Mile Update (10/1): Moment of Truth

This is the weekend we've been waiting for: the three major North American preps for the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT). In New York, Forbidden Apple will attempt his third straight victory in the Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT); Beat Hollow, all along the best turf horse in training this year, preps at Keeneland in the Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile (gr. IT); and in California, Congaree continues his run at the Mile and figures to be the favorite in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT).

In Europe, Rock of Gibraltar, who figures to be the Mile favorite if he goes, was scratched from the Sept. 28 NetJets Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I), but then worked over the Ascot course after the races. That work, which may be the last European sighting of the "Rock," incurred a fine from the stewards to trainer Aidan O'Brien. The 3-year-old son of Danehill, a winner of seven consecutive group I races will head for a career at stud at the end of the year. The QE II winner, Where Or When, came with a wide move late to run down heavy favorite Hawk Wing, also from O'Brien's stable. Where Or When's status for a trip to North America remains unclear.

Also last weekend, Arlington Park offered it's prep for the Mile: the Sea O Erin Breeders' Cup Mile, and the race was won by Mystery Giver. The 4-year-old colt by Dynaformer has now won five of nine starts over the Arlington turf course, but trainer Chris Block noted he will not be sending his charge to the Mile.

At Oak Tree on Oct. 5, Stonerside Stable's Congaree figures to be the one to beat even though he's not an accomplished turf runner. In his last start, back during the Labor Day weekend, Congaree was shortened up to a mile by trainer Bob Baffert, and the sizable chestnut responded with a length score in the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II). The winner of the Swaps Stakes (gr. I) last year, as well as third in both the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Congaree is a son of Arazi, out of the Mari's Book mare Mari's Sheba.

Congaree signaled his readiness for the assignment the morning of Oct. 1, blazing a bullet half-mile in :46 3/5 over the main track at Santa Anita. It was best of 11 half-mile works that morning.

Also expected in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile is Night Patrol, D'wildcat, Nicobar, and Zanapour. Sarafan, who worked seven furlongs in 1:27 2/5 on Sept. 28, is expected to go in the 10-furlong Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship (gr. IT) at Oak Tree on Oct. 6.

The last three Breeders' Cup Mile winners: Val Royal, War Chant, and Silic, all posted victories the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup.

In New York, Arthur I. Appleton's Forbidden Apple, second to Val Royal in last year's runningof the Breeders' Cup Mile, goes for his third consecutive Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap. Trainer Christophe Clement tuned the 7-year-old son of Pleasant Colony the morning of Sept. 26 at Belmont Park with a three-furlong turf work. Forbidden Apple covered the distance in :37.08 over firm going.

Juddmonte Farm's Beat Hollow, a clear second choice for the Mile, also worked at Belmont, but the son of Sadler's Wells is scheduled to run at Keeneland. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Beat Hollow worked six furlongs the morning of Sept. 29 in a crisp 1:13.85 over a fast track. It was the fastest of four works at the distance. Beat Hollow shortens up for the Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile off a victory in the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million (gr. IT) in August.

Sadler's Wells is the sire of three Breeders' Cup winners: In the Wings, Turf (gr. IT) winner in 1990; Barathea, winner of the '94 Mile; and '95 Turf winner Northern Spur. His son Milan ran second in last year's Turf to Fantastic Light. As a sire, Sadler's Wells ranks seventh all-time in Breeders' Cup earnings with $3,424,000 from 23 starters, three winners, two seconds, and one third.

In other Mile works of note, Touch of the Blues, a Neil Drysdale trainee, worked seven furlongs at Woodbine on Sept. 30 in 1:30 4/5 over a course labeled "good."

Fab Five Contenders:

1)Beat Hollow/ Bobby Frankel/ Juddmonte Farm
Next start: Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile (gr. IT), Keeneland, Oct. 6

2)Rock of Gibraltar/ Aidan O'Brien/ Alex Ferguson and Susan Magnier
Next start: NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) or Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I)

3)Forbidden Apple/ Christophe Clement/ Arthur I. Appleton
Next start: Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT), Belmont, Oct. 5

4)Congaree/ Bob Baffert/ Stonerside Stable
Next start: Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT), Santa Anita, Oct. 5

5)Good Journey/ Wally Dollase/ Flaxman Holdings, Gary Margolis, Michael Jarvis, Dollase, et al.
Next start: NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile