Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Breeders' Cup Top 10 - Mile

Mile Top 10 - July 7th

1. Gio Ponti
2. Monterey Jazz
3. Goldikova
4. Kip Deville
5. Ghanaati
6. Tam Lin
7. Rahy's Attorney
8. Hyperbaric
9. Delegator
10. Mr. Sidney

This is my favorite Breeders' Cup race. It nearly always has full fields, it's a more speed based race than the Turf or Classic but it's a far more tactical race than the Sprint. For me personally there is nothing more eye pleasing than lightning quick turn of foot you often see from Mile winners. Goldikova typified everything that I love about the Mile last year with that super burst to send her several lengths clear. I'm looking forward to a great renewal again this year.

With the Breeders' Cup Turf I'm biased towards Europeans, some people thought I was unduly harsh on Americans in my top 10 for the Turf but I think even an average European is better than the upper crust of Americans at 12f. For the Mile I have a reverse bias. I think it takes a very special European to win the Mile. I know Domedriver was less than a world beater when he swept to glory in the 2002 Mile but over the years the Mile has become more and more biased towards Americans. Special fillies like Goldikova and Six Perfections were able to swim against the tide but you rarely see more than one European doing well in the Mile these days. The special ones rise to the occasion and the ordinary ones are better off not coming.

I have loudly trumpeted the notion that the Mile is a specialist's race. Horses that are proficient at other distances usually don't do as well in the Mile. But I simply have to make Gio Ponti my #1 despite the fact that he has limited experience at a mile. His best Beyer Figure was earned at 10f and much of his campaign will be contested at distances beyond a mile. Sometimes when you're the best horse you deserve some extra consideration. Gio Ponti is the best Turf horse in North America and he does well at other distances because he's a very good horse. I still feel though that his best distance will ultimately prove to be a two turn mile. The only race he ever lost at a mile was the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in 2007 when it was run over that bog at Monmouth. It was his third lifetime start and he had a terrible trip that day, he never did get a clear lane to run. I do worry that so many races at 10 and 11 furlongs may tire him out by late fall but hopefully Clement will sneak in a bit of a layoff for him. He's got an excellent turn of foot and he can be a monster on his best day.

Monterey Jazz is a straightforward horse. When he is in form he flashes a lot of early pace and he's nearly impossible to catch. He is versatile enough to have won Graded Stakes on all three types of surfaces but I think the Turf Mile will be his focus. He has struggled with fitness in the past and Turf just might be the kindest thing for him. He reminds me a bit of Badge of Silver who finished third in the Mile off nearly a year layoff. He has brilliant speed and unless someone intentionally goes out and burns him he's hard to catch. Monterey Jazz is 5-3-0-1 at mile, he is unbeaten when he makes the lead and win less when he doesn't. Most recently he cleared the speedy Storm Military in the first few furlongs and went on to romp. Storm Military is as fast as any other main speed horse in the nation. Horses like Thorn Song, Cosmonaut and Inca King will have no chance keeping pace with him so an early lead in the Mile is a real possibility. That makes him a huge danger.

The defending champion Goldikova is being aimed at another tilt in the Mile. Her first race of 2009 was not a great one but it was over ground that was not the best and it was at 9f. As a 3yo she probably would have done a bit better in a race like that so I do think that maybe she's just a bit worse. Not unlike Six Perfections or Banks Hill, they were awesome 3yo's but just a length worse as older horses. No matter what kind of record Goldikova has this year in France she is still a contender for this race. France is renown for it's soft ground and Goldikova is better on firm ground. It's quite possible that Santa Anita will be the only time she gets firm ground all year. I like French trained horses in this race better than British trained horses because as a general rule the French have light summers and gear up for their best efforts in the fall. The British tend to have all action summers and hope to stay together through the fall. Good Europeans like Paco Boy and Virtual may struggle to show their best in November.

