My memory on this only goes back to the 1970s, but I do not remember a year when we have gotten to mid-March and the country's four best 3-year-olds were unbeaten in 21 combined starts, with two of them having not been tested. Somebody with a better memory certainly can correct me, but this all seems unprecedented.
If we agree on Songbird, Cathryn Sophia, Nyquist, and Mohaymen as the best 3-year-olds (and others may have a different list), let's consider exactly what they have accomplished and contemplate what they might be capable of in the future. Again, the four are 21 for 21, the wins coming at eight different tracks by a combined 95 lengths, with the two fillies being way more dominant.
Let's start with Songbird because, to me, she was the most impressive 2-year-old of 2015 and has been the most impressive 3-year-old of 2016. As I watched Mike Smith let Songbird actually run to the lead and saw how easily she got there last Saturday in the Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita, I admit that I uttered the "R" word. Yes, that would be Ruffian, the standard by which all 2- and 3-year-old fillies are measured.
Now, I am not saying that Songbird is as good as Ruffian or even Ruffian-like, but her running style and domination surely remind me of the legendary filly, who raced from 1974-75. Songbird clears her fields with such superiority that it almost does not seem to matter who else is in the race. Admittedly, she has not run against much, but it is not Songbird's fault that none of her opponents can keep up. She has won her six races by a combined 32-1/4 lengths and could have won by 50 if Mike Smith had the inclination.
Cathryn Sophia is the outlier by purchase price and pedigree. A $30,000 daughter of Street Boss is not supposed to be winning at six furlongs twice, seven furlongs, and a mile by a combined 41-1/2 lengths. Her best races were not those where she won by the biggest margins, but the last two, where she came from off the pace to overwhelm her opponents in the stretch, running, apparently, just for the sheer joy of it.
Each of these fillies is scheduled to run once more before the Kentucky Oaks. If they both make it to Churchill Downs unbeaten -- and I am not sure why they wouldn't -- this, to me, will be the most anticipated Kentucky Oaks since 2009. But that was just to see how much Rachel Alexandra would win by. This is to see how fast one of these fillies might run if she really has to run fast to win.
The colts are not nearly as exciting but just as unbeaten. Nyquist is 6 for 6 by just shy of 12 lengths. He had never run fast until his comeback race Feb. 15, when he got a 101 Beyer Speed Figure in a very impressive San Vicente Stakes win. The colt has won three races by less than a length, but three of his wins have come in Grade 1 stakes and two in Grade 2 stakes.
I was not much of a fan before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile but began to waver a bit when he overcame so much to win. Still, the 89 Beyer told me to stay off the bandwagon. Well, that 101 was new and very valuable information. My thinking on Nyquist has changed. This colt's record is earned and deserved.
Mohaymen has won his five races by a total of 9-1/2 lengths -- again, not overwhelming. But other than his first start, where he really had to show some toughness, he never was in any danger of losing.
The colt has shown the ability to maneuver in difficult spots, move in and out of tricky positions, and run with some authority in the final 200 yards. I wish Mohaymen was running a bit faster at this stage, but when I watch him run, he surely looks like a colt with much more there.
If Nyquist and Mohaymen hook up in the Florida Derby, we all will get to see how much more these two terrific colts have.
So far, we have six Grade 1 wins, nine Grade 2 wins, one Grade 3, and 21 perfect chapters in a book that is impossible to put down.