After four years of being spoiled with the super mare Goldikova running in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, there was certainly going to be questions regarding the quality of this years field.
Coupled with the retirement of Goldikova, and the failure of getting super horse Frankel to run in the race, many would not have expected a top quality race. However, with the emergence of Wise Dan, as a turf mile freak, the opportunity for Excelebration to show what he can do without Frankel stealing his thunder, and add to that Derby winner Animal Kingdom’s entry, and the Mile is shaping up to be a highly anticipated race.
When Wise Dan came back to run this year in the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland, many were aware of his talent, as he went off as the 4/5 favorite. They were also aware of his versatility, in 11′ he won stakes on all three surfaces including the Grade1 Clark Handicap on dirt. But few were aware of how talented the five year old of Wiseman’s Ferry would turn out to be. In that race; the Ben Ali Stakes, Wise Dan absolutely freaked, running a 117 Beyer Speed Figure, and winning by 10 1/2 lengths. But it wasn’t until trainer Charles Lopresti entered him in the Fourstardave at Saratoga, that he really found a niche for him to settle into. The Fourstardave is a GII race run at a mile on the turf, and really seams to suit a versatile athletic type like Wise Dan. Since that race he has won two G1’s, (Woodbine Mile, and the Shadwell Turf Mile) with little competition in preparation for the Breeders Cup.
In his last 13 races Excelebration has run in races with the undefeated Frankel five times, getting place honors in four of those races with one show. The remaining eight races have all been wins, including two Group1’s (Prix Jacqures Le Marois, and the Queen Elizabeth II). In his last race Excelebration was tucked in behind the pacesetters and rival CityScape before he could get out and display his explosive kick in an impressive win. At the risk of redundancy, an impressive win, only validating the other worldly talent that fans got to witness with Frankel. However it light of that, it would seem fitting for trainer Aidan O’Brian to bring him over here to give him a chance at reaping some high profile praise he’s long deserved.
Adding to the storyline of the race is the unexpected first race back for Animal Kingdom. The Derby winner, whose season took a major set back after suffering an injury after a prep race for the Dubai Classic. Trainer Graham Motion thought enough of the progress Animal Kingdom has made to enter him in the mile without a prep. If Graham Motion had a reputation as a careless trainer going for easy hype and glory this would be a different story, however because of his diligent reputation, there will be much interest to see what Animal Kingdom has up his sleeve. In addition to that, Animal Kingdom is a fan favorite; a strapping copper toned colt, and a Derby champion, who is still out there giving it a shot.
As for the race itself, with the connections for Little Mike opting for the Turf Classic, the horse they’re going to have to catch is Obviously. The Irish bred came over to the states earlier this year as a turf sprinter. In August, trainer Mike Mitchell felt he could utilize his early speed best at a mile. Mitchell was proven right instantly, Obviously not only took to the added distance, but loves the baked California turf, breaking a track record at Del Mar with a time of 1:32 and his last race was a blistering 1:31 and 4/5th.