Although Bricks and Mortar continues to lead in the poll there remains possibility that even if he wins out and completes an unbeaten season, he won’t be awarded Horse of the Year.
Connections have indicated that the Breeders’ Cup may not be on their radar for the son of Giant’s Causeway due to concerns about the 12-furlong distance of the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
So, as it stands now, there are three logical Horse of the Year contenders, each of them standouts in their respective divisions.
At this point in the season, Bricks and Mortar is the front-runner, and he deserves his number one ranking. But what also hurts his case should he skip the Breeders’ Cup is the historically weak male turf division he has been beating. In order to really solidify his case, the Chad Brown trainee may need to beat the best, including international rivals, on the big stage.
A turf horse hasn't won Horse of the Year without running in, and winning, a Breeders' Cup race since the championships began running. Without a Breeders' Cup start, Bricks and Mortar would need the other contenders to falter -- and it doesn't look like much is stopping any of these three horses.
Midnight Bisou has already won five graded stakes in 2019, two of them at the Grade 1 level. A win in her next start, the Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga, would all but wrap up a division title regardless of what happens this fall.
So can Midnight Bisou contend for Horse of the Year? She will likely run one more race after the Personal Ensign and before the Breeders’ Cup. With a win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, she too could finish off an unbeaten season, going as much as 8-for-8, and would most certainly receive tremendous support for the award. For this voter, she would get the nod over Bricks and Mortar should the above scenarios play out.
But what about Mitole? He too has a chance at an unbeaten season and Horse of the Year nod.
His last two starts have yielded Grade 1 wins, and his is a unique scenario. He will likely not go two turns, but he defeated top older males in McKinizie and Thunder Snow in the Met Mile (G1). His quality is unquestioned.
Mitole is expected to run Saturday in Saratoga's Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) and will be heavily favoured to make it 5-for-5 in 2019. He too would likely have one more start before the Breeders’ Cup, and his connections would then have a choice between the Dirt Mile and Sprint. Mitole is chasing a 7-for-7 season.
How about that potential scenario? Three horses from different divisions each finishing their years without a loss.
My take is simple: If all three pull off the above, Horse of the Year comes down to Mitole and Midnight Bisou.
Can any other horse work its way into the conversation? It would be tough to envision that right now.
Many will look to the glamour division, the 3-year-old males, for an answer. At this point, only Maximum Security seems to fit. If he wasn't disqualified in the Kentucky Derby, he'd be a fourth logical contender. His resume stands out in his division, and should he keep winning and run in the Breeders’ Cup, a Classic win could put him on ballots pending finishing touches by the aforementioned Big 3.
Given that, here's a look at this week's rankings:
1. Maximum Security – He doesn’t seem to get the respect he deserves and is clearly the leader of this division after his Haskell (G1) score. Crossing the wire first in three Grade 1 events this season, he has shown to be a very game horse in the stretch, proving difficult to get past.
3. Game Winner – Ran as expected in his Los Alamitos Derby (G3) romp. Will go next in the Travers as a possible favorite. He has a chance to take over leadership of this division from there.
4. Tacitus – Again came running in the stretch of a Triple Crown race but fell short of Sir Winston in the Belmont, where he was second best. Will run this weekend in the Jim Dandy.
5. Omaha Beach – Had some bad luck with the throat issues that caused him to scratch from the Derby and miss time. Had his first breeze since a week before the Kentucky Derby, and his comeback is slated to be the Aug. 25 Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar.
Next 5: Code of Honor, Sir Winston, Country House, Owendale, Mucho Gusto.
1. Guarana – Passed another test in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), but she had to work for it in the stretch after setting a slow pace. Only three starts in her career and she already has two Grade 1 wins. She has a hold on this spot right now, but I get the feeling she may find things tougher moving forward.
2. Serengeti Empress – She was simply second best in the Acorn but went extremely fast early. The loaded Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga will be her next start.
3. Bellafina – Her fifth-place finish in the Oaks was disappointing for her connections. Nine furlongs may be a bit too far for the daughter of Quality Road. Will also go in the Test Stakes.
4. Lady Apple – Got the job done with a half-length win in the Iowa Oaks (G3). The Fantasy Stakes (G3) winner also gave a good account of herself in the Kentucky Oaks with her third-place finish.
5. Dunbar Road – Last month's Mother Goose (G2) winner looked good in victory, but I question who she really defeated.
Next 6: Point of Honor, Champagne Anyone, Break Even, Jaywalk, Concrete Rose, Covfeve