by Jon White
February 20, 2020
It’s Post Time by Jon White (Feb. 19, 2020)
Mucho Gusto, Midnight Bisou, Maximum Security and McKinzie are ranked 1-2-3-4 in this week’s first National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Top Thoroughbred Poll of 2020.
And these four outstanding equine athletes are scheduled to clash on Feb. 29 in the richest race on the planet, the new $20 million Saudi Cup.
The results for this year’s first NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll and Top 3-Year-old Poll were announced Monday.
The Top Thoroughbred Poll is indicative of who might be crowned a divisional champion and, moreover, Horse of the Year. Eligible journalists and broadcasters each week submit their Top 10 horses, with points awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points basis.
The Top Thoroughbred Poll will end on the Monday following this year’s Breeders’ Cup. That means the final poll this year will be on Nov. 9 after the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland on Nov. 7 and 8.
The final Top 3-Year-Old Poll will be announced on the Monday following the Grade I Belmont Stakes. That means this year the final poll will be on June 8 after the June 6 Belmont.
Mucho Gusto tops this week’s Top Thoroughbred Poll after his glittering 4 1/2-length victory in the Grade I, $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25. Hall of Famer Bob Baffert trains the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Mucho Macho Man colt.
No. 2 is Midnight Bisou. Voted a 2019 Eclipse Award as champion older dirt female, she won seven of eight starts in 2019. Midnight Bisou’s lone defeat last year came when she finished second in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen trains the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred Midnight Lute mare.
Maximum Security is No. 3. The Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old male of 2019 won six of eight starts in 2019. He also finished first in the Grade I Kentucky Derby, but then was disqualified and placed 17th for causing interference on the far turn. In his final start last year, Maximum Security won Aqueduct’s Grade I Cigar Mile with authority by 3 1/2 lengths on Dec. 7. Jason Servis conditions the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred New Year’s Day colt.
No. 4 is McKinzie. In his final 2019 start, McKinzie finished second in the Grade I Breeder’s Cup Classic at Santa Anita last Nov. 1. Baffert also trains this 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Street Sense.
Zulu Alpha is No. 5. He registered a two-length win in Gulfstream’s Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf on Jan. 25. Mike Maker trains the 7-year-old Kentucky-bred Street Cry gelding.
Covfefe, another 2019 Eclipse Award winner, is No. 6. In fact she garnered a pair of Eclipse Awards last year. In addition to being voted champion 3-year-old filly, she was voted champion female sprinter. Brad Cox trains the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Into Mischief filly.
Here is the first NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll of 2020:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 224 Mucho Gusto (12)
2. 188 Midnight Bisou (4)
3. 186 Maximum Security (11)
4. 156 McKinzie (1)
5. 89 Zulu Alpha
5. 75 Covfefe
7. 57 Code of Honor
8. 45 Firenze Fire
9. 40 Silver Dust
9. 40 Warrior’s Charge
Also receiving votes: Hard Not to Love (36 points), Gift Box (34), Spun to Run (34), Uni (33), Sistercharlie (27), Imperial Hint (20), Tom’s d’Etat (20), United (20), Finite (17), Midcourt (17), Mr. Freeze (17), Starship Jubilee (17), Higher Power (16), Magic Wand (15), Mitole (15), Tiz the Law (15), Texas Wedge (10), Shancelot (9), British Idiom (8), Cookie Dough (7), Got Stormy (7), Sir Winston (5), Iridessa (3), Mind Control (3), Owendale (3), Venetian Harbor (3), Captain Scotty (2), Majestic Reason (2), Monomoy Girl (2), Omaha Beach (2), Factor This (1), Taraz (1), Serengeti Empress (1), War of Will (1).
“All horses that have raced in the U.S., are in training in the U.S., or are known to be pointing to a major event in the U.S. are eligible for the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll,” according to the press release accompanying the first NTRA polls of 2020.
However, the NTRA evidently did not compel voters to follow those guidelines. That’s because in the “also receiving votes” section, you will see that Mitole and Omaha Beach received votes. They both have been retired to stud.
Something else you will see in the “also receiving votes” section is Texas Wedge has 10 points. But he actually was listed by the NTRA for having 7 points and then again a second time for having 3 points. Hence, I combined the 7 and 3 to give him a total of 10 points.
This was the final NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll of 2019:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 438 Bricks and Mortar (42)
2. 388 Mitole (2)
3. 332 Vino Rosso
4. 297 Midnight Bisou
5. 157 McKinzie
5. 157 Sistercharlie
7. 151 Uni
8. 109 Covfefe
9. 102 Blue Prize
10. 90 Maximum Security
Also receiving votes: Code of Honor (50 points), Omaha Beach (34), Imperial Hint (18), Higher Power (16), Spun to Run (15), Got Stormy (14), Elate (10), Iridessa (10), British Idiom (8), Vasilika (7), Belvoir Bay (4), Storm the Court (2), World of Trouble (2), Four Wheel Drive (1).
TIZ THE LAW TOPS YEAR’S FIRST NTRA 3-YEAR-OLD POLL
An impressive three-length winner of Gulfstream’s Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 1, Tiz the Law holds the top spot in the first NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll of 2020. Barclay Tagg trains the New York-bred Constitution colt, who has won three of four career starts.
The powerful Baffert barn has three undefeated colts on the Top 10. They are No. 2 Thousand Words, No. 3 Nadal and No. 4 Authentic.
Thousand Words is three for three. The Florida-bred Pioneerof the Nile colt won Santa Anita’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 1 in his 2020 debut. He took the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity in his final 2019 start. Baffert won the 2015 Triple Crown with American Pharoah, also a son of Pioneerof the Nile.
