Veteran Special Ring has been handled with kid gloves.

Veteran Special Ring has been handled with kid gloves.


NetJets Mile Preview: Turf Toss-Up

North American-based entrants have managed to win half of the 20 runnings of the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), and despite the likely presence of the reigning queen, French-based Six Perfections, the home team stands a decent enough chance to go over the .500 mark in this year's running of the $1.5-million race sponsored by NetJets.

The European contingent in general appears to be coming up on the slight side for this edition of the World Thoroughbred Championships, and even in their specialty--turf racing--it is quite possible less than a handful of milers will make the journey to Texas--led by Six Perfections and Whipper.

Six Perfections seemed in better form coming up to the 2003 Mile, having been first or second in five previous trips to the post, including three in group I company. This season, however, the 4-year-old daughter of Celtic Swing has seen the starter just three times, and has yet to win. Most recently she ran one length back of Whipper in the Prix du Haras de Fresnay Jacques le Marois (Fr-I) in mid-August. There is a rich history of dual winners in the Mile, so a repeat is not out of reach. Nor, however, is it any sure thing.

Whipper, a 3-year-old by Miesque's Son, has enjoyed success in France this year. He was runner-up to Somnus in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (Fr-I) before defeating Six Perfections, and most recently ran a close-up fifth to highly regarded Grey Lilas, Diamond Green, and Antonius Pius in the NetJets Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (Fr-I).

On this side of the pond, the man to watch could be Julio Canani, the California-based native of Peru who has already pocketed a pair of Miles--with Silic in 1999 and Val Royal two years later. Canani alights on Lone Star with Blackdoun and Special Ring. The former was the scourge of Del Mar this summer, taking down three stakes races in ultra-impressive fashion. The 3-year-old son of Verglas unleashed a devastating kick in taking the Del Mar Derby and La Jolla Handicap (both gr. IIT). He has not been off the board in seven tries this year, including one in group company in France.

Canani's other hopeful is the veteran Special Ring, now a 7-year-old, who has been handled with kid gloves this season. The gelding by Nureyev has started just once, but made it count when winning the Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT) at Del Mar for the second straight year. Special Ring, who landed eighth in last year's Mile, is being trained up to the contest this time around.

The "now horse" is likely to be Nothing to Lose, who has several connection advantages. One is the presence of trainer Bobby Frankel, who knows his way around the green. Likewise, owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who also bred the Sky Classic colt, are red-hot, with three top contenders on the Breeders' Cup card. Nothing to Lose demolished his field earlier this month in taking the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland by 41/2 lengths. Previously, he annexed the Fourstardave (gr. IIT) at Saratoga, and was an unlucky second in the Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT).

Three-year-old Artie Schiller has done little wrong in 2004. The son of El Prado has won five of seven, including three graded stakes for trainer Jimmy Jerkens and owners Denise Walsh and Timber Bay Farm.

An interesting entrant is Singletary, who is California-based, but named after the Chicago Bear linebacker. Singletary returned from a four-month layoff Oct. 9 and ran two noses behind Musical Chimes in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT), a race he very much needed to round into shape. If he moves forward, he stands a reasonable chance at a price.

Canada-based veteran Soaring Free, fifth in the Mile a year ago, is six-for-seven this season, and the sprinter stretched out to take the Atto Mile (Can-IT) at Woodbine last month. If Balto Star, who was cross-entered in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), lands here, he must be respected for his early lick. He has banked more than $2.3 million to date.