Coral Eurobet flies in the face of recent history in making Godolphin's Noverre its 7-1 favorite for the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT). U.S.-trained runners have won four of the last five runnings and now hold a 10-7 advantage over the Europeans, but Noverre's defeat by his 33-1 pacemaker, Summoner, in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot, Sept. 29, can only be a positive, if an extraordinarily coincidental one.
Three European Mile winners (Miesque at three, Barathea, and Ridgewood Pearl) who used the QEII as their final prep finished second at Ascot while eight QEII winners crossed the Atlantic a month later for the Mile and came home with their tails between their legs. The best of them, Shadeed back in 1985, finished fourth, but none of the other seven could do better than sixth including three who started as favorites: Warning (9-5 in '88, finished 11th); Zilzal (even-money in '89, sixth); and Mark of Esteem (6-5 in '96, seventh).
History seems to tell us you want a hard-knocking horse rather than a "superstar" to win the Mile although Miesque, Lure, and Da Hoss, the only two-time winners, belie that fact. Noverre, who has had the Mile on his dance card since midsummer, fits the bill perfectly. The 3-year-old son of Rahy, a half-brother to Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Arazi, has a 3-2-1 record from six starts this year although he subsequently was stripped of the French Two Thousand Guineas (Fr-I) for a medication violation. His battling win in Goodwood's Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) probably earned him the European champion miler title and, on paper, the Saeed bin Suroor trainee looks the best of the Euros.
With quietly fancied Mile hope Jim and Tonic going to Hong Kong instead, Khalid Abdullah's Banks Hill (first preference is Filly & Mare Turf), trained in France by Andre Fabre, is second in the market with Irish Prize and Forbidden Apple, at 8-1. Banks Hill was taken out of the Prix de l'Opera (Fr-I) on Arc day (Oct. 7) because of the boggy ground. She earned her reputation in the Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) and both she and Noverre were unlucky in the Prix Jacques le Marois (Fr-I) when Proudwings chopped them off close to home. Both will relish a quick pace at Belmont.
Sheikh Maktoum's Irish Prize had won three in a row for Breeders' Cup ace Neil Drysdale before his narrow fourth in a ding-dong Atto Mile (Can-I) at Woodbine on Sept. 9. His conquerors, Numerous Times and Affirmed Success (fourth in the 2000 Mile) are also intended for Belmont Park, but Coral is fully aware of English-born Drysdale's outstanding winning Breeders' Cup percentage.
The Atto Mile was a significant prep, but Hap ran an excellent trial in the Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile (gr. IIT) although Bill Mott's runner is not certain to contest the Mile (his first preference is the Turf). On the West Coast, trainer Julio Canani put himself in position to win his second Mile in the last three years when Val Royal collected the Oct. 7 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT). Canani-trained Silic and last year's Mile winner, War Chant, both took the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile as their final preps and owner David Milch paid $30,000 of the $90,000 it will take to supplement Val Royal.
Ex-Aidan O'Brien trainee Brahms had a troubled trip at Keeneland while current O'Brien inmate Bach, owned in partnership by Satish Sanan and fourth in the QEII, is a late addition to his Breeders' Cup team, but Canadian-bred Numerous Times looks the best outsider. Committee Stable's 4-year-old took his lifetime undefeated record to six for trainer Sid Attard in the Atto Mile, his first black-type race, and set a course record in the process.