The old champ Kip Deville is still a dangerous horse on his best day. His best days usually come in two turn miles. Don't be too put off by his recent failure at Belmont. Although he has won at Belmont in the past he is 4-1-1-0 in one turn miles and 11-8-1-0 in two turn miles. He may offer good value in the Mile because it's not unrealistic to see him going to Woodbine again as a last prep for the Mile and that offers one turn configuration. His win over Einstein early this year shows me that the old boy can still mix it with the best if conditions are right.

Ghanaati is both European and British trained so that's two mild strikes against her but she's a brilliant horse, a firm ground horse and thus far she has been given a light campaign. I think she may be raced sparingly all year. If connections decide to target this race she'd be a huge danger. I think she's up to the standard of the fabulous sophomore fillies that have previously won this race. No has gotten near her since her first start when she was figuring things out. She will most likely tackle older males next time out unless they decide to get her one more race against just fillies in France. Either way, the world will figure out pretty quick how much talent she has.

I've always thought that Tam Lin was kind of a neat horse. Some people may not even recognize the name but he's a Godolphin horse that has been a regular contender in all the miler type races at Belmont over the last two years. His speed figures at a mile have been fantastic and consistent. He has contested 8f four times in North America and his Beyer average for those races is 103. That's comparable and even a little superior to the averages of some past winners. He has a few weaknesses, he swishes his tail quite a bit when under pressure and gives the impression that a mile is his absolute limit. He has also never showed a liking for two turns although he has limited experience with that configuration. He is not a quick horse, he is a horse with a good cruising speed but with the right pace dynamic he could do the job. Godolphin's Gladiatorus is a more brilliant horse but he imploded at Ascot so his future is in some doubt. I also have my doubts about his ability to deal with real pace pressure.

One of the hottest horses in North America right now is Rahy's Attorney but he's also gone pretty well unnoticed because he runs in Canada. He won the Woodbine Mile last year over Kip Deville and Ventura but he struggled in the Keeneland Mile and in Japan. Both of those were tow turn events and it cast some doubt in my mind as to his suitability for a race like the Mile. He might be a reverse Kip Deville, one turn races may be his best game but I'm including him because this year his game has gone to a new level. Last year his form was decent but until the Woodbine Mile he never really showed G-1 ability. This year he looks like a different horse. He has been a real tiger in races that are too far for him. A cutback in distance might make him untouchable. I would like to see him do well away from Woodbine just once before the Mile though.

Hyperbaric is not a brilliant horse, but he loves a mile and he likes the California courses. He'll likely be the best of the home team along with Monterey Jazz. It does worry me that he can't seem to earn Beyer Figures over the 101 mark lately. His best career numbers are good enough but his three best career figures came in losing efforts. You have to include him but I don't know about his chances of winning.

I have Delegator on my list and not Mastercraftsman who is surely a better horse. But that is because I wholeheartedly believe that Ballydoyle will send Mastercraftsman to the Classic not the Mile. If they came to this race I'd respect him but I'd bet against him coming. The Coolmore gang is more likely to send a horse like Westphalia who has an outsiders chance of hitting the board. Delegator is no sure bet to come to America but he's a known firm ground specialist who just may need to come here in order to get that G-1 win he's been searching for. He's been second now in two G-1 events. Not unlike Raven's Pass or Giants Causeway early in the season. I hope he's not given too hard of a summer campaign so he's fresh for the fall.

Mr. Sidney is last on my list and I gave consideration to leaving him out entirely but in the end the evidence of his 5 wins at 8.5f furlongs or less was too much to ignore. He has never lost a turf race that was less than 9f. That kind of consistency deserves to be respected. I do have my doubts over the kind of horses he has beaten though. Thorn Song is the only horse of note that he's defeated and both times they faced each other Thorn Song ran a clunker because the pace didn't suit. Thorn Song is not a real danger to win a race like the Mile and Mr. Sidney for all his consistency lack brilliance. I think he might struggle when he faces fast horses like the ones listed above but for the moment there is no one who failed to make the list that has a better resume.

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