Ginger Punch has a chance to win her second straight Breeders' Cup race in the Ladies' Classic. And Curlin, of course, will be trying for consecutive wins in the BC Classic. But let us not overlook Kip Deville, a horse with a good chance to take down the Breeders' Cup Mile for the second year in a row - with still more racing perhaps in his future.
Five-year-old Kip Deville is an Oklahoma-bred son of Kipling out of a mare by the old California sire Encino - not the kind of pedigree one rushes off to a career at stud. Asked if Kip Deville was singing his swan song in this year's BC Mile, trainer Rick Dutrow said: "Not if he wins. If he wins, we're going to try and come back for a three-peat. We love the horse, love watching him run. That's more exciting to us than sending him off to the farm and start breeding him."
Kip Deville was one of 14 pre-entries in the BC Mile. If all were to start in the race, the gate would be full, but a field of 11 seems more likely. Awesome Gem and Raven's Pass have the Classic listed as their first preference, and Ventura has the Filly and Mare Sprint; all seem likely to wind up in the other races.
The top European in the Mile will be the 3-year-old filly Goldikova, whose trainer, Freddie Head, won consecutive editions of this race while riding the famed Miesque. Trainer Aidan O'Brien entered a lesser-known miler, U S Ranger, while putting Henrythenavigator only in the Classic. Lord Admiral, the well-traveled 7-year-old who finished fourth in the Shadwell Turf Mile, completes the European contingent.
In fact, in terms of overseas participation, the first Breeders' Cup on a synthetic racing surface has hurt the Mile as much as it has helped the Classic. Were the main-track races on dirt this year, both Henrythenavigator and Raven's Pass - the two best Euro milers of the moment - could easily have been pointed to this race rather than the 1 1/4-mile Classic.
As for Kip Deville, he did a major in-company work this week at Aqueduct, but since his company was Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown - who suffered a foot injury during the work that forced his retirement - Kip Deville's six-furlong drill (timed in 1:12.80 around the dogs) got a little lost.
"He got a good work in," said Dutrow. "The next one, on the 20th, will be basic: five furlongs, out six."
Dutrow said he wasn't sure whether Kip Deville's Monday work would be on turf or the Aqueduct dirt. The horse ships Tuesday to California, but the West Coast vibe will not be new to Kip Deville. He stabled in California from the fall of 2006 into the winter of 2007, winning two races - the Sir Beaufort and the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile - over the Santa Anita grass course that winter.
"He's going to California on a course he loves," Dutrow said. "Last year, no one could tell you they were going to like that course at Monmouth. We were just hoping he was going to like it."
Indeed, while Kip Deville slogged through the bog last fall to win the BC Mile over a course as wet as a European course labeled heavy, he also has run well on fast-playing turf courses. Moreover, Dutrow said that Kip Deville's campaign this season has progressed more smoothly than last year's, when the horse got good at just the right time to win the Mile. Had Kip Deville done better than a fifth-place finish last out in the Woodbine Mile, he might enter this year's BC Mile as a defined favorite.
"He's been training unbelievable the last six, eight months," said Dutrow. "He's had no issues all year long. The only issue we had is we don't know what happened in his last race. But I'm more confident than I was going into last year."
As expected, the Mile pre-entries did not include Kelso winner Tam Lin, but at least mildly surprising was the absence of the one-two finishers from the Oak Tree Mile, Hyperbaric and Tybalt. Trainer Julio Canani said recently that Hyperbaric was not eating the way Canani wanted. Bobby Frankel, Tybalt's trainer, has the mare Precious Kitten for the Mile.