J.N. Campbell’s NTRA Thoroughbred Poll Submissions: Week 14 . . . McCarthy's Rombauer: King of the Surface Switch

Week 14 of Turfwriter J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Polls is here...
Week 14 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 14

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 14th submission for this week’s Polls…

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

1. MALATHAAT: Todd Pletcher’s march towards his inevitable HOF induction was further strengthened Derby Weekend, 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. That would be more than an intriguing contest with Preakness champ, Rombauer. 

2. ROMBAUER: At 11/1 in the Preakness (G1), most did not think Mike McCarthy’s runner could win on the dirt. He had wins on the turf and the All-Weather surfaces, but a MT maiden victory had eluded him at this point. Certainly, he had flashed some speed against some of the best in the division prior to coming to Baltimore, but until you score, it is just speculation. Now, all of that can be put to rest with Flavien Prat guiding him home for the victory in Baltimore. McCarthy, a trainer for continues to establish his own national name among horsemen, has finally reached an ATH. Working under Todd Pletcher, he paid his dues, and is a major force in SoCal and beyond. If he comes to Belmont (G1), it will be interesting to see the result.

3. 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 . . . Might be my top pick in Elmont . . .

4. MIDNIGHT BOURBON: Winchell Thoroughbreds and Steve Asmussen really showed some grit by sending this colt to the Preakness. He did not disappoint. Some will say, “Well, he missed again,” but that is not the whole story. Running through the Louisiana Series, he improved on his Derby run in Baltimore at the Preakness with a 2nd place finish. Much to celebrate for this colt, who ended up with a fine finish. Once again, these connections fielded a strong competitor who really showed what he was made of. Now, it is decision time . . . finish out the Triple, or take it to the barn?

5. MEDINA SPIRIT*:  The colt remains on the Top Ten List for now because the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has yet to receive the results from the split sample. Once they do, a decision will be handed down, presumably stripping the HOF trainer of his record-setting Derby win. Will a ban also result? Unknown . . . This low-cost colt did not run well in the Preakness, thus averting what many believed to be a Triple Crown disaster in-the-making. The sport may still suffer because of the imperial hubris of Baffert, but that remains to be seen. The future has yet to be written . . . I doubt we will see this son of Protonico rear his head in New York, or Baffert’s face around Long Island. Asterisk affixed, as you can see . . .

6. 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).

7. 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.

8. 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!

9. 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.”

9. KEEPMEINMIND: In defeat, there was still much to be pleased with for trainer Robertino Diodoro. His Laoban colt tried hard in the stretch down the lane at Pimlico. He just needed more to run at, and the pace scenario just was not present. Still, Diodoro’s charge was impressive, and the fact that he has now completed a pair of Triple Crown races speaks to his ability. Personally, I would like to see him ship to New York for the Belmont (G1). It may not happen, but you never know. Maybe the weather back in Arkansas helped keep him on the bench long enough for one last shot at glory.

Summary: What a difference a week can make? Going into last Sunday, few knew what Preakness Week would hold. Odds were probably pretty high that it did not include Bob Baffert going on national television and talking about how he was a victim of “Cancel Culture.” We learned about topical creams, and the art of managing a media firestorm—or how not to. Somehow, through it all, the Preakness went off . . . but, not without a series of commentary from all angles. Rombauer and the great story behind Mike McCarthy came to the surface, somehow supplanting Baffert’s hubris. Now, as the scene shifts to New York for the Belmont Stakes (G1) in 3 weeks, we have some time to take stock, catch a breather, and wait to see if Medina Spirit comes down off the Derby pedestal. I would urge you to “stay tuned,” but that seems trite.

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. Back in training, his conditioner has him slated to return in the July running of Suburban Handicap (G2) at Belmont. It will be interesting to witness that bow. 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: No changes are coming to this week’s list. That probably is a commentary on just how weak the Preakness cards were when it comes to impact. Belmont and NYRA’s investments will be much stronger, and we could have some major undercard upsets headed out way. Which is to say the least—exciting.

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