Mile Preview (9/25): Will He or Won't He?

In a surprise announcement on Sept. 24, it was reported that Rock of Gibraltar, who has won a record seven consecutive group I wins, may not go in Saturday's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot, and head straight for the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). Off his form in 2002, Rock of Gibraltar, who is owned by Alex Ferguson and Mrs. John Magnier, would be the favorite for the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Arlington Park on Oct. 26.

Trainer Aidan O'Brien's concern for the QE II is the ground. He plans to enter both Rock of Gibraltar and Hawk Wing, winner of the Eclipse Stakes (Eng-I) and runner-up in the Sagitta Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) to the 'Rock' earlier this year. O'Brien told the Racing Post that only one will start. He would run Hawk Wing over a fast surface and perhaps go with Rock of Gibraltar if the going softens up.

At the 48-hour stage of entries for the QE II on Sept. 26, O'Brien had three of eight horses entered: Rock of Gibraltar, Hawk Wing, and Sholokhov.

Other top contenders for the QE II are Where Or When, fourth in the Celebration Mile at Goodwood; and a pair from the Godolphin stable in Noverre and Best of the Bests.

On the North American front, Arthur I. Appleton's Forbidden Apple, who was second in the Mile last year at Belmont Park, worked Sept. 21 over four furlongs of turf at Belmont in :48.25. Expect trainer Christophe Clement to send him out in the Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) on Oct. 5--a race he'll be trying to win for the third year in a row.

At Woodbine on the morning of Sept. 24, Touch of the Blues worked six furlongs on the turf in 1:15 4/5. The late-running son of Cadeaux Genereux is coming off a tough luck fifth-place finish in the Atto Mile (gr. IT) at Woodbine. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Touch of the Blues was checked in deep stretch while less than two lengths from the front under Corey Nakatani. Earlier in the year, Touch of the Blues won the Maker's Mark Mile (gr. IIT) at Keeneland. He races for his breeder, Gainsborough Stud Management.

While the QE II commands attention at Ascot, most milers are awaiting the big three preps of the season in California, Kentucky, and New York, to be run over the first weekend in October. At Santa Anita, milers hope to make their mark in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT). The last three winners of the race, Silic, War Chant, and Val Royal, all went on to win the Mile. In Kentucky, Keeneland's opening weekend features the Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile (gr. IT). New York features the Kelso.

Finality, a one-length winner of the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/8 miles, is not likely to make a Breeders' Cup start. "Both the Mile and Turf are under minor consideration," said Cot Campbell, president of Dogwood Stable, "but it looks like what he wants is something in between." The Turf is run at 1 1/2 miles. "It's not out of the question, but we might be more inclined to stay in New York. Right now we may not be so bold."

Finality, a 3-year-old son of Dehere was a $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sales purchase by Dogwood. He's won four of 12 starts, and prior to the Jamaica had run second in the 1 1/4-mile Lexington Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont; fourth in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga; and second in the Saranac Handicap (gr. IIIT) on Saratoga's closing day.

A filly with an outside chance of making the race could be Tates Creek, although she is the Bobby Frankel-trained stablemate of Beat Hollow and Decarchy. Tates Creek, a Juddmonte Farms homebred by Rahy, won the Noble Damsel Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Belmont under 119 pounds. Winner of the Diana Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga at 1 1/8 miles on July 27, Tates Creek has won four of seven starts this year.

Earlier this week, William Hill, a British-based bookmaker, released their starting prices for the Mile. To no one's surprise, Rock of Gibraltar is the heavy favorite.

Horse Starting Price
Rock of Gibraltar 5-4
Beat Hollow 6-1
Forbidden Apple 8-1
Sarafan 10-1
Congaree 14-1
Good Journey 14-1
Irish Prize 14-1
Affirmed Success 16-1
Landseer 16-1
Bach 20-1
Noverre 20-1
Redattore 20-1
Special Ring 20-1
Touch of the Blues 20-1
Decarchy 25-1
Del Mar Show 25-1