Breeders' Cup Mile
Saturday, Oct. 25, Oak Tree at Santa Anita
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The Low-Down: With a pair of Europe's top male turf milers attempting Classic glory, namely RAVEN'S PASS and HENRYTHENAVIGATOR, the 2008 Mile won't be mistaken as one of the event's strongest renewals. But it does boast defending champion KIP DEVILLE, nary an easy exotics toss-out amongst a field of 11, and a 3-year-old filly who might have been best even if the two big Classic detours had not occurred.
Our Eyes: GOLDIKOVA is the above-mentioned filly, and she has a push-button explosion that can be called upon in a moment's notice. Twice this season she placed behind ZARKAVA, truly a European filly for the ages, before etching her name in the annals herself with a pair of Group 1 victories, topped by the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp against the boys. She gets a four-pound weight break as a 3-year-old and an additional three-pound allowance for sex. Quite arguably the best horse in the race gets a seven-pound pull in the weights. That's a lot for the opposition to overcome. Sophomore filly Six Perfections won the Mile the last time it was held at Oak Tree at Santa Anita in 2003.
KIP DEVILLE has been enigmatic throughout his career, flashing brilliance on many occasions, and simply failing to show up for work on others. After winning last year's Mile in a swamp at Monmouth, it's difficult to pin his dismal Woodbine Mile effort on the yielding grass in Canada. Certainly the firmer footing at Oak Tree will present him a chance to rebound, given he won the Sir Beaufort and Kilroe Mile over this course earlier in his career. The fact that he was working in company with now-retired stablemate BIG BROWN just a few weeks ago indicates to me that trainer Rick Dutrow was trying to build as much as he could out of KIP, given he's run only twice since April, three times all year, and really did not get much out of his Woodbine no-show.
The pace of the Mile should be swift. In drawing the 10-hole, speedy THORN SONG will be gunned from the get-go by Robby Albarado, who is riding brilliantly right now and won the Keeneland riding title. Meanwhile, trainer Dan Hendricks warned publicly that anyone who is in front of local speedball DAYTONA would be going too fast for their own good. This duo, along with the quick and dangerous mare PRECIOUS KITTEN, should pull the field along at a rapid clip. Of the trio, I lean toward PRECIOUS KITTEN as the strongest contender to last for an important share of the purse.
The fast pace should help a trio of American-based closers: wide-drawn local WHATSTHESCRIPT, who has trained well for this spot; rail-drawn SHAKIS, who is inconsistent but explosive for a Kiaran McLauglin barn that's heated back up after a post-Saratoga swoon; and AWESOME GEM, third last year in the Classic and proven brilliant enough to run a 1:34 mile on grass.
The only European male in the mix is US RANGER, who has raced almost exclusively in straightaway sprint tilts throughout his career. The last successful Euro sprinter to extend his game to Mile riches was ROYAL ACADEMY in 1990, but even he had some Group 1 miler's experience beforehand.
The Bottom Line: This is GOLDIKOVA's race to lose, plain and simple. If she reproduces 80 percent of her European form in taking to the tighter turns and short-cropped grass, as well as the near 90-degree heat, her talent overshadows these. I'll key her on top in trifectas and superfectas, using heavy doses of PRECIOUS KITTEN, WHATSTHECRIPT, SHAKIS, AWESOME GEM and a reluctant inclusion of KIP DEVILLE.
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