William Faulkner, a fan and admirer of Thoroughbred racing, once remarked, “Given a choice between Scotch and nothing, I’ll take Scotch.” What remained of racing in recent weeks and what will for the foreseeable future is a sort of metaphorical Scotch as Faulkner might have viewed it.
At least (for now) there is still some Scotch in the cupboard. Unfortunately, with the exception of Oaklawn Park’s altered stakes schedule over the next four weeks, little of it could be described as top shelf. But at least this isn’t 1945, when all of racing was lost for an entire quarter and then some.
The first quarter of the 2020 racing year is now complete, and while some divisions have naturally been slow to rev up, we do have some early leaders as we unfortunately transition into an enforced break for much of the top level.
There will be no immediate clash between East and West soon, but Tiz the Law‘s two emphatic victories in the Holy Bull (G3) and Florida Derby (G1) make him the logical leader of the division as of now, and the likely individual favorite in this week’s fourth pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW).
Honorable mention goes to Authentic, who beat a strong field in the San Felipe (G2) following a score in the Sham (G3) in the early days of the new year.
Good luck finding a consensus choice here, but the California-based Venetian Harbor has the potential to be something special if her Las Virgenes (G2) was any indication.
Honorable mention to Santa Ysabel (G3) heroine Donna Veloce and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) winner Bonny South, the latter’s form lines having been rather flattering of late.
The effects of the pandemic quickly shoved the story of the federal indictment against trainer Jason Servis and others off the sport’s front page, but what to think and make of Saudi Cup winner Maximum Security still hovers like a dark cloud over this division.
With limited data to go on, Pegasus World Cup (G1) winner and Saudi Cup third Mucho Gusto, along with New Orleans Classic (G2) victor By My Standards, are noteworthy standard bearers so far.
She didn’t win, but reigning champion Midnight Bisou‘s performance in the Saudi Cup was exemplary in every other respect.
Among those with at least one stakes win in the first quarter, Azeri (G2) heroine Serengeti Empress and Beholder Mile (G1) winner Ce Ce are obvious standouts.
Despite a narrow loss last weekend in the Pan American (G2), Zulu Alpha is a clear standout based on earlier scores in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and Mac Diarmida (G2).
The Chad Brown juggernaut has yet to get cranked up, but for the time being multiple Canadian champion Starship Jubilee can relish the spotlight as the most accomplished division performer of the first quarter with three stakes wins, including the Hillsborough (G2) and Suwannee River (G3).
Neither the male and female divisions have taken great shape so far, though Hard Not to Love is out in front on the distaff side courtesy of her Santa Monica (G2) victory.
As far as the boys, Flagstaff, Mind Control, and Firenze Fire are early notables.