Nadal is two for two. The Kentucky-bred Blame colt won Santa Anita’s Grade II San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 9.
Authentic likewise is two for two. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt won Santa Anita’s Grade III Sham Stakes by nearly eight lengths on Jan. 4 despite not running a straight course in the stretch when racing greenly.
Here is the first NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll of 2020:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 252 Tiz the Law (17)
2. 199 Thousand Words (4)
3. 141 Nadal (2)
4. 128 Authentic (1)
5. 125 Dennis’ Moment (1)
5. 112 Mr. Monomoy
7. 103 Sole Volante
8. 70 Independence Hall
9. 66 Maxfield (2)
9. 59 Silver Prospector (1)
Also receiving votes: Enforceable (55 points), Gouverneur Morris (47), Modernist (44), Storm the Court (44), Charlatan (20), Structor (17), Eight Rings (15), Finite (10), Anneau d’Or (9), Chance It (5), Azul Coast (4), Wells Bayou (4), Honor A.P. (3), Mischevious Alex (3), Taraz (3), British Idiom (1), Fore Left (1).
TIZ THE LAW ALSO TOPS MY KENTUCKY DERBY LIST
In addition to being No. 1 in this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll, Tiz the Law again occupies the top spot on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week.
The newcomer to my Top 10 this week at No. 7 is the Baffert-trained Charlatan, who had observers buzzing when he won a six-furlong maiden special weight race in sensational fashion last weekend at Santa Anita.
Baffert trains four of the horses on my Top 10 this week -- Nadal, Thousand Words, Authentic and Charlatan.
Charlatan zipped to the front early last Sunday and drew away in the stretch to win by 5 3/4 lengths. He clicked off fractions of :21.89, :44.72 and :56.52 en route to a final clocking of 1:08.85. Those times are exceedingly swift on a slower-than-it-used-to-be Santa Anita main track. Charlatan was credited with a 105 Beyer Speed Figure. Keep in mind his laudable final time and triple-digit Beyer were achieved even though he was just cruising down the lane.
A Kentucky-bred Speightstown colt, Charlatan made his splashy career debut on Feb. 16. Two years ago on Feb. 18, Justify kicked off his racing career by winning a seven-furlong maiden special weight race at Santa Anita by 9 1/2 lengths for Baffert. Justify posted a 104 Beyer in his career debut. He would go on to become America’s 13th Triple Crown winner. It will be very interesting to see what the obviously talented Charlatan goes on to accomplish.
Anneau d’Or, trained by Blaine Wright, drops off my Top 10 this week after he finished ninth as an even-money favorite in the second division of the Grade II Risen Star Stakes last Saturday. Though bounced around early while making his 2020 debut, Anneau d’Or was a big disappointment to his backers. He lost by 12 3/4 lengths.
“We are going to put the Risen Star behind us and move forward,” Wright told Fair Grounds’ media relations. “I haven’t a clue why he didn’t run well, but I’m not going to worry about it. We’ll go back to California, regroup and point to the Santa Anita Derby [April 4].”
Anneau d’Or was racing with blinkers for the first time last Saturday. The Kentucky-bred Medaglia d’Oro colt was narrowly beaten last year when the runner-up in both the Grade I BC Juvenile and Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity.
Maxfield came close to exiting my Top 10 this week, but he stays on the list due to finally having his first recorded 2020 workout on Monday in Florida. The Kentucky-bred Street Sense colt worked three furlongs in :38.20 at Palm Meadows for trainer Brendan Walsh.
TVG’s Caton Bredar asked Walsh last Saturday if the Kentucky Derby is still in play for Maxfield.
“I wouldn’t count him out of anything right now,” Walsh said. “Obviously, the clock is ticking. But let’s see how his works go. He kind of did more than what we expected of him last year, and that’s what he tends to do. So I wouldn’t write him off of anything right now.
Walsh noted that Maxfield is lot stronger physically than last year.
“Last year he was a frame of a horse and now he’s really filled out,” Walsh said. “Mentally he’s in great shape. So we’re really happy with him.”
One reason there are such high expectations for Maxfield is his scintillating performance in Keeneland’s Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at 1 1/16 miles last year. Ninth early, he closed with a rush and won by 5 1/2 lengths.
And those were not bums left in Maxfield’s wake at Keeneland. Gouveneur Morris finished second, Enforceable second, Ajaaweed third and By Your Side fourth.
Gouveneur Morris and Enforceable look like they are quite capable of making their presence felt in the $3 million Kentucky Derby on May 2.
Last Friday at Tampa Bay Downs, Governor Morris made his 2020 debut a winning one. He prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths in an allowance/optional claiming race and completed one mile and 40 yards in 1:38.88 to just barely miss the track record by .02 seconds. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Kentucky-bred Constitution colt was credited with an 88 Beyer Speed Figure.
Enforceable won the Grade III Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Jan. 18. The Kentucky-bred Tapit colt, conditioned by Mark Casse, then finished second to Mr. Monomoy in a division of the Grade II Risen Star Stakes in New Orleans last Saturday.
After the Breeders’ Futurity, Ajaaweed finished second in Aqueduct’s Grade II Remsen Stakes in his final start as a 2-year-old. In his first start at 3, Ajaaweed ran third behind Sole Volante and Independence Hall in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
By Your Side has not race since the Breeders’ Futurity. He was good enough to win Saratoga’s Grade III Sanford Stakes last year.
Considering the manner in which Maxfield trounced his foes in the Breeders’ Futurity last year at 2, what if it turns out he’s even better this year at 3? Now that’s a scary thought.
Here is my Kentucky Derby Top 10 for this week:
1. Tiz the Law
3. Thousand Words
4. Dennis’ Moment
5. Honor A.P.
9. Sole Volante
10. Storm the Court