MILE PREVIEW 2003: Quality a Mile Wide

The Europeans may not be bringing a sizable contingent for this year's NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), but the four that are coming are quality runners. Three of the four--Refuse To Bend, Six Perfections, and Oasis Dream--are group I winners this year (the other is Statue of Liberty).

The top choice--according to the English bookmaking outfits--is Oasis Dream, who interestingly has been prepping for the race by contesting sprints in England. The 3-year-old Green Desert colt is trained by John Gosden, who will be enjoying a homecoming trip of sorts when he arrives at Santa Anita for this year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. The British-born Gosden trained in California for about 10 years before returning to England. He sent out Royal Heroine, the first winner of the Mile, in 1984.

Oasis Dream, a Juddmonte Farms homebred, has been carefully pointed to the Mile by Gosden, but not in a conventional way. The colt has never run a mile. This year, Oasis Dream has run twice at five furlongs and twice at six furlongs. He has won two group I races, the Darley July Cup and Victor Chandler Nunthorpe Stakes.

Six Perfections has been dubbed the hard-luck filly of the year in Europe, with two wins in five starts and three losses by a neck, a nose, and 11Z2 lengths. With only two starts since the end of May, her preparation by trainer Pascal Bary has obviously been with this race in mind. Bary won the race last year with longshot Domedriver. The daughter of Celtic Swing has a tremendous turn of foot and also has pedigree on her side, being out of a half-sister to two-time Mile winner Miesque.

Refuse To Bend has won five of seven lifetime starts, but his two losses were in two of his last three starts. The Sadler's Wells colt is trained in Ireland by Dermot Weld, a man who has a reputation for winning big races around the globe.

It was thought the best American hope was Special Ring, but the 6-year-old Nureyev gelding finished fourth in his final prep, the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT) while making his run from farther back than usual. He should be a big factor in the Mile if placed closer to the pace. Special Ring is trained by California-based Julio Canani, who has only run eight starters in Breeders' Cup races but has won the Mile twice, with Silic in 1999 and Val Royal in 2001.

Another California trainer, Neil Drysdale, has two in the Mile, Sarafan and Touch of the Blues. Sarafan rallied to finish second in the Oak Tree behind Designed for Luck and has experience over the Santa Anita surface. Touch of the Blues ran in last year's Mile and lost all chance when Landseer broke down in front of him.

Designed for Luck is another local, trained by Vladimir Cerin. After returning from injury, the Rahy gelding has won two of three (he finished first and was disqualified to second in his first race back) and appears to be peaking at the right time.

With 17 entries, the Mile was one of only two races with more than 14 entries, the other being the Juvenile.