Mile Preview (9/18): What's Next?

Despite a light schedule for turf milers, one contender emerged for the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) in the form of Startac.

Startac, owned by the Allen Paulson Living Trust, scored a three-quarter length victory over Volponi in the Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) getting 1 1/8-miles in 1:46.60. Trained by Bill Mott, the 4-year-old son of Theatrical notched his first stakes win of the year in the Belmont BC. Last year he won the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) over the Arlington Park turf course and also won the Turf Paradise Derby.

Looking ahead, the next three weekends are critical, with the top mile races of the season coming up. Below is a schedule of the leading preps for the Mile to be run during the World Thoroughbred Championships at Arlington Park on Oct. 26:

Date Track Race
Sept. 21 KD Kentucky Cup Mile
Sept. 28 Ascot Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I)
Sept. 29 AP Sea O'Erin Breeders' Cup Mile
Oct. 5 Bel Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT)
Oct. 5 SA Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT)
Oct. 5 Longchamp Prix du Rond-Point (Fr-II)
Oct. 6 Kee Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile (gr. IT)
(All the races will be run at a mile on turf.)

The Sea O'Erin Breeders' Cup Mile, while not graded and only offering $100,000 purse, will offer runners to get a lap around the Arlington Park turf course. The Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita has been the strongest prep of late: the last three winners have gone on to capture the Mile. The richest pot of the bunch is the Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile, that offers a $600,000-guaranteed purse.

Pro-tem leader Rock of Gibraltar is currently scheduled to run in the Queen Elizabeth II in two weeks. The iron-solid 3-year-old son of Danehill will be looking to add to his current record of seven consecutive group I races at Ascot, the site of group I-win number five earlier this year in the St. James's Palace Stakes (Eng-I) during the Royal Ascot meeting in June.

Six 3-year-olds have won the Mile--four of which were European-based runners. Last Tycoon (1986) was the first, followed by Miesque ('87; filly), Royal Academy ('90), and Ridgewood Pearl ('95; filly). The American-based sophomore winners were Lure ('92), and War Chant ('00).

On the flip-side, there have been memorable 3-year-old European runners that have flopped in the Mile. Memorable meltdowns include Sonic Lady (7th in 1986 at 2-1), Warning (11th in 1988 at 9-5), Zilzal (6th in 1989 at even money), Arazi (11th in 1992 at 3-2), and Mark of Esteem (7th in 1996 at 6-5).

Below is a listing of the last 10 Breeders' Cup Mile winners and what race they exited:

Year Winner Prep (finish)
2001 Val Royal Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (First)
2000 War Chant Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (First)
1999 Silic Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (First)
1998 Da Hoss Colonial Downs allowance (First)
1997 Spinning World Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (First)
1996 Da Hoss Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap (Second)
1995 Ridgewood Pearl Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Second)
1994 Barathea Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Second)
1993 Lure Kelso Handicap (First)
1992 Lure Kelso Handicap (Second)

It's clear that after the dust settles at Ascot o Sept. 28, that all eyes should be focused on Oak Tree on Oct. 5 for the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile and at Belmont for the Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap. Those three races have combined for eight of the last 10 winners. Note that Rock of Gibraltar won the NetJets Prix Moulin on Sept. 8.