Every year, one of the most exciting and competitive races of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I), which typically pits the best milers in American against a top-class group of invaders from Europe.
With four months remaining until the race, who are some of the major players to keep an eye on? Here’s how I rank the top contenders….
- Alpha Centauri
The Breeders’ Cup Mile has been mentioned as a possible target for this powerful filly, who has fired off back-to-back wins in the Irish 1,000 Guineas (Ire-I) at the Curragh and the Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) at . Her victory in the latter race was particularly impressive, as she shredded a top-class field of rivals by six lengths while earning an eye-catching 122 Racing Post Rating.
Notably, Alpha Centauri’s two disappointing runs to date have come over rain-soaked courses labeled heavy or soft/heavy, so the presumably firm ground she’ll find at the Breeders’ Cup should be to her liking. Given the way she dominated the Coronation Stakes, Alpha Centauri looks like a star in the making—could she be the next Goldikova?
- Oscar Performance
Granted, the turf course was very fast, but Oscar Performance equaled the North American record for a mile when he won the Poker Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont in a blazing 1:31.23 seconds. The son of Kitten’s Joy tried with mixed results to stretch out in distance last year, and while he’s been quite effective going as far as ten furlongs, ultimately I think he might be best as a miler. Certainly he showcased miler speed when winning the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I) in impressive fashion, and running shorter distances may allow him to utilize his combined speed and stamina in the most effective way.
Trained by Bill Mott, Yoshida showed promise as a three-year-old last year, but elevated his game to a new level when winning the Old Forrester Turf Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, defeating the multiple Grade 1 winner Beach Patrol in determined fashion. He followed up that effort with a fifth-place finish in the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot, a solid run given that he was thoroughly in contention for victory despite racing over an unfamiliar, undulating straight course.
Yoshida is already proven over firm, good, and yielding turf courses, so whatever conditions arise at Churchill Downs
for the Breeders’ Cup shouldn’t affect him. Like Alpha Centauri and Oscar Performance, he appears to be poised for a big year.
- Delta Prince
While timing issues make it difficult to know exactly how fast he ran, there’s no doubt that the lightly-raced Delta Prince ran a huge race off a long layoff in the King Edward Stakes (gr. II) at Woodbine, rating comfortably in mid-pack before surging past the leaders to win going away. The officially published final time (achieved by hand) was 1:32.35, while the timer originally posted 1:31.22. The actual time might be somewhere in between, but the main point is that this half-brother to champion Royal Delta has serious talent and might just be reaching his peak.
- World Approval
The defending Breeders’ Cup Mile winner hasn’t fired in his last two starts, but the six-year-old gelding did win the Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. II) back in February, so it might be premature to write him off as past his prime. He went on such a roll last summer and fall that if he can get back to that level of form, he’ll remain a major player in this division.
- Heart to Heart
He’s arguably compiled the best record of any U.S. miler thus far this year, winning both the Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes (gr. I) and the Maker’s 46 Mile (gr. I) before finishing a close second after chasing a fast pace in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. I). Even better, he’s unbeaten in three starts over the Churchill Downs turf course, an affinity that could serve him well this November.
- Lancaster Bomber
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up missed Royal Ascot with a slight setback, but he did score his first Group 1 win in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Ire-I) at the Curragh in May and must be respected if he ships for the Breeders’ Cup again.
- Mr. Misunderstood
Had some trouble in his first three starts of the season, all defeats, but rebounded with a sharp win in the Wise Dan Stakes (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, running the final five-sixteenths of a mile in less than :30 seconds to win by a half-length. He’s now 3-for-3 over the Churchill turf course.
This versatile gelding has become an effective miler and rallied to edge Heart to Heart by a neck in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. I), which marked his first start of 2018. Hunt has now won his last four starts between a mile and nine furlongs, all graded stakes events, and he appears to be finding his best stride at the relatively advanced age of six.
Endured a traffic-filled trip when rallying to finish fourth in the Wise Dan Stakes (gr. II), his lone defeat in four starts at Churchill Downs. The two-time Grade 1 winner is a deep closer reliant on a fast pace to set up his rally, so the typically fast pace of the Breeders’ Cup Mile would be beneficial to his chances.