J.N. Campbell’s NTRA Thoroughbred Poll Submissions: Week 25 ... Brad Cox's Weekend ...

Week 25 of Turfwriter J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Poll is here...
Week 25 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 25

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 25th 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. Gutierrez then got bold, sending her unexpectedly to the Grade II Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs. She won easily, scoring an automatic bid to the Breeders’ Cup. Now, moving forward she has the potential for both a run at Saratoga (Grade 1 Personal Ensign S.), and to be the favorite in the Distaff (G1) at Del Mar. Sky is the limit; holds the top spot …

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 this past weekend in the Jim Dandy (G2). But “EQ” responded with a score. Now, he seems poised to take the Travers (G1). Come one … come all …

3. SILVER STATE: The victor in the celebrated Met Mile (G1) was the ultimate high for this Steve Asmussen runner. Jockey Ricardo Santana guided him home in impressive fashion against a couple of short-priced favorites. When you win a race as big as this one, then you have achieved something very special. Most bettors thought Knicks Go would be the champ, but this seasoned runner proved them all wrong in the end. A budding star with a powerful kick, it will be interesting to see him emerge in the 2nd half of the year … possibly the Whitney (G1) @The SPA.

4. 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. Prat lived up to the billing, and proved his mount is the class of this grass division. BC Turf is the long game, and he can get there …

5. MAXFIELD: Brendan Walsh and Godolphin Racing possess a superb runner in “Max,” and it looks like he can run with authority during the 2nd half of races. A useful skill to be sure … His only foible so far was in the Big ‘Cap at Santa Anita, when he just didn’t seem to take to the track. His late gait, a valuable resource, was non-existent. Rebounding on the Oaks undercard, he rolled in the Alysheba (G2), and decimated the field that assembled in the Stephen Foster (G1). Both performances beg the question … how good is this runner? Pretty good … short answer. Moving forward, Walsh has him elevating, and that makes him a candidate for the BC Classic. It’s the long game.

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 can test the waters of Saratoga, and that makes him a dangerous runner as we head towards the second half of the summer. Maybe he is a “player” that we need to consider as a major contender in the Classic ranks.

7. BY MY STANDARDS: The Bret Calhoun hoss is one big horse. Once he gets moving, he can be a force to be reckoned with. The 5-yr-old out of Goldencents came off the bench in the Oaklawn Mile and won. That was impressive, especially since at the end of last year he missed in the BC Classic (G1) @KEE and the Clark Hcp (G1) @CD. Clearly this one is progressing, since the Met Mile (G1) was a quality effort—2nd to Silver State. He easily outran his odds. His conditioner will have some major opportunities moving forward. Another run in the BC Classic (G1), with a rematch with Silver State in the Whitney (G1)? Hmm …

8. EXPRESS TRAIN: Trainer John Shirreffs never quits … he continues to work hard and condition the next generation of champions. Here is one that continues to move forward, despite the occasional setback. The now 4-yr-old cracks the Top Ten after a gutsy performance at Del Mar in the Grade II San Diego Handicap. Beating out the likes of Rushie and the heavily-favored Royal Ship (BRZ), was nothing short of impressive. Now, the 4-yr-old looks to be one of the frontrunners to contest the TVG Pacific Classic to be held later this summer. Union Rags’ offspring can run, as his earnings nearly top $660k … one to watch.

9. 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 have 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.

10. 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.

Summary: Cox’s “EQ” was impressive in the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga over the weekend. He faced a tough break, as the field vied for the lead. Caught wide, he probably ran 50 yards further than anyone else. It was a superb performance. Since he weathered that troubled trip, he vaulted up a couple of spots on the Top Ten List. After a couple of works, he should be primed for the “Summer Derby”—Travers Day! Then, last year's Eclipse Award-winning conditioner followed up the stellar weekend with a win at Del Mar in the Clement L. Hirsch (G1). When you are hot … you are hot. The Breeders’ Cup … November … it is right around the corner.

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