J.N. Campbell’s NTRA T-bred Poll Submission: Week 34 ... Knicks Go has engine primed @CD

Week 34 of Turfwriter J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Poll is here...
Week 34 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 34

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 ... https://www.ntra.com/news-media/polls/

It should make for another exciting season of Thoroughbred racing in North America!

Here is my 34nd 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. Now, training up for 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. In the Lukas Classic Stakes (G3) at Churchill, Rosario seemed to toy with the competition, as he let them get close at different points in the race, but in the end, pulled away convincingly. He seems primed to be one of the favorites in the Classic …

4. WAR LIKE GODDESS: One of, if not “the” best turf horse in America is this Bill Mott-trainee. She has dominated the competition at the middle to longer distance races … amassing a record of 6 wins in 7 starts. She added to her haul once again in the Flower Bowl (G1) at Saratoga just before the close of the Meet. With a late turn-of-foot that is just lethal, she stormed down the lane in customary fashion, and won magnificently with Julien Leparoux once again serving as guide. That signature score @The SPA punches her ticket to Del Mar, and that means she gets a spot against the Euros in the Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Of course, that is a major upward move, but maybe she has the moxie to make it happen …

5. 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. In the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), he notched another ticket to the BC Classic, as Asmussen continues to compete at the highest levels. Not even the 2nd choice on the board (7/2), this “Player” was impressive going away. That makes this router a dangerous one, as he preps for November. Asmussen could keep him at NYRA for the Woodward (G1), or train him up for the trip out West. He is more than just a contender in the Classic Division.

6. 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.

7. 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 …

8. 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.

9. SHEDARESTHEDEVIL: Trainer Brad Cox has always had a “good one,” in this older filly. She is the KYOaks champ from 2020 after all, with a running style that is impressive on all counts … 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. Cox was strategic by getting her one more under her belt in the Grade 3 Locust Grove at Churchill Downs—which she won by a neck! Henceforth, a rematch with Fausto Gutierrez’s Letruska … looms at the Breeders’ Cup.

10. JACKIE’S WARRIOR: When it comes to the 3-yr-old sprint division, the top of the heap belongs to this Steve Asmussen sprinter. Kirk and Judy Robison thought they had a KYD runner on their hands, but the HOF trainer did what he does best, moving the son of Maclean’s Music over to the Pat Day Mile S. (G2). He did not disappoint … delivering an impressive win down the stretch. Though he lost by a whisker in the Woody Stephens (G1), he followed up that near-miss with a couple of nice wins at Saratoga. The Jerkens Memorial S. (G1) exhibited the colt’s power/speed against some formidable competition, and a “workout” at Parx in their signature dirt sprint was an easy victory. This one is a leader when it comes to this division, as he prepares to take on some wiser competition in the Breeders’ Cup.

Summary: Despite major races over the weekend, this week’s list has no changes in its line-up. Certainly, the likes of Dr Schivel, Art Collector, and Medina Spirit all turned in stellar performances in their respective races at Santa Anita and Belmont. But the competition they faced, while strong, was not enough to crack the Top Ten. Baffert’s colt was impressive against older horses in the Awesome Again S. (G1), so at this point, he would probably fall somewhere around 11th. Brad Cox's Knicks Go was solid in his "prep" for the Breeders' Cup, and proved why he is such a special runner. As we get into October, with Keeneland around the corner, and other meets continuing their march, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the schedule shakes out.

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