Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile Top 5: Sophomores lead the charge
Of the 14 races comprising the Breeders’ Cup, arguably none is more affected by the event’s nomadic existence than the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
Since the Breeders’ Cup travels from one track to another each year, there are occasions when the Dirt Mile is contested as a one-turn race—almost an elongated sprint—and other years when it is run around two turns, more like a short route race.
The race tends to favor different types of horses depending on these circumstances, which is why it’s important to note the 2019 Dirt Mile will be held around two turns at Santa Anita, a configuration that often favors runners with a proven ability to excel over distances longer than a mile.
With this in mind, here is how I rank the top contenders for the 2019 Dirt Mile.
Omaha Beach had no business defeating the talented sprinter Shancelot in the six-furlong Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1), considering he was returning from a six-month layoff and cutting back sharply in distance after a rocky training schedule. It’s a testament to his abundant talent that he rallied to win by a head with a 103 Beyer speed figure. With this perfect comeback prep under his belt, Omaha Beach looms as the horse to beat in the Dirt Mile, where his proven ability around two turns (he won the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby in April) will come in handy.
Three-year-olds have fared well in the Dirt Mile through the years, with Caleb’s Posse (2011), Goldencents (2013) and Battle of Midway (2017) all reaching the winner’s circle. Mr. Money is a son of Goldencents, and after he won three straight grade 3 events through the spring and summer, he prepped for the Dirt Mile with a runner-up effort in the 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby (G1). Mr. Money ran well, considering he was rank early on, set the pace and only lost by a neck. A returning to stalking tactics and the cutback to a two-turn mile could make this colt dangerous.
A talented 3-year-old who won the 2018 West Virginia Derby (G3), Mr Freeze is slowly rounding back into form as a 4-year-old. A runner-up effort against allowance company at Ellis Park this summer was followed by a decisive, pace-tracking victory in the one-mile Ack Ack Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs, in which Mr Freeze sprinted the final quarter in about :23.75 to win with a 100 Beyer. The Dirt Mile will mark his third run off a layoff, which could set up Mr Freeze for a peak performance when the stakes are high.
Giant Expectations hasn’t won since December of 2017 and has competed twice in the Dirt Mile without success, but he produced a nice effort at Del Mar this summer, when he finished second by just a head against Catalina Cruiser in the seven-furlong Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2). That was Giant Expectations’ first run off a three-month layoff, and he’ll be similarly fresh for the Breeders’ Cup. Will the third time be the charm?
After he put together a three-race win streak, which culminated with a triumph in the Godolphin Mile (G2) in Dubai, Coal Front briefly went off form during the summer. But trainer Todd Pletcher brought him back around to win the September 21 Parx Dirt Mile with a solid 99 Beyer, and the fact he defeated graded stakes company around two turns in the 1 1/16-mile Razorback Handicap (G3) last winter is encouraging.