J.N. Campbell’s NTRA Thoroughbred Poll Submissions: Post-Derby Week 12

Week 11 of turfwriter J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Polls is here...
Week 11 of turfwriter J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Polls is here...

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J.N. Campbell’s NTRA Thoroughbred Poll Submissions: Week 12

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 our 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 12th submission for this week’s Polls…

3-Year-Old Poll w/Notes . . .

1. MEDINA SPIRIT: Going back to the PPs before the Kentucky Derby (G1), the most salient figure that sticks out is 126 . . . that is the highest posted number when it comes to “pace” of any of the 19 entrants; this affordable Protonico son owned by Zedan Racing was pretty cheap at one point ($1k, but bought for $35k by Zedan later); with Johnny V aboard, he weathered a furious charge, as Bob Baffert scored a record Derby win . . . Preakness (G1)? Belmont (G1)? Will see . . .

2. ESSENTIAL QUALITY: The best horse didn’t win 147, but he deserves to remain near the top of this Poll. Jostled from the start, and caught wide . . . he ran further than any other entrant. It was a valiant effort in defeat. Yes, he finished 4th, but it was not a dream trip. Cox poured his heart into getting this Godolphin homebred ready; hopefully, he will be back on the Trail in a few weeks. As for the Derby, the connections will have to wait till next year for their first win in the “Run for the Roses.”

3. MALATHAAT: Todd Pletcher’s march towards his inevitable HOF induction was further strengthened last Friday when his filly lived up to her short 5/2 price in the KYO at Churchill. It was a thrilling race, as she dueled down the stretch with the Klaravich runner, Search Results. Now, it will be interesting to see if the connections try to enter the Triple Crown Trail. They were beating the drum, and promising that the Belmont might be on the horizon.

4. JACKIE’S WARRIOR: In the Pat Day (G2), Steve Asmussen’s former Derby Trail dropout was stellar down the lane, as he returned to a shorter distance. It was a resounding victory, and affirmed his status as a future star in this division. Well-bred, his exploits last year at NYRA, were not an aberration. This race was a thriller down the lane against Dream Shake.

5. MANDALOUN: Cox runner who won the Risen Star (G2), but failed as favorite in the LA Derby (G2), came into the Derby as an overlay at 27/1. His resume and running style suited this race to a “T,” and his conditioner had him ready to roll with chief rider Flo Geroux aboard. Finishing 2nd to Medina Spirit was a game effort. He could be a major player as the road turns to Baltimore.

6. SEARCH RESULTS: The red and white flag of Klaravich was rampant in almost every major race. Going 2-deep in some places, it was evident over the course of the OAKS-DERBY cards that they meant business. Chad Brown’s logistics rivalled a major freight forwarding company. They got some of the best jockeys, and this filly almost scored in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). She just could not quite get up the rail in the end. Bodes well for the future with some excellent posted figs. Watch her go!

7. HOT ROD CHARLIE: Doug O’Neill-trainee, who was exceptional in the LA Derby (G2), easily became Derby Week’s most fashionable pick. The story of the Brown University boys who pooled their cash, and turned the Derby into a football tailgate party in the Paddock, will go down as a Churchill memory. As for their investment, he ran well with Flavien Prat at the controls. Still, 3rd was not quite what bettors were hoping for considering how much money went towards this one’s win pool. Hot Rod might be ready for "Big Sandy," according to his conditioner.

8. CONCERT TOUR: Highly touted before the Arkansas Derby (G1) letdown, it is just amazing to think that this runner was considered by some to be better than Medina Spirit. Now, that runner is a Derby Champ, and son of Street Sense is waiting for his shot at the Preakness (G1). The Wests are certainly keen to see their pink silked colors return to the track. He could be an interesting play to come in Baltimore and up in Elmont, New York. Stay tuned . . .

9. DREAM SHAKE: Jockey Flavien Prat seemed to take the Derby Day card by storm. He was everywhere . . . turf? Yep. Dirt? Yep. He nearly got this one home against Jackie’s Warrior in the Pat Day Mile (G2). It was a near miss to be sure. Peter Eurton’s prize colt now seems to be back on track after a few Derby Trail failures. That is horse racing for you . . . Now, the question is where to go next. Maybe some time off could be beneficial as he waits for the start of Del Mar this summer.

10. REBEL’S ROMANCE: Did you hear? There is a Godolphin blue already ensconced at Belmont Park . . . no, it is not Essential Quality. This one is the Charlie Appleby-trained colt who won the UAE Derby (G2) on Dubai World Cup Day. Even though he had the Derby Points in his pocket, his celebrated ownership did not want to pit him against EQ. Instead, the plan was to ship to New York, and begin preparations for the last leg of the Triple. This might prove to be a crucial decision. Was my top pick at Meydan . . .

