As the biggest race of the Del Mar meet will be run this weekend, several divisions are in flux. Leaders have been lost due to different reasons. Some have not have a clear leader for a while. Others have a standard-bearer that has been around for years. Today's post will competitively rank the 8 main divisions in Southern California. The 8 divisions are Older male, Older female, 3yo male, 3yo female, Sprint - male, Sprint - female, Turf - male and Turf - female. I combined the 3yo categories due to the constant crossover from one surface to the other in the male division made it hard to separate the two groups.
The criteria for these rankings are: Biggest star in the division, depth, overall records, results from outside SoCal and overall perception of the division
1. 3 year old female - Top horses: Blind Luck, Evening Jewel, Harmonious
The top division in Southern California is the three year-old fillies. The top two in the country reside here in Blind Luck, who shipped out once again, this time to Saratoga, to win the Grade 1 Alabama, and Evening Jewel, who won her third straight grass stakes with the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. She defeated Grade 1 winner Harmonious and the eastern invader Perfect Shirl. The only reason this group does not have a ten is that it does not have its top sprinter in Tanda, currently taking some time off and being pointed for a December return. Harmonious finished second in the Del Mar Oaks after an extremely wide trip.
Ranking: 9 Chocolate-covered Pickles
2. Older female - Top horse: Zenyatta
The second spot goes to literally just Zenyatta. Without an able foil currently in training, this blog could not put her division in the top spot due to the lack of depth. Zenyatta is clearly the best horse in Southern California, but she does not have anyone to go with her. The 2nd best older filly is maybe Lilly Fa Pootz on the grass, or maybe Sweet August Moon sprinting, but they are so far back of the top spot that the do not lend enough support to move this division higher.
Ranking: 8 1/2 Chocolate-covered Pickles
3. Male Sprint - Top horses: California Flag, EZ Gentleman, Kinsale King
This division has parity in it, but is buoyed by the return of California Flag to the turf flank of the division. EZ Gentlemen was unable to catch lonely leader Smiling Tiger in the Bing Crosby, but has a chance to avenge that loss this Saturday in the Pat O'Brien. Kinsale King, the winner of the Dubai Golden Shaheen, has returned to Southern California after an excursion in Europe and is on the worktab, with the most recent work happening today at Hollywood Park.
Ranking: 6 1/2 Chocolate-covered Pickles
4. Older Male (Turf) - Top horses: The Usual Q T, California Flag, Victor's Cry
This division has a clear leader in The Usual Q T, who easily won the Eddie Read handicap last night. He will try the Del Mar Poly this Saturday in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. The number two is the aforementioned California Flag, who returned off the bench to win the Green Flash Handicap last week. Victor's Cry finished 2nd behind Q T in the Eddie Read.
Ranking: 6 Chocolate-covered Pickles
5. 3 Year Old male - Top horses: Lookin at Lucky, Sidney's Candy, Smiling Tiger
The reason that this group is this low is that generally feeling that this division nationwide is weak, especially on the main track. While the division leader resides in Southern California in Lookin At Lucky, that does not necessarily make this ranking higher. Sidney's Candy lands number two after his fast win in the La Jolla Handicap. Smiling Tiger got away with an easy pace last time out while upsetting the Bing Crosby, and now will attempt to validate that win in this weekend's Pat O'Brien.
Ranking: 5 1/2 Chocolate-covered Pickles
6 (tie). Older Male (Main Track) - Top horses: Awesome Gem, Dakota Phone, Temple City, Richard's Kid
This division is lead by Awesome Gem, who won the Hollywood Gold Cup last out. He always comes with his run, and finally got his elusive Grade 1 win last out. Dakota Phone finally got his graded stakes win last out when he won the local prep for this race, the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap. Temple City finally got the graded stakes monkey of his back with a win the Grade 3 Cougar Handicap. Richard's Kid is still looking for his first win since February. The reason this group is ranked so low is two-fold. One, the top two horses in the division are currently not a part of it. Rail Trip, who was considered the division leader until his loss in Gold Cup, has been moved by his owners to the East Coast. Misremembered has only had one recent work since his win the Santa Anita Handicap, and is looking to make a return in a prep race for the Breeders' Cup Classic. Two, the top two who are currently running have a tendency to finish for minor placings more often than not. These reasons are why this division is ranked so low.
Ranking: 4 Chocolate-covered Pickles
6. (tie) Female Sprint - Top horse: Sweet August Moon
This already underwhelming group was further weakened by the injury to Free Flying Soul, which caused her to scratch from the Rancho Bernardo Handicap. Sweet August Moon has won the last two graded stakes for female sprinters out here. This group awaits the return of Mona De Momma, who parlayed the Las Flores Handicap into a win of the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs. Until then, this division has a steady but unproven leader.
Ranking: 4 Chocolate-covered Pickles
8. Older Female (Turf) - Top horses: Lilly Fa Pootz, Gotta Have Her
This division was left without a leader when Tuscan Evening tragically passed away last week after a workout. This division is like the older females on the main track, in which there was a clear leader. Without her though, this division is in disarray. The current leader is former $16k claimer Lilly Fa Pootz, who finished 2nd to Midwest invader Wasted Tears in the Mabee Handicap. Gotta Have Her finished behind Lilly in the race. This division lakes a clear leader and is punished since only Gotta Have Her has shown her quality repeatedly in stakes.
Ranking: 3 Chocolate-covered Pickles
There is this blog's ranking of the divisions in Southern California. Some may disagree with this list. If so, this blog invites you to "give your ten cents" worth and put up your own list in the comments. This weekend's stakes action will have a definite impact on the rankings, so let's see how things unfold.