Breeders' Cup Mile Preview
The 2015 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) features an army of well qualified Europeans tackling an American division that currently lacks a star. Thus the handicapping puzzle revolves around putting the internationals in the right order. I could well be underestimating defending champion Karakontie at my peril again, but the old bettor’s line about weddings and funerals comes to mind. Or to use a different cliché, I don’t want to fight the last war.
1ST – TIME TEST (6-1) isn’t a specialist miler, and he’s drawn the outside post 12, so my top selection is a bit quizzical. But this well-bred son of Dubawi has the potential to be very special, and we might see that talent on display here. Although trainer Roger Charlton started the Juddmonte homebred out over 1 1/4 miles this season, Time Test revealed some electric changes of gear to win at Newbury and in the Tercentenary (G3) at Royal Ascot. He was widely regarded as the best alternative to Golden Horn in the Juddmonte International (G1), but wound up a lackluster fourth behind shock winner Arabian Queen. Turning back in trip to a mile for the Joel (G2) at Newmarket last out, Time Test looked like himself when punching smartly from just off the pace. Charlton had his choice of targets before settling on the Breeders’ Cup, and his hopes for firmer turf haven’t panned out. Yet he did break his maiden over softish going at Sandown last fall, and with the rip-roaring pace served up by Obviously, the Mile could play to a horse who stays farther and has a terrific turn of foot. Ace jockey Ryan Moore overcame post 14 with Juvenile Turf (G1) winner Hit It a Bomb on Friday, and we’ll trust him to work out a trip from here too.
2ND – MAKE BELIEVE (3-1) has been devastating twice this season, when wiring the French 2000 Guineas (G1) and when blazing to a course record in Longchamp’s Prix de la Foret (G1) in his latest. If he can avoid a regression, he’d be a prime contender in this spot. And trainer Andre Fabre just sounded very bullish about him running right back to his best. One hesitation is that he’d flopped badly in the St James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot, and another is that he may find himself too close to Obviously early. At least soft ground is no concern at all to the son of Makfi, who keeps the astute Olivier Peslier – rider of three-time Mile legend Goldikova -- in the saddle.
3RD – ESOTERIQUE (7-2) was confirmed for this before Fabre added Make Believe to the Breeders’ Cup squad, and the top-class mare has every right to go very close. Runner-up in the 2013 French 1000 Guineas (G1) and victorious in the 2014 Prix Rothschild (G1) over Miss France (who’s a proper contender in the Filly & Mare Turf [G1]), Esoterique has been even better in 2015. After playing second fiddle to the white-hot males Solow and Muhaarar, she’s turned a Group 1 double in the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1) and Sun Chariot (G1). Although her recent races have come over a straight mile, Esoterique has also handled Longchamp’s right-handed mile in the past, and the ground should be fine for her too.
Longshot – I'm sorely tempted by IMPASSABLE (8-1), given her sparkling collateral form with Ervedya, but in the end decided to take a stab with an expected bigger price in MSHAWISH (15-1). Once a smart three-year-old in France, the Al Shaqab Racing runner broke through with a first Group victory in the Zabeel Mile (G2) at the 2014 Dubai Carnival (easily beating future Woodbine Mile [G1] winner and Breeders’ Cup Mile third Trade Storm). Mshawish joined Todd Pletcher last summer, and after a few unlucky runs, reached peak form at Gulfstream over the winter. A foot problem nearly derailed him in the Dubai Turf (G1), but he took his chance and finished a creditable third to Solow and The Grey Gatsby. The son of Medaglia d’Oro has continued to have his foot issues, racing only once in the interim, but he’s been training sharply and may be as right as he’s been for some time. And he gets Dettori aboard.
Time Test photo courtesy of Keeneland/Coady Photography.