Summary: It is difficult to discern, now that the Kentucky Derby (G1) is in the rearview mirror, who exactly belongs on this grocery list. It is a “Top 3-yr-old Thoroughbred Poll,” after all . . . Fillies should be included in my mind, even if it seems that the majority of voters do not particularly choose to go in that direction. Major tectonic shifts occurred after Medina Spirit proved best for Baffert in the KYD147. Still, Cox’s EQ was still impressive in my mind, despite being on the end of the most troubled trip. Now, the scene shifts toward Baltimore and Preakness Weekend. The most exciting addition might be Todd Pletcher’s Malathaat, who could end up entering the Triple Crown conversation at some point. Hopefully, it is sooner rather than later. She is the real deal, and has the ability to easily take on the boys!

Kentucky Derby Odds

Top Thoroughbred Poll

1. MYSTIC GUIDE: stellar performance in the Razorback (G3) @OP led to shipping into Meydan for the Dubai World Cup (G1), which he won convincingly for Mike Stidham; awfully good performance under some challenging pre-race conditions in the paddock and on the way to the gate. Now, when he returns later in the season, it will be interesting to see how he reacts. Leading candidate to point towards the BC Classic . . .

2. LETRUSKA: Fausto Gutierrez’s ace looked like she was going to run out of her horseshoes at Oaklawn in the Apple Blossom (G1); she did not disappoint, besting Monomoy Girl down the stretch; she springboards into this spot based on that gutsy performance . . . more to come, as she takes this division by storm . . .

3. SHEDARESTHEDEVIL: she was super sharp coming off the bench @OP in the Azeri (G2) against a small, but strong field that included rival Letruska; Brad Cox’s tactics to go to the lead made the difference, and would again. In the Grade 1, $500,000 La Troienne @CD on Oaks undercard it was another resounding frontrunning victory. Who is better in Cox’s midst . . . Monomoy or this one? Hmm . . .

4. MONOMOY GIRL: Cox runner solidified her spot at the top of the heap with a strong performance in the Bayakoa S. (G3) @OP to kick off her Spendthrift/MyRacehorse career; however, she failed to win the OP Apple Blossom (G1), even if it was by less than a head to Letruska; falling to this point on the list seems logical, though she will be back on top at some point . . .

5. COLONEL LIAM: coming into the Turf Classic on Derby Day, this turf router was at the very top of the routing food chain, and probably still is. Facing his toughest test to date, Pletcher’s son of Liam’s Map took on a well-matched field of SoCal imports, and some KY-NY mainstays. With some coming off-the-bench, it was going to be a challenge. Jockey Irad Ortiz weaved through traffic and made the call to cut to the Rail. If it were not for Flavien Prat and Domestic Spending, the day would have been his. Storming at the end, the Turf Classic ended in a Dead Heat. Wow, comes to mind . . .  

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. Now, NYRA races beckon, and the sky is the limit moving forward.

7. CHARLATAN: Bob Baffert’s 4-yr-old was the Saudi Cup (G1) favorite, BUT he failed to secure the win against John Gosden’s Mishriff, who switched back to the turf for a win in Dubai. At such a short price, HOF jockey Mike Smith fouled out, and used most of the gas too early. Still, Charlatan remains a top BC Classic contender, if Baffert chooses to keep him as a router . . .   

8. C Z ROCKET: This Peter Miller dirt sprinter is an old school runner, whose class just continues to rise after going hoof-to-hoof with rival Whitmore @OP 2x; major potential moving forward, and could become the leader in what appears to be a pretty open division; the days of American dirt burners seem on the wane.

9. EXTRAVAGENT KID: Brendan Walsh’s turf sprinter finally broke into the Poll with a magnificent win in the AL Quoz Sprint in Dubai over a week ago. After running in States-side contests, and missing on several occasions, this son of Kiss The Kid bested Charlie Appleby’s prize burner—Space Blues; will be interesting to see where he appears next…

10. FLAGSTAFF: John Sadler’s Rock Your World may not have lived up to his odds in the Derby, but the seasoned conditioner did notch a win with this 7-yr-old sprinter, out of Speightstown in the Churchill Downs S. That outing rebutted many pundits' opinions (including this ‘capper!) who did not think he was up to the task. Luis Saez delivered after a nice win at Keeneland . . .

Summary: Maxfield and Gamine both finished just off this week’s Poll . . . Even though both ran well for their respective barns, the field (for Max), and the effort (Gamine), lacked the needed punch to propel both of these classy runners to hit this board. The Derby Week festivities and their results did re-jigger a portion of the tally, what with Domestic Spending challenging Colonel Liam in the Turf Classic. Their “Dead Heat Duel” will go down as one of the most memorable of all-time in this race. We also saw Brad Cox miss out on the Derby score with EQ, but the “Devil,” as in “Shedares,” rolled from start to finish in the La Troinenne (G1). Will a titanic match between this filly, Monomoy Girl, Letruska, and Swiss Skydiver be in our future? One can hope . . . I also sought to give some “props” to John Sadler, whose Flagstaff was much-the-best against odds-on in the Churchill Downs (G1). Stayer with a gritty game, this one!

Breeders' Cup Classic Odds

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