Division Rankings: Finite surges to No. 1 off a fifth straight win

Division Rankings: Finite surges to No. 1 off a fifth straight win
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

As the 3-year-old males steal much of the spotlight in the lead up to the first Saturday in may, the sophomore fillies are often put on the back burner sorting themselves out on their way to the Kentucky Oaks.

So this week it's time to spotlight Finite, a filly who had run respectably before last Saturday, but then delivered a breakout performance that may make her the early Oaks favorite.

When entries were released for Fair Grounds' Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2), attention centered on British Idiom. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner was crowned the champion of her division last season, and her 2020 debut was highly anticipated. Unbeaten in three starts, she already had two Grade 1 wins under her belt.

Finite won her first graded stakes last fall in the Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill Downs, and after taking her 3-year-old debut in the Silverbulletday Stakes at the Fair Grounds in January, the daughter of Munnings had put together four wins in a row.

To some, she was the horse to beat in the Rachel Alexandra, not British Idiom. And Finite proved a worthy choice when posting a resounding 4 3/4-length victory.

This wasn’t all a case of Finite getting away with a win because British Idiom needed a race. Give Finite more credit than that.

There is much to be excited about when it comes to the 3-year-old fillies beyond that par. Joining Finite and British Idiom on the Kentucky Oaks trail we have Bast, Donna Veloce, and Venetian Harbor on the West Coast, plus the likes of Demoiselle Stakes (G2) heroine Lake Avenue back East, preparing for her season debut.

One of the more endearing traits of the 3-year-old fillies for me is that you usually can count on consistent form, unlike their male counterparts at this stage of their careers. Expect to see all of the above names be major players this season.

For now, though, Finite takes over the No. 1 spot in what appears to be a loaded division.

Here's a full look at the updated Division Rankings...

Older Dirt Males

1.  Maximum Security - He hasn't run yet in 2020, but make no mistake: He has complete control of this top spot. The Champion Three-Year-Old Male of 2019 continues preparation for the Saudi Cup on February 29. If things go well in Saudi Arabia, he could stay in the Middle East for the Dubai World Cup (G1).

2.  McKinzie – Two-for-seven in 2019, the Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up will open his 5-year-old season in the Saudi Cup, too, and may try a double in Dubai. 

3.  Mucho Gusto - He ran a big race in a watered down Pegasus World Cup (G1) to earn a trip to the Saudi Cup and, possibly, Dubai. Still not convinced he belongs near the top.

4.  Code of Honor - This inconsistent colt did win the Travers Stakes (G1) last season but was up the track in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Will likely get his chance this year against Maximum Security, with whom he is 0-2 against so far.


5.  
Gift Box - Won the San Antonio Stakes (G2) in late December for the second year in a row. Will stay stateside and point to the Santa Anita Handicap (G1).

Next 5: Tom's d'Etat, Spun to Run, Warrior's Charge, Silver Dust, Midcourt.


Older Dirt Females

1.  
Midnight Bisou  The Eclipse winner in this division last year, she was sensational while winning seven graded stakes. Will be in very tough for her 2020 debut in the Saudi Cup against males.

2.  Lady Apple - Started the season off with a win in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) while defeating her rivals from last season, Serengeti Empress and Street Band. Look for her to turn up at Oaklawn for her next start.

3.  Serengeti Empress - She followed her strong third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff by just fading from the pace in the Houston Ladies Classic. A real threat around two turns and also sprinting. Will likely meet Lady Apple again on March 14 in the Azeri (G2) at Oaklawn.

4.  Dunbar Road - Last year's Alabama Stakes (G1) winner, excelling over various distances, should contend for the top spot this season. She's back in training with Chad Brown.


5.  
Come Dancing – Was great sprinting last year but also showed she could run longer, as evidenced by her runner-up finish to Midnight Bisou in the Ogden Phipps (G1) on Belmont day. 

Next 5:  Covfefe, Guarana, Street Band, Ollie's Candy, Go Google Yourself.

 
3-Year-Old-Males

1.  Tiz the Law - Nice win in the Holy Bull (G3) made him the early Kentucky Derby favorite. He won't run again until the Florida Derby (G1) in late March.

2.  Nadal - I don't normally move a horse this high after his first stakes win, but I really feel like this guy is for real. He should relish the longer distances after the seven-furlong San Vicente (G2).

3.  Sole Volante - Loved his win in the Sam F. Davis (G3) over Independence Hall, but I feel like his best distances will be between 8-9 furlongs, not all of 1 1/4 miles.

4.  Independence Hall - I wasn't as impressed with his runner-up effort in Tampa as others were. Will he like added ground?

5.  Thousand Words - Unbeaten in three starts, he took the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita in his 3-year-old debut.

Next 5: Mr. Monomoy, Modernist, Authentic, Storm the Court, Eight Rings.


3-Year-Old-Females

1.  Finite
- She simply overpowered the field in the Rachel Alexandra (G2). I really felt like she was the horse to beat entering that assignment, even with the presence of British Idiom. The manner in which she won vaults her to this top spot. 

