Look over the list of past winners of the Breeders’ Cup Mile and you’ll see an impressive list of European stars.
Goldikova won it three times and Miesque twice. Spinning World and Royal Academy prevailed once.
So in the aftermath of Tepin’s initial loss of 2016 in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland, it should come as no surprise that the European contingent for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile will be vigorously scrutinized by handicappers.
Of the 23 horses pre-entered in the Nov. 5 stakes at Santa Anita Park, 11 of those who listed the BC Mile as their first preference hail from overseas.
It’s a big dose of foreign flavor, with the two stickouts rating as Limato and Alice Springs.
Limato, a 4-year-old gelding, Limato is coming off an impressive three-length victory as an odds-on, 3-5 favorite in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret at Chantilly on Oct. 2. A winner of eight of 13 lifetime starts for owner Paul Jacobs, Limato’s other 2016 victory came in the Group 1 Darley Newmarket July Cup for trainer Henry Candy.
“It was a very exciting performance and I’ve always been looking forward to seeing him do that,” Candy told AtTheRaces.com after the Prix de la Foret. “We’ve always known he was capable of doing that. Newmarket in the July Cup was very exciting, but (the Foret) was fantastic. He had the chance to stretch away and he kept dead straight and won with his ears pricked – it was lovely to watch.”
Alice Springs should ring a bell with fans who watched the 2015 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. Owned by the Coolmore team of Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, Alice Springs finished second as a 5-2 favorite to Catch a Glimpse in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf for trainer Aidan O’Brien.
After a slow start to 2016 with four straight losses, she returned to top form by winning three of her last four races and enters the Breeders’ Cup off successive Group 1 wins in the Sun Chariot and Matron stakes. She was also entered in the Filly and Mare Turf but gave second preference to that race.
“She was second in the (BC Juvenile Fillies Turf) last year when the ground went soft. It was not ideal for her. Santa Anita will suit her but Tepin will be hard to beat,” jockey Ryan Moore said after the Sun Chariot, a race that preceded Tepin’s loss by a week.
O’Brien, who owns 10 Breeders’ Cup wins, was quite impressed with his filly’s development in recent months.
“She is an unbelievable filly. She is a real big powerhouse now. She has gone very pacey and has a lot of speed,” he said. “She ran very well at Keeneland last year and is a very professional filly.”
The field also includes the European-based Mondialiste, who was second to Tepin in last year’s BC Mile and won this year’s Arlington Million. Returned to a mile in his last race, the 6-year-old horse rallied belatedly for fourth in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on Oct. 8. He was also pre-entered in the BC Turf, his second preference.
“We were ready and steady. He ran a good race. No excuses today,” jockey Danny Tudhope said after the Shadwell.
Robert Masterson’s Tepin heads the home team and had won eight straight races – including the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot – until 29-1 shot and fellow BC Mile pre-entrant Photo Call stole away to a long lead in the First Lady and held on for a 2 3/4 -length win over the 2015 BC Mile winner and champion turf mare.
The expected hard, firm course at Santa Anita is not her preferred course and the conditions could lead to an another upset.
The 4-year-old filly Miss Temple City looms a major threat off a 2016 campaign that includes a pair of victories over males in Grade 1 stakes at Keeneland, the Shadwell in her last start and the Makers 46 Mile in the spring.
“She’s the best filly I’ve ever trained,” said trainer Graham Motion. “She’s spectacular. My frustration was over the summer when it seemed we got a little lost with her. She had some tough trips. I’m glad the crew talked me into running her here today. I think I would have chosen to go the other way (and run her against Tepin in the Grade 1 First Lady two races earlier). But this was the right thing to do. She’s a very special filly.”
Other major threats from the U.S. includes Ironicus, who was a fast-closing second in the Shadwell; Midnight Storm (second preference Dirt Mile), a front-running winner of the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita; and Grade 1 Fourstardave winner Tourist, who was fourth in the Shadwell.’
The rest of the pre-entries who were selected among the 14 starts are Chilean Grade 1 winner Kitcat (first preference BC Filly and Mare Turf), Dutch Connection, Ring Weekend, Spectre and What a View.
The rest of the pre-entrants will need a defection in order to run. They are, listed in order of preference by the Breeders’ Cup Racing Directors/Secretaries Panel: Cougar Mountain, Home of The Brave (second preference Turf Sprint), Vyjack, Karar (second preference Turf Sprint), Om (second preference Turf Sprint), Obviously (second preference Turf Sprint), Suedois, Latharnach and Hit a Bomb, winner of last year’s BC Juvenile Turf.