J.N. Campbell’s NTRA Thoroughbred Poll Submissions: Week 13 . . . Medina Spirit still on top . . . for now . . .

Week 12 of Turfwriter J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Polls is here...
Week 12 of Turfwriter J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Polls is here...

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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 13th 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. He makes the trip to Pimlico under a cloud of suspicion with the news on Sunday of a positive test after the Derby . . . more to come!

2. 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 (G1) might be on the horizon.

3. 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.

4. 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!

5. 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. Looks like O’Neill is going to hold him back for the Belmont (G1).

6. 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 this son of Street Sense is waiting for his shot at his “mate” in the Preakness (G1). The Wests are certainly keen to see their pink silked colors return to the track. He is going to need a much better effort in Baltimore . . .

7. UNBRIDLED HONOR: Not to be left out of a Triple Crown Trail conversation, Todd Pletcher, who is bound for the Racing Hall of Fame, brings this homebred into the Preakness. The trainer developed a strategy when he sent this one along to run at Tampa in their Derby (G2), but nothing went to plan after a 4th place finish in that crucible of a race. He decided to redeploy, and targeted some of the last KYD Points in the Lexington (G3) at Keeneland. At 20/1, the son of the great Honor Code did not disappoint his lineage when he came in 2nd just behind King Fury. Whisper Hill Farm has a gem . . .

8. MIDNIGHT BOURBON: Winchell Thoroughbreds and Steve Asmussen are just trying to get one more “go” out of this 3-yr-old, just to see if he can grab a piece of Triple Crown history. A win in the Preakness would just add to the lore, especially after a 6th place finish in the KYD. His conditioner continues to have some monumental achievements himself, so a win at Pimlico in 2021 would be pretty sweet. His son of Tiznow has the ability to rate well, and if he can get loose on the lead, he might be able to steal the whole shebang.

9. 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 . . .

10. PROMISE KEEPER: This Pletcher runner was awfully strong in his Peter Pan (G3) performance, but most will criticize that field . . . Sure, it came up short with only 5 runners drawn in, but the way he ran was still pretty impressive. The Pan (G3) is a good litmus test, and can be a springboard to the Belmont (G1). With a conditioner holding a strong hand already, just add this one to the list. He could be “live” when it comes to surveying the entries for running at “The Beast.”

Summary: This week’s list could be the most raucous and unpredictable ever. With news of Medina Spirit testing positive after the Derby, questions are swirling as to whether Bob Baffert will keep him entered in Preakness or scratch due to public pressure? At this point, it is unknown . . . As for the Brad Cox Trio of EQ, Mandaloun, and Caddo River, all of them are off the Trail for now. When they will resurface is anyone’s guess. Stay tuned for that . . . Several new Pletcher runners come on board, and they could be rising stars to an already packed list.

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. 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 . . .  

5. 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.

6. 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 gas too early. Still, Charlatan remains a top BC Classic contender, if Baffert chooses to keep him as a router . . .   

7. 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; major potential moving forward, and become the leader in what appears to be a pretty open division; the days of American dirt burners seem on the wane.

8. 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 during the 2nd half of the year according to MyRacehorse . . .

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 pundit’s opinions (including this ‘capper!) who did not think he was up to the task. Luis Saez delivered after a nice win at Keeneland . . .

Summary: There was little movement on this week’s list, since major races across the divisions were few and far between. The only demotion was the news that Monomoy Girl would be shutdown for the next few months. She was pretty taxed after the Apple Blossom (G1), and so Cox reasoned that it was better to reserve her strength for a run at the Breeders’ Cup. In other news, Mystic Guide is back at work, as trainer Stidham points him to the Suburban (G2) at Belmont. The summer is almost here!

Breeders' Cup Classic Odds

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