Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Preview
(Race 7 — Saturday — Churchill Downs — post time 4:01 ET)
As with last year, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile will be run at a one-turn mile. It will be shown on ESPN as part of the ESPN/ABC coverage. Let’s meet the field of nine coming out of the chute.
#1 THE FACTOR: One of several three-year-olds to take on elders, he was on the Arkansas path to the Kentucky Derby this past spring. He ran the field off their feet in the Rebel, then tried to ration the speed going nine panels. That turned out to be a failure, so he was put back around one turn, where he won against elders going seven panels two back. Last time, he was burnt up in a suicidal pace duel going six furlongs in the Ancient Title. He’s going to make the lead and hold on as long as he can.
#2 SHACKLEFORD: The Preakness winner cuts back to a mile after finishing second in the Indiana Derby. He should be better around one turn and he’s working very well. It’s hard to see him turning the tables on WILBURN, but nothing is out of the question in a race like this one.
#3 TAPIZAR: Won an allowance/optional claimer at seven furlongs last time racing off a very long layoff. While there’s a slight rider upgrade to Gomez, here’s another who has done his best running on the front end. Worth noting he graduated at Churchill last fall. Second off the layoff and the presence of Gomez are nice things he has going for him. He’s going to be a live long shot.
#4 TRES BORRACHOS: Once upon a time he was a speedster who had failing form. Then he was taken off the pace in the San Diego Handicap and won. Since then, he had a disappointing run in the Pacific Classic and tried again to be the speed in the Goodwood. The speed experiment failed, so maybe they take him back off the pace. With the amount of speed signed up, doing that would be most advantageous. While he’s never won on dirt, he’s also spent most of his career on the synthetics. If Rosario takes him off the pace he’s got a puncher’s chance.
#5 WILBURN: Rides a three race win streak into this race, having won the G2 Indiana Derby and the $300k Smarty Jones at Parx. He jumps up to face elders for the first time, and like SHACKLEFORD he’ll be cutting back to a one-turn mile. He defeated a sharp group in the Smarty Jones that included multiple next out winners. I love the way he exploded around the turn to take the Indiana Derby. If he moves forward yet again this field is in deep trouble.
#6 IRREFUTABLE: Took advantage of the pace meltdown in the Ancient Title to close and be second behind an honest California sprinter in Amazombie. Trained by Bob Baffert (who also has THE FACTOR), he was a very creditable second to G1 winner and Sprint contender Giant Ryan in Miami. If you discard the race on Haskell Day against his natural pace style, you’ll find a closing sprinter who rarely misfires. Well worth considering.
#7 JERSEY TOWN: Goes in start four off the layoff in this event, and he’s cashed checks in all his 2011 races: a strong listed stakes at Monmouth, the G1 Forego, and the G2 Kelso. He does have a win at today’s single-turn mile distance last Thanksgiving in the Cigar Mile. While he’s done his best work from up close to the pace, it’s not the place to be with at least three speedy sophomores at front setting the tempo. Skeptical.
#8 CALEB’S POSSE: Aside from the nine-furlong Arkansas Derby, he’s cashed a check in every race this year on his barnstorming tour. A winner around two turns in the G3 Ohio Derby and around one turn in the G1 Kings’ Bishop, he last time checked in with a third in the Indiana Derby when chasing a slow pace. He could come firing hard into what projects to be a very quick pace.
#9 TRAPPE SHOT: Winner of the G2 True North in the late Spring and nosed out of the G1 Vanderbilt during the summer, he was last seen playing bumper cars in the Vosburgh over a wet strip. As a three year old he was able to stretch his speed two turns in a listed stakes. He’s able to come off the pace. His figures make him a worthy favorite and the horse to beat.