Miesque’s Approval came from behind all right, unleashing a big kick that not only carried him to victory in the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT), but to an Eclipse Award as the top male turf horse of 2006. The late rally would have seemed impossible considering where Miesque’s Approval was a year before his triumphant run at Churchill Downs last November.
Winding down his 6-year-old campaign late in 2005, Miesque’s Approval looked like he had just about had enough. He had run, badly, for a $50,000 claiming tag in November of that year for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, after which he was sent back to his birthplace, Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation, where his owner/breeder, as is her custom, brings horses who are under-performing for some rest and reevaluation. Farm trainer Johnny Collins determined that Miesque’s Approval still had the desire to compete, and it was decided to keep him in training. While Miesque’s Approval was still at the farm, another of Weber’s regular trainers, Florida-based Marty Wolfson, expressed interest in taking over the horse’s training. Wolfson had run various of his charges against Miesque’s Approval through the years, and thought the son of Miesque’s Son performed better when allowed to make one late run. Nobody could imagine at that point how far that late run would take him.
Miesque’s Approval began 2006 on a high note in the January Sunshine Millions Cloverleaf Farms Turf at Gulfstream Park, a prominent race that had even more sizzle as the last event for rider Jerry Bailey before his retirement. Bailey, on favorite Silver Tree, seemed like a sure thing to get his Hollywood ending. Except Miesque’s Approval, sent off at odds of 48-1, had other ideas. From 11th place, Miesque’s Approval swept through the field to defeat Bailey and Silver Tree by three-quarters of a length.
It would be the first of five victories on the season for Miesque’s Approval, all coming in stakes competition. From seven starts, Miesque’s Approval (out of the With Approval mare Win Approval) was worse than second just once, and earned an eye-catching $1,906,405 on the year, pushing his lifetime earnings up to $2,645,879.
Ironically, Miesque’s Approval lost his next race, the Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream, finishing second to English Channel, who would finish third in the Eclipse Turf balloting. Following that defeat at 11/16 miles, Wolfson and Weber kept Miesque’s Approval exclusively in races at a flat mile. Two forays to Kentucky proved fruitful. First, Miesque’s Approval nosed out 2005 Breeders’ Cup Mile victor Artie Schiller to take the Maker’s Mark Mile (gr. IIT) at Keeneland in April. After a 2 1/2-month layoff, he returned to the Bluegrass to win the Firecracker Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs. With Wolfson giving him plenty of time between races, Miesque’s Approval started next in the Red Bank Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth Park in September, again finding the winner’s circle.
Piloted by regular rider Eddie Castro, Miesque’s Approval’s Breeders’ Cup prep was less than confidence-inspiring. Back at Keeneland for the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT), he ran fourth, although Wolfson thought Castro kept him too close to the pace.
“This horse is better in a larger field,” Wolfson stated. “He’s better off staying back and being covered up, because when he sees daylight and he’s clear, he gets into the race too early. That takes away a lot of his punch.”
Facing an international and deep field in the Mile, Miesque’s Approval was held at 24-1 by the mostly doubting bettors. He was facing top-flight competition—French-bred Gorella; the Irish-breds Araafa and Aragorn; Silent Name from Japan; Great Britain’s Echo of Light; and a variety of North American-based runners. Fortunately, Castro followed Wolfson’s orders perfectly. After a half-mile, Miesque’s Approval had exactly one horse in the 14-horse field beaten.
On the far turn, however, he started picking them off. And although he was fanned at least eight-wide coming off the bend, Miesque’s Approval found a gear that no one else could match, flying down the lane to win by an astounding 23/4 lengths, the largest margin in the race in a dozen years. The record margin is four lengths, set by two-time winner Miesque, who just happens to be the dam of Miesque’s Approval’s sire.
The win represented the first Breeders’ Cup success for Live Oak’s black and white with red polka dots colors.
Although English Channel captured three grade I turf contests on the year, voters apparently held his third-place finish in the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) against him.
(Article appears in the January 27, 2007 issue of The Blood-Horse)