J.N. Campbell’s NTRA Thoroughbred Poll Submissions: Week 6

Week 6 of J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Polls is here...
Week 6 of J.N. Campbell's NTRA submission to the Top Thoroughbred Polls is here...

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 6th submission for this week’s Polls…

3-Year-Old Poll

1. ESSENTIAL QUALITY: Godolphin’s ace homebred for Brad Cox, scored in the SW Stakes @OP, that makes him my favorite with a little over a month till the KYD; Blue Grass Stakes (G1) @KEE is confirmed, great choice…

2. 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, now working out for the FLA Derby (G1), which is next…

3. CONCERT TOUR: romping for Baffert in the Rebel Stakes (G2), this colt vaulted forward with a 4+-length win; how good this inexperienced runner truly is, remains to be seen; if stays in Arkansas for the Derby (G1), and wins? Sky is the limit…

4. HOT ROD CHARLIE: Doug O’Neill-trainee, who was exceptional in the LA Derby (G2); his ability to ship, run longer, and putting a target out there, are all part of a Derby recipe; O’Neill is heading back to CD

5. MEDINA SPIRIT: ran a solid race against stablemate LIG in the San Felipe (G2); now, that LIG is out, this runner is hugely relevant to the Derby Trail, and might be the favorite to win the SA Derby…

6. RISK TAKING: impressive win in the Withers @AQU for Chad Brown; late running ability appears his greatest asset; Wood Memorial (G2) coming next…

7. MIDNIGHT BOURBON: Winchell Thoroughbreds and Steve Asmussen have a consistent entry for the Derby who will probably make the starting gate after his performance in the LA Derby (G2), running 2nd to Hot Rod Charlie; when compared to Cox’s Mandaloun, who dropped off my list this week, he is best

8. WEYBURN: Jimmy Jerkens’ colt surprised everyone after that score in the Gotham Stakes (G3); now the waters get deeper as he heads to the Wood Memorial (G2); his breeding speaks to distance, but will he be able to win against a well-matched field?

9. COLLABORATE: young late-blooming speedster for trainer Saffie Joseph who posted top marks last out in a GP MSW race; he is talented, but must face Greatest Honour in the FLA Derby (G1) next Saturday… win that and he is going to Churchill!

10. TRAVEL COLUMN: this filly is the lone female on my list; she exhibited strong acceleration in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) putting away a rival; she is well-bred out of Frosted, and trainer Brad Cox has brought her along to be ready to handle the KY Oaks (G1); could Cox have a Derby-Oaks double? Hmm… 

Summary: Major reverberations were felt on Saturday as Bob Baffert’s Life Is Good was summarily dropped off the Derby Trail with an injury. Essential Quality sits alone at the top. LIG’s departure significantly changes Baffert’s plans. Yet, it also paves the way for the rise of Hot Rod Charlie, who made a statement at the Fair Grounds over the weekend in the LA Derby (G2). Now, with the Florida Derby (G1) next (plus, the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) @TP), it will be Greatest Honour’s opportunity to cement his status as an elite contender for the KYD. One other addition to my list is yet another member of the Cox Barn. Travel Column looks ready for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), and though she cannot run in the Derby, she should be considered here.   

Kentucky Derby Odds

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: Team Callahan-McPeek-Albarado shipped out for this filly’s 1st start of 2021, and she smoked the field in the Beholder (G1); now bigger, stronger, and more muscular, she is poised for a march back to the BC; rematch coming… Monomoy v. Skydiver II

3. COLONEL LIAM: lived up to the hype in the Muniz Mem. (G2) @FG by rolling down the turf and just obliterating a nice field; Pletcher has what might be his greatest turf horse since English Channel with 2 major wins in 2021; aiming for the G1 Turf Classic on Derby Day

4. MYSTIC GUIDE: stellar performance in the Razorback (G3) @OP in the slop with a strong Beyer; Mike Stidham has a major player for Godolphin Blue in this division; now points to the Duabi WC as presumptive favorite

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. JESUS' TEAM: incredibly consistent at long odds along with Triple Trail last year; remarkable runner with a great backstory; Dubai WC looks to be next

7. 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; Grade 1, $500,000 La Troienne @CD on April 30 is next…

8. 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

9. 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?

10. MICHELINE: even though Mike Stidham’s runner has claustrophobia that necessitates her traveling with her own portable stall, she can rate and win as she did off the bench in the Hillsborough (G2) @TAM; her 2021 is shaping up nicely for Godolphin


Outside of the Monomoy v. Swiss Skydiver duel, this list has different talent spread across the divisions. Colonel Liam was the bigger winner this past weekend, with a major turf victory at the Fair Grounds in the Muniz Memorial (G2). Now, Pletcher can head in several directions (G1 Turf Classic next), with the Breeders’ Cup Turf, a long-term objective. The Dubai World Cup is here, and those results will yield a shake-up in this list. Should Mystic Guide win the DWC, he would vault both ladies at the top of the heap. While we wait to see where Cox’s Aunt Pearl where surface to being her 3-yr-old campaign, I think Mike Stidham’s Micheline is a worthy submission. She ran extremely well in Tampa, and now looks strong heading into the spring. The lack of North American turf horses on this list is telling.

Breeders' Cup Classic Odds