2.  Bast - Won the Starlet (G1) and Santa Ynez (G2) since her third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. 

3.  British Idiom - Sure it was her first start since last fall, but she never threatened Finite and I don't believe the result changes if she faces her again in her next start.

4.  Donna Veloce - She has been a close runner-up in two Grade 1 races in just three career starts. Will go next in the Santa Ysabel (G3) at Santa Anita on March 8.

5.  Venetian Harbor - Won the Las Virgenes (G2) by more than nine lengths in her stakes debut and could meet Bast in her next start.

Next 5: Tonalist's Shape, Perfect Alibi, Wicked Whisper, Frank's Rockette, Inspiressa.


Turf Males

1.  Zulu Alpha - Now age 7, he ran the biggest race of his career in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1). Prior to that effort he was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

2.  Annals of Time - Winner of the Sword Dancer (G1) last year, he could be the one to beat in this division for Bricks and Mortar's connections if he stays healthy.

3.  United - Almost pulled off a shocking upset in the Breeders' Cup Turf, losing to the eventual Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar by a head. Won the San Marcos (G2) to get his season underway. Tthe Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) looks like his next spot.

4.  Sadler’s Joy – This closer won the Red Smith (G3) last fall and most recently was sixth in the Pegasus World Cup Turf.

5.  Arklow - Winner of the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park last fall, he disappointed in the Pegasus World Cup Turf when fifth.

Next 5: Instilled Regard, Bowies Hero, Mo Forza, Sacred Life, Dot Matrix.


Turf Females

1.  
Uni – Not much separates this one and Sistercharlie from holding this top spot. Her first big target of 2020 looks like the Just a Game (G1) on Belmont Day.

2.  
Sistercharlie – Has only lost one race since June of 2018, in last November's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Connections have a four to five race campaign planned that could include a run against the boys in the Arlington Million (G1) in late summer.

3.  Got Stormy
 – Simply didn't have it when finishing fourth, beaten two lengths in the Endeavour Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay. Still, she has done enough to maintain this spot for now.

4.  
Starship Jubilee– In the best form of her life 36 starts in to her career. Won the Suwannee River (G3) to open 2-for-2 this season. Overall, she has won four of her last five starts.


5.  
Magic Wand – Globetrotting mare again ran another big race in the Pegasus World Cup Turf, finishing second, and is in for the Saudi Cup to mark her dirt debut.

Next 5:  Rushing Fall, Cambier Parc, Beau Recall, Jolie Olimpica, Juliet Foxtrot.


Male Sprinters

1.  Imperial Hint – Handed Mitole his only loss of 2019. He will start his season off in Saudi Arabia in the new sprint stakes and also has the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) on the radar.

2.  Shancelot Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up seems like he could be the one to beat in this division. Will miss the Saudi Arabian sprint, however.


3.  
Firenze Fire – Perhaps this is the year this guy contends for the Eclipse. In career form, he started his season off with an easy win in the General George (G3) at Laurel. He has won all three of his starts since his fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

4.  Mind Control - Given a break after taking the Allen Jerkins (G1) at age 3, he kicked things off in 2020 with a win in the Toboggan Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct.

5.  Whitmore - Started his season off with a runner-up effort in the King Cotton Stakes at Oaklawn.

Next 5: Cistron, Bobby's Wicked One, Roy H, Share the Upside, Engage.
 
Female Sprinters

1.  
Covfefe – The Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner is back in training. Won the Female Sprint Eclipse and the 3-Year-Old-Female Eclipse.

2.  
Come Dancing – After a freshening she will look to come back in the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day.

3.  Serengeti Empress - We know she can sprint, as she was runner-up to Covfefe last summer in the Test (G1) at seven furlongs. This spring at Oaklawn Park it looks like she'll run around two turns.

4.  Hard Not to Love - Grade 1 winner in 2019, she returned a winner last week in the Santa Monica (G2) at Santa Anita. Five for six in her career.

5.  Break Even - Was on the same trajectory as Covfefe last year until injury cut short her season. Six-for-seven lifetime, she returns to the races in Mardi Gras Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Tuesday.

Next 5: Mia Mischief, Pink Sands, Special Relativity, Spiced Perfection, Royal Charlotte.


Meet Chip Gehrke

Chip Gehrke has been with Horse Racing Nation since 2015 and currently serves as a Featured Writer. Based outside of Chicago, Chip can be found in the press box many weekends during the Arlington Park meet. The On The Air With Dr. Derby name originates from his local sports radio show appearances as an on-air racing expert. Now also a weekly contributor on FOX Sports radio's "The Fast Track," Chip can be heard giving his thoughts on the racing world every weekend.

In 2017, Chip was chosen to be a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association. As a part of the NTWAB, Chip became a voter for the year-end Eclipse Awards, something he takes very seriously. Some of Chip's favorite writings from the last couple of years is the best way to get to know him, along with following him on Twitter at @doctorderby.

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