The Breeder’s Cup Mile is the penultimate race of the big meeting and the most eagerly awaited from a European point of view (11.40pm GMT, Saturday, Santa Anita, California).
The race brings together two of the best milers in the world, Excelebration, trained in Ireland by Aidan O’Brien, and Wise Dan, trained in the USA by Charles Lopestri.
Excelebration (6/4 favourite in the Breeders’ Cup Mile betting) is the joint-third highest rated horse in the world, according to Timeform, and Wise Dan (11/4) is rated just 1lb inferior to the pair, in fifth place.
Apart from Frankel, officially the best horse in the world, only one other horse has beaten Excelebration in 13 races since he made his racecourse debut at Nottingham in May 2010. The son of Exceed And Excel was impressive when quickening away from previous Group 1 winners Cityscape and Elusive Kate in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot two weeks ago and commands utmost respect.
However, a line through the runner-up at Ascot, Cityscape, suggests that Excelebration has 2¾ lengths to find with Wise Dan and there’s also a doubt about his ability to act on the firm going he’ll encounter at Santa Anita Park. And that is not accounting for the possible negative affects of a long haul trip out to California.
Excelebration won twice on good to firm going as a two-year-old, but hasn’t run on ground softer than good since finishing second to Frankel in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury on his first start as a three-year-old. The turf course at Santa Anita has been described in some quarters as a “paved highway,” so there’s a chance that he may be taken off his feet.
Wise Dan, on the other hand, has won his last two starts, the Woodbine Mile Stakes and Keeneland’s Turf Mile Stakes, on firm going with a minimum of fuss. He clearly faces his toughest task to date against Excelebration, but, with home advantage, he appears to represent better value than Aidan O’Brien’s charge.
If the bookmakers are to be believed, the only other runner with a realistic chance of winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile is Freddy Head’s five-year-old filly Moonlight Cloud (5/1).
The daughter of Invincible Spirit finished 1¼ lengths behind Excelebration in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville in August and reopposes on identical terms. However, she was badly hampered with 2½ furlongs to run on that occasion and was arguably an unlucky loser. She has since beaten Farhh in the Prix de Moulin de Longchamp, so she must have decent prospects of reversing the form with Excelebration this time around.
However, like Excelebration, the main doubt about her is her ability to cope with the prevailing underfoot conditions. She has raced just once on good to firm going, when finishing 9th in last season’s 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket and has done all her winning on good or softer.
Of the others, Obviously (12/1), who was trained by Peter Fahey in Ireland until the start of the year, stepped up on his previous performances when winning the Grade 2 Arroyo Seco Mile over course and distance, on firm going, a month ago. However, that form still falls some way short of that of his principal rivals and he looks set to struggle unless one or more of them fails to give their true running.
Last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom (12/1) has only an ‘optional claiming’ race win at Gulfstream Park in February to his name on turf, not to mention an absence of 259 days to overcome.
The big plus for Animal Kingdom, apart from his class, is that his trainer, British-born Graham Motion is excellent at preparing a horse after a break. Motion has an impressive Breeders Cup record from limited runners including victories at the meeting with Better Talk Now and Shared Account. Neither of those had the talent of his representative in this race.
Of the longshots, Jeranimo (25/1), Willcox Inn (33/1), Mr Commons (33/1) and Suggestive Boy (33/1) all look outclassed.
Breeders’ Cup Mile Betting Tips Verdict
In what appears to be a four-horse race, at least on paper, back WISE DAN to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile at odds of 11/4 with Betfred or Stan James. He has better credentials than his European rivals Excelebration and Moonlight Cloud on this occasion and appears to have little to fear from any of the home contingent except perhaps Animal Kingdom. The latter should at least make the frame.