J.N. Campbell’s NTRA Thoroughbred Poll Submissions: Week 4
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: https://www.ntra.com/news-media/polls/. It should make for another exciting season of Thoroughbred racing in North America!
Here is my 4th submission for this week’s Polls…
1. LIFE IS GOOD: Baffert’s ace improved mightily in the San Felipe (G2) winning by a convincing margin; sure, he drifted, but he was powerfully sent by Smith; now it’s on to the Santa Anita Derby (G1); still, a co-favorite in my book with Essential Quality, razor-thin edge
2. ESSENTIAL QUALITY: Godolphin’s Ace for Cox, scored in the SW Stakes @OP, that makes him the co-KYD Favorite with Baffert’s LIG, Blue Grass Stakes (G1) @KEE, next…
3. GREATEST HONOUR: Shug McGaughey’s colt wowed the throngs watching around the country in the FOY @GP with a late-running move; vaulted him into the top spots, FLA Derby (G1) is next…
4. MANDALOUN: Cox’s now looks formidable after Risen Star score; LA Derby fav for sure, but will not be a foregone conclusion to “win”
5. CADDO RIVER: Cox’s 3rd power runner might be the most talented on this list; Rebel @OP coming this week; was the Smarty Jones a fluke? It is going to be much tougher next…
6. KEEPMEINMIND: Robertino Diodoro held back his colt from the OP SW Stakes in hopes of winning the Mar. 13 Rebel S. (G2); will his fitness level be ready after not running since Nov.? Will see…
7. RISK TAKING: impressive win in the Withers @AQU for Chad Brown; late running ability appears his greatest asset; Wood Memorial seems logical
8. MEDINA SPIRIT: ran a good race against stablemate LIG in the San Felipe (G2); still relevant to the Derby Trail, and could easily come back in the SA Derby, not done yet…
9. PROXY: Mike Stidham sent his colt into the Lecomte (G3) and the Risen Star (G2) and the results were 2 second-place finishes; next, with win in the LA Derby… he earns a spot in the KYD Gate for sure
10. HOT ROD CHARLIE: Doug O’Neill trainee back on my list, especially if he is indeed shipping in for the LA Derby at the Fair Grounds; spot could be perfect for him
Summary: Life Is Good, Bob Baffert’s talented son of Into Mischief, cemented his spot at the top of my 3-yr-old Thoroughbred Poll. One caveat is… that he will share the position with Brad Cox’s Essential Quality. They both have different running styles, but seem to me to be highly comparable with one another. Tests will come once again, when they compete next month in their final prep for the Derby. If both make it through that, it will be on to Churchill for the Kentucky Derby. Medina Spirit, Baffert’s “other” strong contender faltered, but still turned in a second-place finish in the San Felipe (G2) to LIG. Where he fits remains to be seen, but he deserves to remain in the Poll, since he gave a good effort.
The only colt who dropped out this week was Chad Brown’s Highly Motivated, who failed to impress in the Gotham S. (G3); defeated by super longshot Weyburn @46/1. That colt's connections will need to pony-up $6k by the end of the month, if they want to be nominated their entry for the Derby. As for Mark Casse's Helium (15-1), he bested Bill Mott's Candy Man Rocket, who was the favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), with a gutsy performance down the lane dueling with Hidden Stash. Still undefeated, now all of a sudden, the HOF trainer has a Derby wise guy entry. Lastly, the Rebel Stakes (G2) at OP looms, as Diodoro’s Keepmeinmind comes off the bench to tangle with Cox’s Caddo River. The Derby Trail rolls on!
Top Thoroughbred Poll
1. MONOMOY GIRL: 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; next will be a major challenge in the OP Apple Blossom (G1)
2. SWISS SKYDIVER: Trainer McPeek has slated her for a 2021 debut in possibly the Beholder Stakes @SA; Del Mar BC Classic the endgame?
3. COLONEL LIAM: grass performer who was a short price in GP Pegasus Turf; bested a good field that afternoon and will be one to watch as the Dubai Turf beckons for Pletcher’s grass specialist
4. MYSTIC GUIDE: stellar performance in the Razorback (G3) @OP in the slop; Mike Stidham has a major player for Godolphin Blue in this division; now points to the Duabi WC
5. CHARLATAN: Bob Baffert’s newly-minted 4-yr-old was the Saudi Cup favorite, and he failed to secure the win against John Gosden’s Mishriff. 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.
6. LETRUSKA: nice run in the Houston Ladies Classic 400k (G3) in Jan.; should move forward off that performance and challenge Skydiver for older F&M route supremacy on the dirt
7. JESUS' TEAM: incredibly consistent at long odds along with Triple Trail last year; remarkable runner with a great backstory; could be headed to the Dubai WC
8. AUNT PEARL: undefeated turf router for Cox with a major set of early gears; will be interesting to see where she appears for her 3-yr-old campaign; not back in training yet
9. MAXFIELD: even though the Big ‘Cap @SA did not yield a win, “Max” still remains relevant to this poll; shipping into that race was extremely tough, so heading back East for Walsh seems in order
10. KNICKS GO: The front-running speedster was challenged by Charlatan early in the Saudi Cup and he folded. No doubt we will see him down the road, as the season develops. Maybe getting back to Keeneland for the April Meet will be a smart plan?
Summary: Across all these divisions, the one horse that continues to stand out, is Monomoy Girl. She retains the top spot in my poll, since she continues to show promise. The Apple Blossom (G1) @OP is her target, and she will train for it down at Cox’s base in New Orleans. Maxfield failed to ship out West in the Big ‘Cap and now has lost for the first time. He still remains in the Top Ten because that trip was not an easy one to make for Brendan Walsh’s already accomplished runner. Coming back to Keeneland seems like a logical play. I am still looking forward to seeing where Swiss Skydiver and Aunt Pearl will emerge next. Those 2 have major potential to build off of last year. I am looking forward to see Mike Stidham’s Mystic Guide head to Dubai for the World Cup. That Razorback speed fig he posted at Oaklawn in the slop was impressive. More to come!
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