What a turn of events since I penned the Dirt Mile contender list
a few weeks ago. First Graydar
wasn’t sure, then was pointed to the
Classic, followed by a switch to the Dirt Mile, and now he’s not racing at all.
Also it appears that Power Broker
is missing from the Breeders’ Cup all
together. However we had some additions to the field which were pleasing to see
such as Taptowne
, Brujo de Olleros
, and Alpha
! For a field which I was scared
of being short, this ended up being a very good race. Let’s dive into the 2013 Dirt Mile
field!! (Friday 11/1/13, 6:05 ET, 3:05 PT)
#1 – Taptowne
– If there is a sentimental favorite in this
race, he is it (right CDR?). I watched Taptowne in Chicago a few times and I
have always enjoyed watching him run. Here we have a horse that could generate
some two-turn early speed, and he does have the rail. As the favorite in his
last three races, he has finished well in recent contests including a second
place finish to Pants On Fire in the Grade 3 Ack Ack. This horse drilled a 5
furlong work in one minute flat on October 23rd
and seems to be
ready to give it his all here.
#2 – Golden Ticket
– Last year’s Travers winner, Golden
Ticket is a horse which we can’t forget about here. On paper it might look like
this horse has struggled in some of his races lately, however you only have to
look at the competition this horse has faced. He has faced the likes of Mucho
Macho Man, Paynter, Fort Larned, and Take Charge Indy. With all of the
potential speed up front, Golden Ticket could save ground on the rail and pass
some tired horses in the stretch. He has only raced at a mile once, and won.
#3 – Hymn Book
– No stranger to graded stakes competition,
Hymn Book would seem to fit into this field save for one statistic. This horse
is 0-for-10 on a fast dirt surface. Strange huh? He is also 0-for-3 at the one
mile distance. So, are these reasons to throw this horse out? He is generally
close at the end of the races and perhaps he breaks through here with a
favorable pace scenario and some speed into which he can close.
#4 – Brujo de Olleros
– Coming to the United States from
Uruguay in mid 2012, this horse scored his first North American victory this
August in a listed stake at Delaware Park winning by over 6 lengths after being
fractious at the beginning of the race. Since that race he missed by only ¾ of
a length to Graydar in the Grade 2 Kelso back in September. He has been working
at longer distances which seems to me like he is well prepared to make a strong
run in the Dirt Mile. He has yet to miss the board at the mile distance.
Here is the 2013 Kelso featuring Brujo de Olleros, Hymn Book, and Graydar.
#5 – Fed Biz
– Here’s a horse that knows the Santa Anita
oval very well. Fed Biz has three victories at the track and three victories at
the mile distance. He has not raced
since August so he is fresh and has been working out well. So what’s not to
like here? He did struggle in this same race last year, finishing a
. Is that enough to sway your decision? Said
trainer Bob Baffert on Fed Biz’s recent workout, “He’s going to run good on
Friday, he’s going to run like he did at Del Mar.”
Here is the 2013 Pat O'Brien featuring Fed Biz and Goldencents
#6 – Broadway Empire
– This horse definitely wasn’t on my
radar to join this field, but you have to give him some consideration. Outside
of polytrack races, this horse is perfect on dirt winning by lengths of 3, 4, 7
¼, and 16 ½ in the maiden breaker! The knock on this horse is that he really
hasn’t faced the same competition that the rest of the field has.
Broadway Empire wins the 2013 Oklahoma Derby
#7 - Alpha
– Here is an unexpected entrant in this field! Outside
of Saratoga, and New York in general, this horse has had difficulty winning. Still
he is no stranger to Grade 1 stakes quality competition though the mile may not
be his best distance. From the Breeders' Cup notes, "He’s got a good look out of his eye and he’s very bright,” said Jimmy Bell, Godolphin’s representative on the scene and head of operations for Darley Racing America. “It was great to see him get another Grade 1 win (in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga in August).” Bell cautioned against overlooking the earner of $1,779,167 in this race.
Alpha wins the 2013 Woodward Stakes
#8 – Holy Lute
– This three year old is relatively new to
the stakes scene finishing third to Power Broker in the Indiana Derby a few
weeks ago. Joining the Breeders’ Cup field is a huge jump in competition but
the horse has been running well, working well, and could surprise here.
#9 – Centralinteligence
– It’s no secret that when trainer
Ron Ellis teams up with jockey Victor Espinoza that wins seem easy to come by. However
in the case of Centralinteligence, the mile distance might be a little too far.
You wouldn’t think so by looking at the pedigree, however this horse has been
running at sprint distances except once; a 7th
place finish at Del
Mar in 2011.
#10 – Verrazano
– On paper, this horse looks like the one to
beat. Verrazano’s only two losses were in the Kentucky Derby, and at Saratoga (the
graveyard of favorites) in the Travers. Otherwise, he has dominated his
competition. He’s been on the shelf since the Travers but has been working well
at Belmont. What’s there not to like here?
Verrazano impressive in the Haskell
#11 – Pants on Fire
– Here’s a very interesting horse to
consider in this race. Pants on Fire and jockey Paco Lopez have teamed up
lately and have had some recent success. “I wish I knew what has made the
difference this year,” said trainer Kelly Breen. “We’re still doing things the
exact same way we have since he was two. For some reason, he’s just decided to
put it all together this year.” Coming off of a lifetime best Beyer speed
figure and posting decent workouts, it seems that this horse is in tip top
shape. Add two wins in a row with four wins on dirt at the mile distance and
you could have a winner.
#12 – Goldencents
– After competing in a couple of classic
races, trainer Doug O’Neill gave Goldencents a bit of a rest. On the comeback
trail he has run in sprint races finishing second three times in a row. Now as
a three-time beaten favorite he stretches back out to a two-turn mile where he
has one victory over two tries at that distance. He also has two victories in
four tries at Santa Anita overall. Still, he has faces some tough company this
season and I think he’s ready to go the extra distance. Assistant trainer Steve
Rothblum said of Goldencents, “He's tailor-made to be a miler," said
Rothblum. "His natural speed comes into play."
#13 – Easter Gift – According to the Breeders’ Cup notes
team, “Trainer Chad Brown said Tuesday that the 4yo colt Easter Gift was not
shipped from New York and will not compete in the Breeders’ Cup. The son of
Hard Spun is on the also-eligible list for the Dirt Mile.”
Probable Pace Scenario – There is no doubt in my mind with
the speed and the inside post that Taptowne will be quick to go to the lead. He
might get some early pressure from Golden Ticket, Fed Biz or Alpha going around
the first turn. I see Verrazano trying to make a quick run to that same turn to
establish position three or four wide. With the outside post Pants on Fire and
Goldencents should be able to cut in and save some ground on the rail running
just off the pace. Brujo de Olleros should be in the mix on the backstretch as
well. Here though I see a horse with the class to win from just off the pace
taking this one home.
My Pick – In this race I’m going to box an exacta with
Goldencents, Golden Ticket, and Pants on Fire.