09/11/2016 10:30AM

Watchmaker: Has Da Big Hoss really shown himself as among the best?

Reed Palmer Photography
Da Big Hoss has won five stakes races this year, but none was a Grade 1 event.

Can a horse who has made a sufficient number of starts on the year, but who has not competed in a Grade 1 race all year, be considered one of the top members in a division where Grade 1 stakes opportunities abound?

It’s a matter of opinion, of course. But Da Big Hoss, who made Saturday’s Kentucky Turf Cup his fourth straight stakes victory and fifth stakes win of 2016, has forced the conversation.

Gifted openings on the rail in the Sword Dancer or not, there is no question that Flintshire is the best turf male in North America so far this season, and by a margin so large it’s ridiculous. Flintshire’s victories in his three starts this year in the Sword Dancer, a Grade 1 event, and in the Grade 1 Manhattan and the Grade 2 Bowling Green, were exhibitions of uncommon class.

But what about the rest of the male turf division, and where near the top does Da Big Hoss fit, if at all?

Da Big Hoss, claimed for $50,000 in June 2015 and whose only career attempt at the Grade 1 level was a respectable sixth at 60-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last fall, has but one blemish on his record this year: a fifth in the Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream in March. And for that, maybe you might want to say that Gulfstream can be a lot like Las Vegas -- what happens there can often stay there.

Otherwise, Da Big Hoss has been like clockwork. He won the Grade 3 John Connally going 12 furlongs at Sam Houston in his first start of the year. And after his loss in the Mac Diarmida, this 5-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid won the Grade 2 Elkhorn at 12 furlongs at Keeneland, the ungraded, 2-mile Belmont Gold Cup, the Grade 3, 1 11/16-mile American St. Leger at Arlington, and the aforementioned Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs at 12 furlongs.

So to keep score, that’s five stakes wins this year for Da Big Hoss, over five different turf courses, in four states. You can’t help but admire that.

How does Da Big Hoss’s 2016 record stack up against the ones yours truly has ranked below Flintshire in this week’s Watchmaker Watch? Let’s take a look.

Ironicus was an excellent second to Flintshire in the Manhattan after a less-than-perfect trip, and after winning the Grade 3 Fort Marcy in his 2016 bow. However, he has not raced since the Manhattan, although he has put some workouts together very recently.

Mondialiste won the Grade 1 Arlington Million in his only North American start this year. But this year’s Million was far from the best ever run for these reasons: Mondialiste is a miler, so it’s an indictment of the Million that he won it going 10 furlongs. The Million had the same winning Beyer Figure of 100 that Da Big Hoss earned winning the American St. Leger on that same card. And Greengrassofyoming, who was beaten only 1 1/4 lengths when fourth in the Million after trouble, was beaten more than five lengths without trouble when fourth behind Da Big Hoss in the Kentucky Turf Cup.

Obviously was extremely impressive winning the Poker Stakes in June. However, that was only a Grade 3 race, it was his only win this year, he hasn’t raced since (although he is working right along), and he has been unable to start more than four times a year the last three seasons.

Divisidero won the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic in May. But that was his only win this year, he hasn’t raced since finishing fifth in the Manhattan, and hasn’t had a published work since July.

Midnight Storm has had a fine year, winning the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile, the Grade 2 Eddie Read, and the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile. Still, even his most ardent fans would concede he beat weak fields in the Eddie Read and Del Mar Mile.

Tourist won the Grade 1 Fourstardave, but that was his only win this year. And World Approval won the Grade I United Nations, but that was his only stakes win this year.

Money Multiplier was an excellent and underrated second to Flintshire in the Sword Dancer. While everyone was complaining about how Inordinate opened the rail for Flintshire at the top of the stretch, everyone seemed to miss how Money Multiplier (who, like Flintshire, is trained by Chad Brown), opened the rail for Flintshire on the far turn the final time, costing Money Multiplier critical position. But as tremendous as Money Multiplier’s second, beaten less than two lengths, was in the Sword Dancer, he has not won a stakes race this year.

Finally, while Flamboyant was sharp winning the Grade 2 San Gabriel and Grade 2 San Marcos very early this year, his recent form has taken a substantial tumble.

Purely from the standpoint of numbers, Da Big Hoss’s 2016 record says he should probably crack anyone’s top 10 list of North American turf males this year, and I guess I will have to find a spot for him in the next Watchmaker Watch at the expense of the slumping Flamboyant.

However, I do have a problem with the fact that even as a horse who wants an extended distance, Da Big Hoss has not availed himself of the Grade 1 opportunities that were there for him. Even if you think the 10-furlong Manhattan on June 11 and the Arlington Million were a touch too short for him, Da Big Hoss passed on the Grade 1 Man o’ War at 11 furlongs May 14, he passed on the Grade 1 United Nations at 11 furlongs July 2, and he passed on the Sword Dancer at 12 furlongs August 27.
If Da Big Hoss really is the second-best turf distance horse in the country behind Flintshire, he could have proven it in one of those races.