It’s looking like a classic North America vs. Europe showdown in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I) on November 3rd at Churchill Downs, and while the raiders hold a slight advantage in numbers, the Americans appear far from being overmatched.
Fourteen horses plus two also-eligibles have been entered in this competitive one-mile turf race, which is arguably the most wide-open of any Breeders’ Cup race this year. The fact that the morning line favorite is 5-1 tells you all you need to know.
That 5-1 favorite is the three-year-old filly Polydream, who ships in from France for trainer Freddie Head, who won three straight renewals of the Breeders’ Cup Mile with the great Goldikova. While Polydream isn’t quite up to Goldikova’s level yet, she did win the 6 ½-furlong Prix Maurice de Gheest (Fr-I) this summer to prove her class at the Group 1 level, and she also stayed a mile fairly well when finishing second to the high-class Wild Illusion in the Prix Marcel Boussac (Fr-I) as a two-year-old.
Unfortunately, Polydream endured a traffic-filled trip when finishing seventh in the Prix de la Foret (Fr-I) on October 7th, a race that was won in game fashion by fellow filly and Breeders’ Cup mile entrant One Master. Trained by William Haggas, the daughter of Fastnet Rock was a longshot on the day but produced a big finish to win by a nose over a strong field, securing her second consecutive group stakes win. Can she continue her ascent in the Breeders’ Cup Mile?
The leading North American hopeful is surely Oscar Performance, who has already tasted success at the Breeders’ Cup, winning the Juvenile Turf (gr. I) in 2016. The son of Kitten’s Joy has only run three times this season, but his efforts include an impressive win in the Poker Stakes (gr. III)—where he clocked a mile in the North American record-equaling time of 1:31.23—and a front-running score in the Woodbine Mile (gr. I), where he ran the final quarter-mile in a brilliant :21.63.
Next Shares, upset winner of the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. I) last time, has been an admirable competitor at the Grade 1 level this year and will seek to continue his winning momentum. Chad Brown, the most successful trainer of turf horses in North America, will saddle the Arlington Million (gr. I) runner-up Almanaar and the Belmont Derby (gr. I) runner-up Analyze It, while the California shippers Hunt (winner of the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile) and Catapult (who unleashed strong rallies to win the Grade 2 Eddie Read and Grade 2 Del Mar Mile Handicap this summer) complete the list of American runners in the main body of the field.
They comprise a nice group, no doubt, though the rest of the Europeans promise to offer a stiff challenge. Happily won two Group 1 races as a juvenile last fall, and while she’s gone 0-for-7 since then (including a last-place finish in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf), she was beaten just a head in the Sun Chariot Stakes (Eng-I) last time out and appears to be rounding back into form. Expert Eye and I Can Fly have yet to win at the Group 1 level, but they’ve been competitive against high-class company in Europe, with Expert Eye finishing second in the Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) and I Can Fly coming home just a neck behind European superstar Roaring Lion in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I).
Lightning Spear, who defeated Expert Eye in the Sussex, will attempt to rebound from his disappointing seventh-place effort in the Queen Elizabeth II, while the multiple Group 1-placed Gustav Klimt and the up-and-coming Shadwell Joel Stakes (Eng-II) winner Mustashry complete the main body of the field.
The two also-eligibles are Divisidero, a two-time winner of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, and Clemmie, a Group 1 winner last year who has gone 0-for-5 this season.
The Breeders’ Cup Mile is the eighth race on the card, with a post time of 3:36 p.m. Eastern. Check out the complete schedule of Breeders’ Cup races here!
2018 Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I)
|1||One Master||James Doyle||William Haggas||12-1|
|2||Next Shares||Tyler Gaffalione||Richard Baltas||10-1|
|3||Happily||Wayne Lordan||Aidan O’Brien||15-1|
|4||Polydream||Maxime Guyon||Freddie Head||5-1|
|5||Oscar Performance||Jose Ortiz||Brian Lynch||6-1|
|6||Almanaar||Joel Rosario||Chad Brown||12-1|
|7||Expert Eye||Frankie Dettori||Sir Michael Stoute||8-1|
|8||I Can Fly||Jamie Spencer||Aidan O’Brien||10-1|
|9||Hunt||Flavien Prat||Phil D’Amato||30-1|
|10||Catapult||Drayden Van Dyke||John Sadler||6-1|
|11||Lightning Spear||Oisin Murphy||David Simcock||20-1|
|12||Analyze It||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Chad Brown||6-1|
|13||Gustav Klimt||Ryan Moore||Aidan O’Brien||10-1|
|14||Mustashry||William Buick||Sir Michael Stoute||15-1|
|AE16||Clemmie||Andrea Atzenni||Aidan O’Brien||15-1|