HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, November 7, 2021—Surely, you have opinions regarding the results of Breeders’ Cup 38. We do, too, of course, but we have some time. What couldn’t wait was the 12:30 pm Monday deadline of the NTRA Top 10 poll, the first post-event ballot.
For the uninitiated, the process is much like that for year-end Eclipse Award voting which is to say mostly nonexistent. Hard,-fast Do’s and Don’ts are few. It is suggested that voters think of the tally as a guide, the 10 best Thoroughbreds with a chance to become Horse of the Year.
Given Knicks Go’s complete domination of the 2021 Classic renders this issue moot. The flashy extremely fast gray took 1:59.57 to secure that title and with it, obviously, the male handicap championship. Sure, but can he go a mile and a half?
Our post-event ballot includes horses that secured championships over the weekend and some other very talented animals that might indeed be best in their respective divisions but may not have fashioned a resume as complete as some of their rivals. Here, then, the HRI Top 10:
1. KNICKS GO: As above
2. LETRUSKA: Thought she might have been in trouble when she appeared a little too keen in the post parade, too up on her toes. The early pace was insane, obviously, and it turned out that the closers would lead them. But that doesn’t take away from her four Grade 1s. Ironically, all were win-and-in Distaff qualifiers.
3. JACKIE’S WARRIOR: As directly above. Won four graded stakes of six tries before Saturday, with a second and a third, and took the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens in Saratoga, defeating subsequent Dirt Mile winner Life Is Good and Sprint show finisher Following Sea, a blowout winner of the G2 Vosburgh. No disrespect for late developing Aloha West intended.
4. MALATHAAT: Curiously, raced on the fence a long way, tipped out at the turn then back inside, bumped twice and beaten a half-length for third by two elders. But Grade 1 wins in the Ashland, Kentucky Oaks and Alabama is a powerful three-year old filly championship resume.
5. LIFE IS GOOD: May be great and has 2022 to prove it. Arguably the event’s most impressive winner, scintillating is the most apt term for a 5-3/4 length Dirt Mile after making fractions of 21.88, 44.94 and 1:08.76 en route to 1:34.12. Belongs in the “best 3-year-old” conversation–four graded wins, this Grade 1 vs. older.
6. ESSENTIAL QUALITY: Dropped three slots from our last ballot as likely champions occupy top four. Had a hard time separating him from Medina Spirit but as sequential players say, you can’t use them all-not without discarding likely champions. His (7) 5-1-1 slate includes a one-length KY Derby loss and owns Travers and Belmont Stakes scores.
7. ECHO ZULU: Un-scored upon and remains virtually untested. Four-for-four from 5-1/2 to 8-1/2 furlongs including three Grade 1s, the Juvenile Fillies’ two-turner, each victory as impressive as the next for various reasons. She made two very talented fillies appear like they unworthy to carry her bridle.
8. CORNICHE: We still don’t know who’s better, this colt or Jack Christopher. What we do know is that this is the rightful juvenile colt champion. Three-for-three in life includes two Grade 1s rounding two turns and was clearly superior in both. A speed horse with gears.
9. YIBIR: Never saw this coming on our Eclipse radar, wondering instead how Domestic Spending would end his season but obviously he never got the opportunity. Even nationalists can’t fault with a Brit that won two Group 2s and two U.S. Grade 1s, including Saturday’s Turf as Euros swept the superfecta.
10. CE CE: Didn’t see this one coming either, ranking defending champion Gamine in the Top 5 virtually all year, going four-for-four but defeating a mere 18 rivals in the process. Indeed, Gamine chased away many rivals and the real Gamine didn’t show up when it mattered most. But this gal did, her fourth victory in six starts in Saturday’s title match.
There’s plenty of racing left. We’re not locked in until the Eclipse ballots arrive, major obvious divisional winners notwithstanding. Major events will be taking place between now and New Year’s Eve in New York, Kentucky and Southern California. Gulfstream’s Championship Meet starts in early December but prime time doesn’t really begin until 2022.
A private sampling of several voters indicated that all have the three-year-old championship a battle between Essential Quality and Medina Spirit, racing commission rulings aside.
The Grade 1 Malibu on opening day at Santa Anita DEC 26 provides an opportunity to settle it on the racetrack. Once more unto the breach, dear friends?