It was a pivotal weekend for the 3-year-old colt division, a class that no horse seems to want to take control of. But big efforts by Stay Thirsty and Coil have thrust them into a jumbled Eclipse Award picture. With the Haskell and Jim Dandy, the first two major events of the second season for the 3-year-olds in the books, a look at who was good, who wasn’t and who might just take control of this crazy division from here:
Coil (A): In his dirt debut, he was superb in winning the Haskell, which wasn’t necessarily a surprise. Bob Baffert’s horses tend to be better on the dirt than they are on synthetic surfaces and his pedigree (he’s by Point Given) suggested that he belonged on the dirt all along. An eighth of a mile into the race, he looked beaten. Usually a horse near the pace, he was lagging in the rear. But Martin Garcia got him going in time and, despite, having to make a five-wide move, he won the Haskell by a neck over Shackleford. He may now try to do what his sire did, win the Haskell and Travers back-to-back on the way to a 3-year-old title.
Stay Thirsty (A-):What’s with this horse? He was awful in the Florida Derby and not much better in the Kentucky Derby. A horse that looked like he was totally overmatched against the best of the division, he then runs a big race in the Belmont and an even bigger one in the Jim Dandy, which he won by four lengths. The only reason he doesn’t get an A is because the Jim Dandy didn’t have a stellar field. There’s no reason why he can’t win the Travers.
Shackleford (B +): There’s a lot to like about this horse. He shows up in every big spot and is always in the mix. His job wasn’t made any easier in the Haskell when Joe Vann and Joe Bravo went for it from the gate and grabbed the lead. Shackleford fought all the way and was dead game in the stretch, losing by just a neck, when it looked like Coil was going to blow by him.
Ruler On Ice (B -): The bettors gave the Belmont winner no respect in the Haskell, sending him off at 6-1, higher odds than his stablemate, Pants On Fire. He didn’t run that badly, but he had no excuses and a third-place finish did nothing to help his reputation or move him any closer to the 3-year-old title.
Turbo Compressor (B -): It’s hard to get too excited about a horse that merely won a $75,000 stakes event, but this Todd-Pletcher-trained colt looked good winning Friday’s Curlin Stakes at Saratoga. He won by 2 ¾ lengths and covered the mile-and-an-eighth in 1:51.12. Earlier in the card a solid older allowance runner named Convocation won in 1:52.64.
Dominus (C -): Was the favorite in the Jim Dandy and was, many predicted, the colt most likely to emerge from the crowd and announce that he was going to be a serious player the rest of the way. It didn’t happen. He had a perfect trip and every chance and couldn’t even hold off longshot Moonshine Mullin for the place spot in the Jim Dandy.
Pants On Fire (D -): All the wiseguys thought he would finish in front of his more celebrated stablemate, Ruler On Ice, in the Haskell. Wrong. The Louisiana Derby winner was the single biggest disappointment in the race, finishing fifth, beaten 10 ½ lengths.
The question now is can anybody possibly win a second big one? There have been nine Grade 1 races run for 3-year-old males on the dirt this year and there have been nine different winners. They are: Archarcharch (Arkansas Derby); Ruler On Ice (Belmont); Brilliant Speed (Blue Grass); Dialed In (Florida Derby); Coil (Haskell); Animal Kingdom (Kentucky Derby); Shackleford (Preakness); Midnight Interlude (Santa Anita Derby) and Toby’s Corner (Wood Memorial).
The Travers now looms as the biggest test in the division and, perhaps, the last opportunity for a horse to assume leadership of the class. A win by Ruler On Ice, Shackleford, Coil or, maybe even Stay Thirsty, could be all it takes to wrap up an Eclipse Award.
Then there’s the wildcard: Uncle Mo. He may still be the most talented member of the division, but he has accomplished next to nothing this year. Should Pletcher get him back and should he win the King’s Bishop, who knows what he can still accomplish this year? But that’s asking an awful lot of this horse.
Then again, who knows? In a strange year for 3-year-olds, anything could happen.
Originally Posted on ESPN