ship (BRZ), was nothing short of impressive. Now, the 4-yr-old looks to be one of the frontrunners to contest the TVG Pacific Classic next week. Union Rags’ offspring can run, as his earnings nearly top $660k … one to watch.

6. DOMESTIC SPENDING: Last fall, this Del Mar entrant came across the country for Chad Brown and was awfully good in the Hollywood Turf Cup (G1). After a winter layoff, he arrived at Churchill with hope for much success. Flavien Prat subbed in for Irad Ortiz, and he chased the Eclipse jock all the way to the wire. Sticking his horse’s nose just in time, it was a thrilling end to the TC. Then, Brown sent him to the Manhattan S. (G1) at Belmont. It was an impressive array of timing, power, and finesse down the stretch. In last weekend’s “Arlington Million,” in what was probably the final one, ever … his late kick could not catch the longest shot on the board. Two Emmys found his weakness … wire the field on him. Brown still have a powerful player … the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) is still on the docket, it is presumed.

7. ALTHIQA (GB): International training superstar Charlie Appleby brought a small, but a strong string of Godolphin runners over to NYRA to compete in the summer months. A pair of fillies have already made an impact going 1-2 in the Just a Game (G1) and the Diana (G1). Althiqa (GB) (translates to “confidence” in Arabic) rolled late to score both times against her stablemate, Summer Romance (IRE). Whether it was Mike Smith or Manny Franco, the filly did the work to get home in amazing fashion. Her ability at 1 Mile was equally as assured as at 1 1/8th. Appleby continues to prove why he, his team, and Godolphin are global leaders in the sport. The Fan Duel BC Mile (G1) seems more than logical …

8. SHEDARESTHEDEVIL: Trainer Brad Cox has always had a “good one,” in this older filly. She is the KYOaks champ from 2020 after all … She lost a tough one to Letruska in the Odgen Phipps (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Cox then recalibrated, and shipped her to SoCal for the Clement L. Hirsch (G1). That nice win gave her Qatar and Flurry Racing an automatic bid to the BC Distaff (G1), which just happens to be at Del Mar! That could give her an inside “track,” against what should be some stiff competition. A rematch with Letruska … could be in the cards.

9. GOT STORMY: The 6-yr-old mare out of Get Stormy was awfully excellent in her 2nd win in the Fourstardave (G1) at Saratoga. It was a command performance for a barn that continues to turn out champions. Mark Casse was just inducted into the Hall of Fame (he was nominated in 2020, but COVID-19 postponed the event), and this “return” win was a timely. She rolled late against the boys, and proved she still belongs among the best turf milers in North America. This score gave Spendthrift and MyRacehorse vindication that their investment was the proper one. Now, their ticket is punched to the BC Fan Duel Mile (G1) at Del Mar, and hope springs eternal that she can run her best. She has been there before, and has the ability to game with the very best. The European contingent should be there in force, which will make this story even more intriguing. Casse at the Breeders’ Cup … once again.

10. MAXFIELD: Brendan Walsh and Godolphin Racing possess a superb runner in “Max,” and his ability to run with authority during the 2nd half of races is a useful skill to be sure. His only foibles so far were the Big ‘Cap at Santa Anita and the loss to Knicks Go in the Whitney (G1). His late gait, a valuable resource, was not present in either. It makes one think that the score on the Oaks undercard, when he rolled in the Alysheba (G2), and then the next month decimated the field that assembled in the Stephen Foster (G1), were against “soft” fields. Walsh will get this one back on track … after all, nobody was going to catch “Knicks.” Seeing this one in the BC Classic (G1) is still on the table.

Summary: The “Dog Days of Summer” are rapidly coming to a close, as Del Mar and Saratoga begin their descent toward their respective “Closing Days.” We are not done quite yet, but this past weekend in Thoroughbred-land, we did see a reshuffling of the Top Ten list. Chad Brown’s Domestic Spending lost in what is presumed to be the last Grade 1 race in the history of Arlington International Race Course. Two Emmys held off his late charge, and wired the $600k Mr. D Stakes on “Million Day.” The loss is not catastrophic, but it does knock the turf distance specialist down in the “Ranks.” While we were saying our goodbyes to Arlington, at Saratoga, Mark Casse’s Got Stormy wrangled the lead away, winning the Fourstardave (G1) in fine style. She punched her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup, and cemented her legacy as one of the best milers in North American turf history. As we point toward Pacific Classic weekend at Del Mar, and then the Travers Day card at Saratoga, there is sure to be more to come that will wow our senses. Stay tuned …

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