When I started on this Divisional Standings project at the beginning of the year, I was attempting to come up with a basic system to assign points based on varying levels of graded stakes success along with applying some kind of bonus structure for horses that performed at a high level. Additionally, I split the divisions narrowly in order to try and separate and account for the specialized nature of many horses in today's game. This isn't meant to be a perfect system but simply a more mechanical ranking system, as opposed to a personalized Top 10 list.
Throughout this process I've identified instances where the standings/point system works pretty well, along with times it fails to truly capture what I intended. First, the good news: for the most part, each division turned out (so far) in a way that at least makes sense, even if the order isn't exactly how I'd put things in a personal rankings. Generally speaking, the horses that are able to consistently run well in graded stakes races appear at the top of their respective divisions, which is, at a minimum, what I want to see.
On the negative side, there are two groups of horses that get a bit underrepresented within some of the divisions: three-year-olds (either colts or fillies) and horses that are able to win on different surfaces and a range of distances. For example, Trinniberg won this year's Breeders' Cup Sprint and was a top sprinter all season long. However, because he is a three-year-old and spent most of the year competing against his own age group, he fails to crack the Top 10 in the Dirt Sprint category. (He's tied for 7th in the 3YO Colts category).
At this point I have yet to add in the speed figure bonus points, so the standings are still in the preliminary stage. However, as you will see when you click on the file, there are several categories where the bonus will not make any difference in the outcome.
2012 Graded Stakes Results & Divisional Standings (via Google Drive)
Let's take a look at the current top horses in each of the divisions:
|Classic||Game On Dude||195|
|Dirt Mile Fillies||Include Me Out||105|
|Dirt Sprint||The Factor||105|
|Dirt Sprint Fillies||Groupie Doll||230|
|Turf Classic||Point of Entry||215|
|Turf Fillies||Zagora (FR)||175|
|Turf Mile||Wise Dan||180|
|Turf Mile Fillies||Tapitsfly||150|
|Turf Sprint||Unbridled's Note||70|
|2YO Colts||Shanghai Bobby||135|
|3YO Colts||I'll Have Another||170|
|3YO Colts Turf||Summer Front||75|
|3YO Fillies||Grace Hall||155|
|3YO Fillies Turf||Centre Court||155|
Thoughts on the standings:
- In terms of sheer dominance within a specific division, no horse comes close to what Groupie Doll did this year against female sprinters. Not only has she accumulated a season best 230 points, the next closest filly in that division was 100 points behind (Musical Romance - 130 points).
- Point of Entry is the clear top in the Turf Classic division but that's in part due to the fact that Little Mike ran in the Turf Mile division on an occasion AND had a pretty big clunker at Belmont late in the year. Little Mike is an example of a horse hurt in the standings due to his ability to run at multiple distances. Take that for whatever you will.
- Most of the division look okay to me. The Factor looks like an odds choice at the top of the Dirt Sprint division until you dig into the results from that division and realize that no horse was truly dominant this year. Perhaps that's a key as to why the Breeders' Cup Sprint was ripe for a 3YO winner this year.
- I'm curious to see how the Eclipse Award voting goes in the 3YO Filly category as that group has spent much of the year beating up on each other. There are a lot of deserving candidates.
- Game On Dude comes out on top in the Classic division in part due to Fort Larned throwing in a clunker in the Stephen Foster and picking up points in the Dirt Mile division after finishing second in the G2-Alysheba. Perhaps the speed figure bonus will put him over the top at the end of the year.
- Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Beholder is second to Executiveprivelege in the 2YO Fillies division, a result I was happy to see. If I had a vote for an Eclipse award, Executiveprivilege would get my vote despite that fact she finished second to Beholder at Santa Anita. Given the totality of the performance this season, toss in the bias at Santa Anita during this year's Breeders' Cup, and I think Executiveprivilege is a perfectly fine choice.
- I was also pleased to see I'll Have Another hold onto the top spot in the 3YO Colts category as the winner of the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness should win this category. If you look at the full top 10 for the 3YO Colts division in the spreadsheet, you can see that Bodemeister or Union Rags (or any of the other 3YO colts) could have potentially overtaken IHA if they had actually raced this summer and fall. Look at Alpha; he ended up tied with Bode in the #2 spot essentially due to outlasting his competition.
- Shackleford holds a slim 10 point lead over Tapizar in the Dirt Mile category but the speed figure bonus might wipe that out by the end of the year. (Actually, it won't; Shackleford currently has the highest single Beyer, Bris and Equibase figure in the Dirt Mile division this year coming out of the Met Mile.)
- Speaking of the Dirt Mile division, if you filter the group by winners you can clearly see how wide open this division was during 2012. There are currently 25 races that comprise the Dirt Mile division which were won by 22 different horses. Only Shack (G2-Churchill Downs; G1-Met Mile), Nates Mineshaft (G3-Mineshaft; G3-Lone Start Park Hcp.) and Tapizar (G2-San Fernando; G1-BC Dirt Mile) won multiple races within the division.
This will be the final Divisional Rankings post of 2012 until I tabulate the final standings and speed figure bonus points at the conclusion of the the last graded stakes race of the year. We've got a couple of Grade 1s still on the horizon, including the Clark Handicap later this week), along with some juvenile races at Aqueduct and Hollywood. I doubt we'll see much in the way of major changes in the divisions but it's possible some shuffling will occur in the lower spots.