BREEDERS' CUP MILE | PURSE: $2 MILLION | GRADE 1 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | 1 MILE (TURF)
Morton Fink's homebred Wise Dan drew post 2 and was installed as the 9-5 favorite Oct. 29 for the $2 milion Breeders' Cup Mile to be run at Santa Anita Park Nov. 2, but must run the race of a lifetime to get the job done against a highly-competitive field of nine.
This year the Mile has drawn the likes of 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands winner Animal Kingdom and top European miler Excelebration, as well as the locally-based Obviously, formerly campaigned overseas and now on a three-race win streak for trainer Mike Mitchell. It is slated as race 11 on the Breeders' Cup Saturday card, with an approximate post time of 4:40 p.m. PDT.
Wise Dan, expected to arrive at Santa Anita Oct. 31 from his home base in Lexington, has won four of five starts this year including the Sept. 16 Ricoh Woodbine Mile and the Oct. 6 Shadwell Turf Mile. The 5-year-old homebred son of Wiseman's Ferry is a versatile runner, with a 10 1/2-length victory over Keeneland Polytrack earlier in the spring in the Ben Ali Stakes and a 2011 score in the Clark Handicap on dirt at Churchill Downs. Churchill was the site of his only loss this year, when he finished a head behind grade I-winning Breeders' Cup Classic contender Ron the Greek.
"It seems like he's won from every hole there is," Lopresti said of the post position. "I would have rather had probably 4-6 if I could get it, but I'm glad there's only nine horses in there. He's going to have to run the race of his life, I'll tell you, but then whoever wins the race will have run the race of their life. There's some really nice horses in there and you've got to consider all of them."
Excelebration, 2-1 on the morning line and considered by many to be the best European runner to travel to this season's edition of the Breeders' Cup, has been second to European superstar Frankel four times and third to him once. The 4-year-old Irish-bred son of Exceed and Excel comes off an explosive score in the Oct. 20 QIPCO Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in which he boldly charged between horses in the straight to score by three lengths. Trainer Aidan O'Brien conditions the top contender for Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier, and Michael Tabor.
Animal Kingdom, unraced since an easy Feb. 18 allowance score on the turf at Gulfstream Park, has been training forwardly and is in eye-catching form heading into his comeback race for Team Valor International. The 2011 Derby winner, trained by Graham Motion, arrived at Santa Anita Oct. 27 and was assigned 8-1 morning line odds.
"Animal Kingdom being in the middle like that is perfect," Motion said of post 5. "I can't wait to run him again; I'm just excited to have him back on the track. When you have a horse like that, to have him on the sidelines is very frustrating."
Animal Kingdom is returning from a fractured ilium sustained after his only start this year; it was an injury that kept the 4-year-old homebred son of Leroidesanimaux from competing in the Dubai World Cup in March.
"The reason we're running is because everything up to this point has gone so smoothly," Motion said. "It's a very competitive race but I'd made up my mind to point for this race and it's not like I'm going to change my mind just because of the competition. I feel like he's almost doing better than he was [in 2011] in the spring."
Obviously, a 4-year-old Irish-bred Choisir gelding, has finished off the board just once in 11 starts, with six wins including the most recent three for Anthony Fanticola and Joseph Scardino. He won the Oct. 6 Arroyo Seco Mile, the Aug. 26 Del Mar Handicap, and a $100,000 allowance event going a mile on the turf at Del Mar Aug. 2.
Mr. Commons, a 4-year-old Artie Schiller colt campaigned by John Shirreffs for St. George Farm, was second in the Del Mar Handicap, where the Michael Pender-trained Jeranimo completed the trifecta. A 6-year-old son of Congaree who races for Bluegrass Industries, Jeranimo is the winner of the June 30 Shoemaker Mile at Del Mar.
Completing the field are Willcox Inn, a 4-year-old Harlan's Holiday colt who was second in the Shadwell Turf Mile for Mike Stidham and All In Stable and Lael Stable; Suggestive Boy, a 4-year-old son of Easing Along who ran fifth in the Awesome Again Stakes Sept. 29 for trainer Ron McAnally and Pozo De Luna; and George Strawbridge's Moonlight Cloud, a 4-year-old daughter of Invincible Spirit who won the Sept. 16 Qatar Prix Moulin de Longchamp last time out for trainer Freddie Head. Head captured the 2008, 2009, and 2010 editions of the Mile with the phenomenal racemare Goldikova, who finished third in the 2011 edition won by 64-1 shot Court Vision .