BC Internationals: Turf/Mile contender Mondialiste
Given those diverging targets between 2015 and 2016, it’s not that much of a surprise that trainer David O’Meara is more inclined to try the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) this time around.
Indeed, on pedigree, the Wertheimer-bred Mondialiste always figured to excel beyond a mile. Although his dam, Occupandiste, captured the 6 1/2-furlong Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1) and seven-furlong Prix de la Foret (G1), he’s by Galileo. And his three-quarter brother, Intello, earned his signature win in the French Derby (G1) and handled 1 1/2 miles well enough to place third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).
Mondialiste’s original trainer, Freddie Head, even started him out at 1 3/16 miles before shortening up to a mile. Joining O’Meara after being sold, he spent most of 2015 at a mile. But the way he stayed on late to win last summer’s nine-furlong Strensall (G3) at York indicated that more ground was welcome.
The same holds true for his rousing rally in his next outing, the Woodbine Mile, where he needed all of the stretch to get up:
That was my biggest concern about him going into last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). Wouldn’t Mondialiste leave himself too much to do around Keeneland? As it turned out, traffic trouble was the real culprit. He barreled home once in the clear, but it was too late to threaten Tepin.
Mondialiste’s next three starts, all drubbings, are easily overlooked. He was off form at the end of a long year in the Hong Kong Mile (G1), his comeback seventh in the Prix d’Ispahan (G1) came on heavy going that hardly anyone but A Shin Hikari handled, and his 11th behind Tepin in the Queen Anne (G1) came on an Ascot straight he hasn’t done too well on in the past.
For all intents and purposes, his campaign really got off the ground in the July 23 York S. (G2), which also coincided with a substantial step up in trip on a good-to-firm course. Trying about 10 1/2 furlongs for the first time in his life, Mondialiste took to it and nearly upset hot favorite Time Test.
Just as a good race at York served as his launching pad to Woodbine, so did it prove again this year when Mondialiste went on to land the Arlington Million (G1). He stayed every yard of the 1 1/4 miles and kept on doggedly to outfinish Aidan O’Brien’s Belmont Derby (G1) winner Deauville.
Fans everywhere anticipated a Tepin-Mondialiste rematch in the Woodbine Mile, but O’Meara opted to return to Keeneland instead. Although the pokey pace in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) put the closers at a disadvantage, Mondialiste still didn’t flash the electric turn of foot of a miler, like deep closer Ironicus. In fact, he looked a little dour as Ironicus inhaled him on the way to finishing second.
The Breeders’ Cup Mile will produce a proper pace, but Mondialiste might well be caught for speed around Santa Anita’s lightning-fast mile. Recall that last year’s Mile took place on a rain-affected course, as did the Woodbine Mile, blunting the acceleration of the specialists. Mondialiste will have to outkick those speedier types on a surface that caters to them.
Mondialiste’s other option of the Turf presents a different challenge – a first attempt at 1 1/2 miles. But the same Santa Anita factors that work against him in the Mile redound to his benefit in the Turf. This is a much kinder 12 furlongs than he’d find in Europe, and with a moderate pace likely, the Turf may develop into a sit-and-sprint. A horse with his mile to 10-furlong range would be suited by such a race shape, on quick ground that won’t demand an excess of stamina. The distance may his absolute limit, but if he can get it anywhere, this is the place to try.
Hence O'Meara declared he's probably choosing the Turf, despite the fact that the Mile was listed as his first preference at pre-entry time.
“Mondialiste likes the American style of racing with its fast ground and turning tracks,” O’Meara commented.
“When he won the Arlington Million back in August he clocked the third fastest time in the last 10 years, so the ground was pretty quick and a similar surface at Santa Anita will hold no fears for him.
“We are leaning towards stepping him up to a mile and a half for the Breeders’ Cup Turf rather than going again in the Mile. It’s a very fast mile and a half at Santa Anita, beginning in a chute which is part of the sprint course, so I think that will suit him fine.”
Mondialiste already has his free berth for the Turf too, since the Arlington Million is a “Win and You’re In.” Of perhaps greater concern than the trip is the caliber of his opponents. He was all-out to beat Deauville and Kasaqui at Arlington, and now he must line up against Highland Reel and Flintshire. Even if an upset victory doesn’t appear likely, Mondialiste figures to give a good account of himself and add value to the exotics.
Photo courtesy Four Footed Fotos