The announcement earlier this week that NetJet will sponsor the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) wasn't the biggest news concerning the World Thoroughbred Championship's grass event. Rock of Gibraltar's emphatic victory in the NetJet Prix du Moulin de Longchamp in France on Sept. 8 kept the European superstar right on target for a trip to Arlington Park.
The 3-year-old colt, racing for Alex Ferguson and Susan Magnier, toppled Mill Reef's longstanding mark of six consecutive group I victories with his seventh straight group I win, this time at Longchamp. He's a perfect five-for-five in elite company this year, with other wins in the Sagitta Two Thousand Guineas, Entenmann's Irish Two Thousand Guineas, St. James's Palace Stakes, and Sussex Stakes, all at a mile.
In the Prix du Moulin, Rock of Gibraltar defeated a top-class field while carrying 123 pounds, defeating Banks Hill (124) by a half-length. Banks Hill, a top older filly, won last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) in the most impressive performance of the afternoon.
Rock of Gibraltar is trained by Aidan O'Brien and is a son of Danehill (by Danzig). He is out of the Be My Guest mare Offshore Boom, and through both Danzig and Be My Guest, is inbred to 3x3 to Northern Dancer. Through Danehill's dam side of the pedigree, Rock of Gibraltar is inbred to Northern Dancer's mare, Natalma, 4x4x4.
According to reports from Europe, Rock of Gibraltar is scheduled to seek an eighth consecutive group I event in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Sept. 28.
While Rock of Gibraltar is more than accomplished at a mile, the top American runner for the Mile has yet to race at the trip this year. Beat Hollow, bred and owned by Juddemonte Farms, has won four of six starts this year, with victories coming in the nine-furlong Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs, and the 1 1/4-mile Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont and Arlington Million (gr. IT). Trainer Bobby Frankel has said he thinks the horse would be better suited to shortening up to a mile than trying a run at the 1 1/2-mile John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT). His win over the local turf course at Arlington also gives him home field advantage.
Beat Hollow is a son of Ireland's perennial leading sire Sadler's Wells, out of Irish Oaks (Ire-I) winner Wemyss Bight. Sadler's Wells is the sire of three Breeders' Cup winners: Mile winner Barathea (1994), and Turf winners In the Wings ('90) and Northern Spur ('93).
Good Journey, a 6-year-old son of Nureyev, won the Atto Mile (gr. I) at Woodbine Sept. 8, a key North American race for milers. Unbeaten in three starts this year, Good Journey was a clear winner over 55-1 longshot Chopinina in getting the mile in a crisp 1:33.27. Good Journey is out of Chimes of Freedom, a champion 3-year-old filly in England and France in 1990 and the dam of solid sprinter Aldebaran, who was second in this year's Met Mile (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
Other horses to watch out of the race include the beaten favorite, Noverre, a Godolphin runner who excelled at mile last year; and Touch of the Blues, who had a rough trip under Corey Nakatani.
A horse unaccomplished on turf, but a strong contender for the Mile nonetheless is Congaree. Third in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (both gr. I) last year for trainer Bob Baffert, Congaree has made just four starts this year for Robert and Janice McNair's Stonerside Stables. A poor effort in the 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster Stakes (gr. I) in June had Baffert aiming the son of Arazi for shorter distances, and he proved up to the task in the one-mile Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) on Sept. 2. Leading throughout under Mike Smith, Congaree won by a length in 1:36.34. It wasn't necessarily the time, but how he did it.
A horse not to forget in the Mile is Forbidden Apple, who ran second behind Val Royal last year at Belmont Park. The 7-year-old has made only three starts this year, and has yet to win, but was ultra-game in his last two. In his last start, he was beaten a head and a nose in the Arlington Million behind Beat Hollow and Sarafan. Bred and owned by Arthur I. Appleton, Forbidden Apple is trained by Christophe Clement. His likely Mile prep will come in the Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT)--a race he'll try to win for a third straight year.