Game On Dude still the country's best horseThe results of this weekend's races--despite the favorite rolling in the Pacific Classic Stakes and an upset in the Travers--did nothing to change my thoughts on the championship picture for Horse of the Year and three-year-old male, respectively.
Game On Dude is still in the Horse of the Year drivers seat by virtue of his third Grade 1 win--all at 1 1/4 miles and on three different surfaces. Wise Dan could have five Grade 1 wins by the end of the year, but it will be impossible to deny Game On Dude Eclipse Awards as Horse of the Year and champion older male if he finally gets his Breeders' Cup Classic (he'd have won both awards in 2011 or 2012 with a win in that race).
I've had Game On Dude "ranked" on top since his Hollywood Gold Cup win, and he'll stay there unless he loses the Breeders' Cup.
And Orb is still the top three-year-old male by virtue of his Kentucky and Florida Derby wins to go along with blacktype in the Belmont and Travers Stakes. Palace Malice remains in second with the Belmont and Jim Dandy wins, but is in a position of needing to win races to dethrone Orb. "Much the best" fourth-place finishes won't cut it--even in great races like the Jockey Club Gold Cup or Breeders' Cup Classic.
Speaking of Palace Malice and the Travers, him rounding out the superfecta has to be the most celebrated fourth-place finish in the history of the Turf outside Jazil and Brother Derek dead heating for fourth in the 2006 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. I don't disagree that he was among the best in the race, but I don't think he was "much the best" nor do I think he'll never lose to his peers again.
Orb (my pick) had absolutely no excuse considering the trip. He flattened and somehow held on for show (this description works well for his Belmont as well), but unlike the Belmont when he was a gassed horse racing for the sixth time in five months, he probably needed this race. I'm not giving up on him--especially if he shows up in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in the 10-to-1 range.
Will Take Charge ran well considering how he had to get there, and he ran fast. I guess all this praise of the winner, third-, and fourth-place finishers means I should love Moreno, too, but I'm just not sold.
As for Will Take Charge's championship aspirations, it comes down to winning. I still have him behind Verrazano on the three-year-old depth chart. The Travers is a real nice race to win but that and the Rebel doesn't usurp a Wood Memorial-Haskell double, though another graded win probably would--especially if it comes against older.
My America's Best Racing/ESPN poll for the week is:
1. Game On Dude, 2. Wise Dan, 3. Royal Delta, 4. Cross Traffic, 5. Obviously, 6. Point of Entry, 7. Sahara Sky, 8. Fort Larned, 9. Flat Out, 10. Successful Dan.
Biggest race this coming weekend is the Woodward.