Despite the fact that the Triple Crown is in full swing I find myself rather apathetic towards the buildup to what should be a one horse race.
Instead my energies have been focused on the buildup to the Breeders' Cup. Yes even at this early stage! I spend a good deal of time working on statistical models for the established Breeders' Cup races very similar to the Triple Crown 20-20 system. The system for the Breeders' Cup debuted in 2007 and did reasonably well but as I continue to learn more about this game some things need to be adapted. Anyway this post is not really about my project although that clearly occupies a prominent space in my mind at the present. What I wanted to do was write a brief profile on the horses I think might be ones to watch out for the Breeders' Cup Mile. Why the Mile? Because it happens to be my favorite Breeders' Cup race and I've just spent the last week studying it.
Ever A Friend - If I were called to put down a future bet on the Mile right now, this would be the horse. I know he just lost to Daytona but he is definitely good enough to turn the tables if he were to be ridden from off the pace. The loss will only make his price higher when it counts as long as he doesn't blow it by winning a BC prep impressively. He loves Santa Anita and is definitely a pure miler. It's a shame it took switching barns to and 6 years to isolate his preference. He will likely get the summer off and will have a maximum of two more races before the Mile. Don't let the inactivity cool you on his chances. It's all by design and it's a good design.
Kip Deville - He's the defending champ and he's going to be tough to beat. What I dislike about BC winners though is that after the race everyone assumes they should never lose again. Look at his record, this horse is capable of losing anytime but he's still very dangerous when it counts. Connections are taking the notion of a light campaign to a new level with just 3 starts planned all year long. Not a lot of room for error with a schedule like that.
Daytona - Unquestionably a good horse, I initially was against him for the Mile because he seemed to be too good at longer distances and successful milers rarely are. He reminds me a bit of Aragorn who eventually finished second in the Mile. I love that he showed a new dimension in stalking the pace in the Shoemaker Mile. My one concern is the type of campaign he'll get. I don't want to see him running huge numbers through the summer. The horses that do always get well bet in the Breeders Cup and they usually fail to reproduce that form.
Cosmonaut - I love a horse that can hide good form in plain site because everyone has stopped looking. The smart money has played against him for years except in fields that were hopelessly over matched. He'd always find a way to lose, he has not won a photo in any race of his career because he generally quits when challenged. However the lovable loser has turned the page in my opinion and his last two races. Since switching to the Serpe barn I think he's found a way to work past his mental blockage. His first start of the year he was facing an easy field but one member of that field decided to have a career day and pressed him hard all the way down the lane. Cosmanaut responded gamely and for the first time in his life he repelled the challenge and edged away. Next time out it was the Maker's Mark Mile and a very tough field. He had virtually the worst trip imaginable in a race like this but he again came on gamely for 4th after finishing 8th seemed more likely. His record at a flat mile on the grass is deceptively good. It reads 8-2-2-1 but the Makers Mark Mile where he was beaten by 3 lengths after a horrible trip represents his worst performance at the distance. Many of the times he contested a Mile he established a new career Beyer high. He's a closet miler who likely won't even run a mile again until either the BC itself or the Kelso.
Hyperbaric - I had high hopes for this Canani trainee and still do in some respect. I think he's a big talent and a natural miler but he clearly has mental issues to work through. He was in a good position in the Shoemaker until he started losing ground on the far turn and it looked as if he may finish last but then he surged again and just missed getting Ever A Friend. He had previously just been beaten by Daytona in a photo so there is no question that on his best day he has the talent but I'm convinced we haven't really seen his best day. I'm not sure what it'll take to get his best race out of him but he needs to learn how to change leads on cue, run in a straight line and stop running just in spots. If he puts all that together he could easily win this race.
Vacare - Is there an official title for the "best horse in active training that no one remembers" because she might be the top contender for that award. She's 8-6-1-1 for her career, her only losses came to Wait A While at Saratoga and Cittronade and Price Tag at Hollywood. Her win in last year's First Lady was what really put her on the radar for this race. She beat a dead game Precious Kitten that day. She produced a slashing move to pull on level terms then simply out gamed a horse who was extremely difficult to beat last year. Vacare has only run a mile twice but both were very good races. She is working well for a return, perhaps the Cash Call Mile is her first target. It would not shock me to see her do well, even against the boys.
Creachadoir - Europe's best hope at moment for this race. Oddly enough a European has not won the Mile since it was run at Santa Anita. Creachadoir is not brilliant but he definitely good enough to run with all the horses above. He's one of those solid, adapt to anything, type horses. American racing would suit him very well.
Rio de La Plata - By years end I suspect that this horse will be Europe's chief challenger for the Mile. Ramonti and Henrythenavigator are more likely to contest a race like the Classic, I'd be shocked if either ended up in this race. Rio de la Plata still has maturing to do, he's a little shy of the requisite level of form to win a race like the BC Mile but he's just had one start since a very good juvenile campaign. What I like is his build and quickness. It's not as much of an asset in Europe where powerful horses can dominate the straight uphill miles. In America quickness like his can leave his rivals gasping for breath in the blink of an eye. I think you'll see him campaigned more in France because those courses suit him better. It's no coincidence that primarily French campaigned milers have outperformed British ones by a good margin.
Tariq - Tariq is a horse I always wanted to see stepped up to a mile last year. In fact I liked him for the BC Mile last year but his connections didn't go that route. He tried 8f last time out and ran a good, traffic impeded, third behind Creachadoir. He loves to swoop from the back so he's always vulnerable to traffic problems but I expect we'll see him in most of the big races for milers in Europe so if he's good enough he won't be a secret and if he's not we'll see it clearly.
Phoenix Tower - Another horse who recently lost to Creachadoir in the G-1 Lockinge but he can readily forgiven. It was just his 5th career start and his first try in G-1 company. He ran a great second and it was a bit of a shame to see him suffer his first career loss. He may not stay at a mile, possibly preferring 10f but if his connections (Juddmonte Farms and Henry Cecil by the way) decide to make him a miler he should be tough.