J.N. Campbell’s NTRA T-bred Poll Submission: Week 29 ... Letrsuka continues her No.1 march ...

Week 29 of Turfwriter J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Poll is here...
Week 29 of Turfwriter J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Poll is here...

J.N. Campbell’s NTRA Thoroughbred Poll Submissions: Week 29

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 29th 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. She won easily, scoring an automatic bid to the Breeders’ Cup. Gutierrez then got bold, sending her unexpectedly to the Grade II Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs. She won easily, scoring yet another automatic bid to the Breeders’ Cup. Next, was the Grade 1 Personal Ensign S., and it was the grittiest performance of her career. Clearly, she is the favorite in the Distaff (G1) at Del Mar. What a superb runner … one for the ages.

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 in the Jim Dandy (G2), but “EQ” responded … another score. With a solid training regime under, Cox did what he said he would do all summer … enter the Travers S. (G1). Against a field that included a couple of former KYD147 alums, he came from off it to score another victory. Hopefully, the BC Classic beckons …

3. KNICKS GO: Another of Cox's aces ... this front-running router came back strong in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes @The SPA ... clearly that race prior 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)? It will be insanely interesting, to be sure. The Korean Horse Racing Authority has quite a runner from a barn that just continues to churn out victories.

4. GAMINE: Bob Baffert has a stable that has undergone a shift in stature over this past year and a half. The one member that continues to weather this storm, and continue to run, and run, and run is this daughter of Into Mischief. She bested a field of 6 foes sprinting on the Main Track at Saratoga in the Ballerina S. (G1). Matching wits with some game speedsters, ridden by John Velazquez, she was powerful and commanding as she wrestled the lead away from her foes. In the end, she won the day convincingly, and that was the sign that she belonged on this Top Ten list. Earning a repeat trip to the Breeders’ Cup, she must be considered to be the favorite at her home base in SoCal.

5. MALATHAAT: Todd Pletcher’s impressive router, owned by Shadwell Stable, is easily the frontrunner for the Eclipse Award for 3-yr-old filly. She is quite accomplished after a superb spring that saw her coronation in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). That was quite a contest up against Search Results. Though she missed in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G2) at Saratoga against Maracuja’s late charge, she rebounded nicely in the Alabama Stakes (G1). With a wet track, she rolled late as regular jockey John Velazquez celebrated another victory. Pletcher has some decisions to make about whether he finds her one more race before shipping to Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup. Question … does she go for the BC Distaff (G1) or attempt to wade into the Classic Division? More to come …

6. 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 will test the waters in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) on Saturday at Saratoga. That makes this router a dangerous one, as he preps for November. Maybe he is a “player” that we need to consider as a potential major contender in the Classic Division.

7. 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 has a powerful player … the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) is still on the docket, it is presumed.

8. 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 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 …

9. 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.

10. 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.

Summary: Now that both Pacific Classic Day and the Travers Stakes cards are behind us, it is time to finish up both of the celebrated meets at Del Mar and Saratoga. Our list during both, ebbed and flowed with all sorts of runners coming and going. Letruska cemented her place at the top of the mountain, and “EQ” was not far behind. Other Thoroughbreds like Knicks Go, Gamine, Malathaat, and Got Stormy all made their return, and simultaneously earned trips to the Breeders’ Cup … the ultimate prize in each of their respective divisions. As we wait for the return of Belmont, Santa Anita, and eventually, the real prize … Keeneland to arrive, one should enjoy the last gasps by those faithful crowds that are gathered near San Diego and Saratoga Springs. Should be a rousing good time!

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