Breeders' Cup 2012: Mile preview

Alan Crowhurst

It's Wise Dan vs. Excelebration in the Mile.

Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile
1 Mile, Turf
Three-year-olds and up
$2,000,000

Day: Saturday, Nov. 3
Post Time: 4:40 p.m. PT
TV: NBCSN

Perhaps the best field all weekend at the 2012 Breeders' Cup is that of the Mile where one of the top horses in Europe, Excelebration (IRE), will square off against arguably the best horse in North America, Wise Dan.

Excelebration is a three-time Group 1 winner in Europe but is probably best known as the colt that kept running second to the great Frankel (GB) over the past two years. Four times in his career Excelebration has run second to Frankel (with one third), and each time he had little to no shot to beat the horse known as "The Freak". In those five defeats, Excelebration finished 11, 5, 4, 2¼ and 4 lengths behind the top rated horse in the world. Had he not spent the last two years running against Frankel, Excelebration would be on an eight-race win streak with six of those races at the Group 1 level.

With Frankel retired in preparation to make little horses for the next 20 years, Excelebration can finally step out of the shadow and into the spotlight. In his last race he dominated the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at the 2012 British Champions Day against a field of quality miler, and prior to that race he won a Group 1 race in France.

It's a tall order to ship all the way from Europe to run over a hard-and-firm Santa Anita turf course, but Excelebration has the class to finish off his season with a big win.

Wise Dan, a winner of graded stakes races on dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces, is quite simply the best horse in America right now. He's won four of five races in 2012 with a head defeat to Ron the Greek in the G1-Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs the only blemish on his record. His last three races, all at a mile on the grass, were cakewalks victories by 2¼, 3¼ and 5 lengths, respectively. If he maintains his current form in Saturday's Mile, it should be a fantastic final duel between him and Excelebration at Santa Anita.

Moonlight Cloud (GB) is a quality European miler that has routinely ran against and beaten male horses in France over the past two years. However, this filly tends to run her best races on softer, testing ground, something she won't find at Santa Anita at the Breeders' Cup.

2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom will make just his second start of 2012 in the Mile. He won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park at 1 1/16 miles on the turf back in February and then sat on the sidelines recovering from an injury.

The Southern California-based Obviously (IRE) appears to be the lone speed horse in the field after the connections of Little Mike decided to enter him in the Turf instead of the Mile. Obviously is 3-2-1-0 lifetime over the Santa Anita turf course and he's won his last three races at a mile on the grass, including the G2-Del Mar Mile Handicap at Del Mar on August 26th. If he shakes free and puts up soft fractions through the first half-mile, Obviously might be able to spring an upset.

The Pick

It's hard to go against Wise Dan in this race given his sensational run of form over the last six months but Excelebration has faced the very best turf milers in the world over the last two years and held his own every time.

Mr. Commons is a hard working miler that gives a good account of himself each and every time he steps on the track; he could be a nice play in the trifecta or superfecta at big odds on Saturday. In his career, Mr. Commons is 6-3-2-1 in races over the Santa Anita turf course with an 11-3-5-1 record at the one-mile distance over all courses.

6-Excelebration (IRE) (2/1)
2-Wise Dan (9/5)
1-Mr. Commons (12/1)

The Field

Post Horse Jockey Trainer ML Odds
1 Mr. Commons B. Blanc J. Shirreffs 12/1
2 Wise Dan J. Velazquez C. Lopresti 9/5
3 Obviously (IRE) J. Talamo M. Mitchell 6/1
4 Jeranimo G. Gomez M. Pender 15/1
5 Animal Kingdom R. Bejarano G. Motion 8/1
6 Excelebration (IRE) J. O'Brien A. O'Brien 2/1
7 Wilcox Inn J. Graham M. Stidham 30/1
8 Suggestive Boy (ARG) M. Smith R. McAnally 15/1
9 Moonlight Cloud (GB) T. Jarnet F. Head 6/1

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