Breeders' Cup Preview: Breeders' Cup Mile
by Trevor Whenham - 11/5/2009
The fifth of the seven 'real' Breeders' Cup races we'll look at is the Mile, the third of four turf races on the day. Seeing a repeat winner of a Breeders' Cup race isn't particularly common, but there is a good chance that we'll see one here - last year's winner, Goldikova, is back as the favorite, and she is unquestionably the real deal. Ten other horses will be doing their best to stop Goldikova's streak at one.
Goldikova is 8/5 on the morning line, and is nearly certain to be favored at post time. It's a familiar position - she was the 9/5 favorite last year. The four year old has run five times this year - all in Europe - and she has won three. Those three were the three times she ran at a mile - clearly her specialty. Her last race at a mile was particularly impressive, earning her her best career Timeform rating. She's at least as good as she was last year - perhaps even better. She also faces a comparatively easy field this year because the top entrants in this race are often European, and many of the Euro milers have entered other races this year - likely at least in part because they don't want a piece of this filly. Anything can happen in a race like this, but this is an imposing horse in this spot.
According to the Breeders' Cup odds, Delegator, at 3/1, has the best chance of displacing Goldikova. What strikes you about this three year old colt when you look at his past performances is the caliber of horses he has faced. Last time out he was third behind Rip Van Winkle, the second choice in the Classic. Before that he was second to Mastercraftsman, the favorite in the Dirt Mile (poorly named because it is on Pro Ride, not dirt). Before that he was second behind Sea The Stars, quite possibly the best horse in the world this year. If even a little bit of his competition has rubbed off on him then Delegator could be dangerous. He has a bad habit of finishing behind top horses, though, so he'll have to take a step forward to get the win here.
If you are talking about Delegator then you also have to look at Zacinto, who is at 8/1. The three year old colt has only raced five times, but has two wins and three seconds. Most impressive, though, have been the last two second-place showings. He was sandwiched between Rip Van Winkle and Delegator last time out, and then was second to Delegator in the race before that. He's probably not quite the horse that Delegator is, but he's at a better price as well, so you need to decide how you will balance price and value here.
The best of the American hopes, at 6/1, is Cowboy Cal. The Todd Pletcher trainee will be familiar to some as the ninth-place finisher in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. The best thing going for him is that he won the Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita his last time out. Four previous winners of the Mile have also won this race. Cowboy Cal has never lost at the mile distance in three tries. The question will be, though, whether he can run his style of race. He runs his best when he is on the lead, but he may not be able to get it. The Maktoum family from Dubai has three different horses entered here, and as such there is a good chance that they will sacrifice a horse to the lead as a rabbit - likely the 20/1 Gladiatorus - to ensure a fair pace for Delegator to take advantage of down the stretch. If there is a rabbit then Cowboy Cal will get burnt out if he stays with it, so he will have to settle off the pace.
Now for a longshot. The race could potentially set up well for a closer. There is going to be a strong pace set at the front. The best of the horses - most notably Goldikova and Delegator - will be sitting just off that pace waiting to strike. That strong pace can help them, but it also makes it possible for a deep closer to pick up the pieces and make the move for the lead if things get crazy for the horses off the pace. Ferneley, at 20/1, is just such a closer. He's run his best races at a mile on synthetic tracks when blistering early paces have been set and he can close hard and late. That's what he has done in his last two races, and he has a second and a win to show for it. At this price it might not hurt to have him as a part of your exotics.
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