By Anthony Stabile
$1 million; 1 mile; 3up
Another race launched in 2007, the thinking was that it was finally time for a Breeders’ Cup event that focuses on one of the more interesting equine athletes – the miler. Sprints are too short for them, routes too long for them but the mile, like the little bear’s porridge and bed, is just right.
The problem is some American racecourses aren’t conducive to running a one mile race, like Monmouth, where it was run at one mile and 70 yards. And, at some tracks, like Santa Anita, its run around two turns as opposed to Churchill Downs where the mile start is out of the chute.
That’s all semantics, however, because at the end of the day, a good mile race can be one of the most competitive in the sport. This event has produced its share of solid performances as well as a few upsets, namely Dakota Phone in 2010, who lit up the tote board at 37-1.
This year, defending Dirt Mile winner Goldencents will look to help establish this “new” Breeders’ Cup race as a mainstay at the World Championships with a repeat tally. Since taking this event last year in front running fashion over a famously speed biased course, Goldencents has one just once in five tries, two starts back in the G2 Pat O’Brien going seven panels over the Polytrack at Del Mar.
In his other three tries this season, Goldencents finished second in a trio of G1 race. Palace Malice defeated him by a length in the Met Mile at Belmont, he came running too late to get to Big Macher in the Bing Crosby at Del Mar and last out he was gunned down by Rich Tapestry in the SA Sprint Championship after he opened up a lead at the eighth pole. He’ll run in Leandro Mora’s name as trainer Doug O’Neill serves a suspension.
Should the champ fail in his defense, Bob Baffert’s Fed Biz is a logical contender to pick up the pieces. Sixth in this last year, Fed Biz didn’t return to the races until Del Mar when he easily won the G2 San Diego in gate-to-wire fashion before finishing second to Goldencents in the O’Brien. Last out, in one of his best efforts to date, Fed Biz gave Classic favorite Shared Belief all he could handle when he missed by just a neck in the G1 Awesome Again over this course.
Another logical threat to Goldencents is Tapiture from the Steve Asmussen barn. One of the more talked about three-year-olds in the spring, poor efforts in the G1 Arkansas Derby and G1 Kentucky Derby led many to discard him earlier in the year. But Tapiture had a solid summer, with wins in the G3 Matt Winn at Churchill and G2 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer coming before a runner-up finish in the G2 Pennsylvania Derby behind Classic contender Bayern last out. Tapiture was up against the bias that day and he was widely considered a Classic buzz horse before Asmussen, who won this two years ago with Tapizar, said he’d run here.
Speaking of three-year-olds, Vicar’s in Trouble has had a strong if not spectacular sophomore season and figures to love this trip. He’s romped home in the G3 LeComte, G2 Louisiana Derby and G2 Super Derby this year, has suffered narrow defeats in the West Virginia Derby and last out in the Indiana Derby and possess enough speed to keep him in the mix from the get go for trainer Mike Maker.
Jerry Hollendorfer will send out fellow sophomore Tonito M., winner of the G3 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park last out. The cutback in distance should suit him fine as he had some success sprinting back in Puerto Rico and when he was second in the G3 Laz Barrera in the spring in his lone start over this surface.
Last year’s runner-up Golden Ticket has won just one of his subsequent 9 starts for trainer Ken McPeek since he came flying up the rail while against the bias last year in this. After a seventh place finish last year for Kelly Breen, Pants On Fire is taking another crack at the Dirt Mile this year while coming off a win in a stakes at Charles Town.
Carve won three in a row, including the G3 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows, for trainer Brad Cox earlier this year but failed to fire in his latest in the Homecoming Classic at Churchill. Bradester beat Carve in the G3 Ack Ack two starts back and also won the G3 Mineshaft earlier in the year but was nowhere to be found in the G2 Kelso going this distance around one turn last out for Eddie Kenneally.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out former G1 winner, the late running Capo Bastone while South American “Win and You’re In” winner Bronzo will make the trip from Chile for Jorge de la Cerda.