10 things to know about the Breeders' Cup Mile
The Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) has highlighted transatlantic stars since its inception, and the 39th running on Nov. 5 at Keeneland promises to uphold the tradition. Here are 10 things to know about the storied event.
1. Not only for pure milers
Inaugurated in 1984 as part of the first Breeders’ Cup gala, the Mile is designed for specialists at the distance. Yet its honor roll includes several champions of a broader range, from Last Tycoon (1986) and Royal Academy (1990) who captured major sprints, to horses who had won over 1 1/4 miles (like Steinlen in 1989) and beyond.
2. Piercing the 1:32 barrier
The two fastest times for the Mile were posted at Santa Anita. Hall of Famer Wise Dan was the first to break the 1:32 barrier when blazing in 1:31.78 in 2012. His stakes record was eclipsed by Tourist (2016), who zipped in 1:31.71. Val Royal (2001) owns the best time outside of Southern California, and third overall on the list, with his 1:32.05 recorded at Belmont Park. Next comes the great Goldikova’s 1:32.26 at Santa Anita in 2009, the middle leg of her Mile three-peat. Also at the “Great Race Place,” Uni (2019) clocked 1:32.45, and Wise Dan earned his second Mile in 1:32.47 in 2013.
3. Defending home turf
U.S.-based horses have captured 22 of 38 runnings, including a trio of two-time winners in Lure (1992-93), Da Hoss (1996 and 1998), and the aforementioned Wise Dan. The international winners have been disproportionately French-trained (10 of 16), partly due to the exploits of repeat heroine Miesque (1987-88) and Goldikova (2008-10). Ireland has a trio of victories, but endured a drought after two in the 1990s until Order of Australia (2020) topped a Ballydoyle trifecta. That was an overdue first Mile for Aidan O’Brien. Great Britain had likewise gone winless since 1994, until Expert Eye (2018) and Space Blues (2021) revived British fortunes.
4. Seniority counts
Although it’s to be expected for older horses to win more often, the Mile is notable for featuring a handful of winners even older than typically found in the Turf (G1) or Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Five were at least six-year-olds, and Miesque’s Approval (2006) was the grand old age of seven. Eleven sophomores have won, but only two – Lure and War Chant (2000) – were domestic contenders. Of the nine internationally-based three-year-olds, four were fillies.
5. Femmes fatales
Miesque and Goldikova both began their Mile reigns as sophomore fillies, and together the French divas account for half of the 10 wins by females. The precedent was set right away in the inaugural running by Royal Heroine (1984), and fellow American-based distaffers Tepin (2015) and Uni have joined her on the podium. Tepin is also among the nine females to have placed in the Mile, when runner-up in her 2016 title defense. Goldikova was third going for a grand slam in 2011, and another French heroine, Six Perfections, was third when trying to repeat in 2004.
6. Favorites on par
Mile favorites have gone 13-for-38, for a 34.2% strike rate. That meets the rule of thumb for the top betting choice to win about 33% of the time. Wise Dan was the shortest-priced favorite to oblige, going off at 4-5 in 2013.
7. Bomb threats
Still, the Mile has also witnessed gigantic upsets, most recently with Order of Australia’s $148.40 shocker at Keeneland. His 73.20-1 price surpassed Court Vision’s $131.60 as a 64.80-1 longshot at Churchill Downs in 2011. A total of 11 winners left the gate at odds of 10-1 or higher, six in excess of 25-1. Eight were dispatched in a more logical range of 5-1 to 10-1.
8. “Kee” prep
The Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland, formerly sponsored by Shadwell and now by Coolmore, has launched six Mile winners and seven others who placed. Four winners apiece graduated from the Prix du Moulin (G1) or Prix de la Foret (G1). Even more Moulin runners (nine) went on to place in the Mile. While the Woodbine Mile (G1) has yielded only three Mile winners, it’s been an exotics key with 11 alums to hit the board.
9. Head of the class
Freddie Head tops the trainers’ list thanks to Goldikova’s treble. If you add the two trophies he won riding Miesque, Head has been a key factor in five Miles. Of the trainers with two wins, Mark Casse is noteworthy as the only active horseman in North America to have won with different horses, Tepin and World Approval (2017).
10. Unique feat for Velazquez
While Olivier Peslier piloted Goldikova, John Velazquez is the only rider to win the Mile with three different horses. If not for a life-threatening spill earlier in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup, Velazquez would have been aboard for Wise Dan’s repeat as well.