Mostly Hazy - By Eric Mitchell

 (Originally published in the August 6, 2011 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.

By Eric Mitchell - @EJMitchellKy on Twitter

By Eric Mitchell The 3-year-old male who can nail down at least one more grade I stakes before the end of the year is almost assured the title of sophomore champion. But right now, the race for the Eclipse Award trophy is still wide open.

We were hoping the July 31 Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I) would help clear the picture as Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Shackleford and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Ruler On Ice were facing off. But as we saw in each race leading up to and during the Triple Crown series, the Haskell just continued to muddy the waters. Coil, a son of Point Given and winner of the grade III Affirmed Handicap, chased down Shackleford in the stretch to win by a neck.

Two grade I stakes. That’s all it’s taken for many runners to win championships.

Since 1973 when the grading system was adopted in North America, 13 champions were crowned with two grade I victories. Most of them, however, had other graded stakes wins under their belts. Only two of those champions had two grade I wins and no other graded stakes victories—Real Quiet in 1998 and Funny Cide in 2003. Both won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and the Preakness, only to miss a Triple Crown title in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

Prairie Bayou is the only 3-year-old since 1973 to be named champion with only one grade I stakes win. Sadly, after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby and winning the 1993 Preakness Stakes, the son of Little Missouri broke down in the Belmont and had to be euthanized. Prairie Bayou did have a total of three victories in graded stakes, having won the Jim Beam Stakes and the Blue Grass Stakes, both grade II at the time.

If the pattern we’ve been seeing since February continues through the year, 2011 may become the only other year we’ve named a 3-year-old champion with a single grade I victory. We’ll not despair, yet, because there is a lot of racing left in the year. But if another new face emerges at the wire in the Aug. 27 Travers Stakes (gr. I), we’ll have to look to the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) or the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) to crown the 3-year-old champion.

Just to add some perspective, the 3-year-old champion since 1973 who had the most grade I victories during his sophomore year is Spectacular Bid with six. Considered the best horse to have never won the Triple Crown, the son of Bold Bidder won a total of eight graded stakes from 12 starts in 1979. Champions that had five grade I victories include Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Sunday Silence, Holy Bull, and Point Given.

Overseas in Great Britain, there is no question who is carrying the mantle of best 3-year-old. Unbeaten phenomenon Frankel showed an amazing burst of speed in winning the July 27 QIPCO Sussex Stakes at Goodwood over serious challenger—and 4-year-old—Canford Cliffs. Named after the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel and a son of Galileo, Frankel has now won eight consecutive races and amassed earnings of $1,313,695. The Sussex was his third group I victory in England in year, following the QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas in April and the St. James’s Palace Stakes in June.

The latest word from owner/breeder Khalid Abdullah is Frankel is not being considered for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. That’s too bad. Frankel excels at a mile and the prospect of a showdown with Goldikova in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) as the legendary mare seeks her fourth consecutive Mile title would have been a promoter’s dream come true; a real once-in-a-lifetime event. Again, there is a lot of racing left in the year, and we have already seen how quickly the picture can change.


Leave a Comment:


dear mr mitchell correct me if i am wrong, did'nt affirmed win six grade ones when he was a three year old. santa anita. hollywood derby. kentucky derby, preakness, belmont stakes,travers stakes.

02 Aug 2011 7:24 PM

Amazingly, Easy Goer won 6 Grade I races as a three year old(Belmont,Whitney,Woodward,Wood Memorial,Travers,Jockey Club Gold Cup) and 9 total Grade I's. Easy Goer and Sunday Silence were some greats.

02 Aug 2011 10:41 PM

im looking foward to the breeders cup all though us euros are at a disadvantage havin to travel over and run on dirt which we dont run on but we hav a great shot at winning the classic all the 3 year olds and older horses are the worst group ever we have far better horses and we will dominate all the turf races also last year u had zenyatta quality road blame lookin at lucky this year nothing even close to them should be fun

03 Aug 2011 4:14 AM

Frankel is a very nice horse,but i feel he will be beaten,where he wins every time the style of his performance differs as opposed to Goldikova who seems to run the same race every time.Somewone's going to get him off that pedistal soon i rekon.

03 Aug 2011 6:01 AM
Ian Tapp


Affirmed won 5 G1's as a 3YO. He finished first in the Travers but was DQ'ed.

03 Aug 2011 9:42 AM

The three yo fillies and older mares are much more intriguing than their male counterparts this year.  However, I am looking forward to seeing Coil run again.  This late bloomer really has nice acceleration.  I do need to give Shackleford credit for dancing every dance.

04 Aug 2011 4:07 PM
Pedigree Ann

Would this be where we start looking at facts like Shackleford was beaten a neck while conceding 4 lbs. to the winner? I know that nobody talks about weight anymore, because track handicappers are too chicken to assign proper weights in their handicaps (really, Zenyatta never carried more than 129? Ta Wee won under 142!!), but still...,

07 Aug 2011 9:55 AM

In my opinion....too early!  Stop the spin!...There are several key races to yet to be run!  Give it time!  

09 Aug 2011 7:55 AM

And to make it more comes Mo....firing a bullet and ahead of schedule. Coil is going to be tough because he's still improving though... I think Shack is doomed because they are going a mile and a quarter (again). If they kept him at 1  1/8th and picked up another win or a couple more close seconds, all he'd have to do is hit the board in the classic and loose to an older horse and still take the 3 yr old crown, but going down to classmates, no matter how close or how pretty he is, isn't going to cut it. Looks like the mares are going to go head to head again, still would like to see one of them jump over and take on these clowns later in the year, especially if Coil loses the Travers.

09 Aug 2011 4:45 PM

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