The French have something of a stranglehold on the Breeders’ Cup Mile, with the most recent win coming in last year’s renewal thanks to the Jonathan Pease trained Karakontie, who aims for a repeat success on Saturday.
Pease also sent out the winner in 1997 when Spinning World charged clear inside the final furlong. When announcing his intention to retire at the end of the season he spoke of his greatest achievements saying: “The highlights of my training career have been winning the 2004 Arc with Bago and three Breeders' Cup races: in 1994 (Tikkanen), 1997 (Spinning World) and 2014 (Karakontie).” He arrives this week at Keeneland hoping to sign off in style.
Freddy Head is responsible for the most prolific winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Goldikova dominated the race from 2008 to 2010 and incredibly attempted a fourth straight win in 2011, when finishing a gallant third. An outstanding mare, she won a host of Group 1’s beating mares and colts alike.
Twenty years earlier Head was riding an exceptional mare to victory in America. Miesque was trained by Francois Boutin and took the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket in 1987. She broke the Hollywood Park track record when winning her first ‘Mile’ and a year later retained her crown when destroying a strong field at Churchill Downs by four lengths. She finished her career with 12 wins from 16 starts, 10 of those victories at Group 1 level.
Pascal Bary was an assistant to Boutin early in his career, and mirrored the success of his old boss when taking the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2002 and 2003. He managed the feat with two different horses, one of them another terrific filly in Six Perfections. A year earlier Domedriver had caused a huge upset when defeating the outstanding miler Rock of Gibraltar.
The first French trainer to strike gold in the race was Robert Collet, when he saddled Last Tycoon to victory in 1986. A year later Collet completed an extraordinary training feat, when he saddled Le Glorieux to a trio of Group 1’s in three different continents. The horse managed to win in America, Berlin and then in Japan. He later had a rather less spectacular spell at stud, though was responsible for the mare Buck’s, who in turn became the dam of non-other than Big Buck’s.
Anyhow, back to the matter at hand, and this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup Mile with the prospect of further French success. Andre Fabre dominates the betting with Esoterique and Make Believe. The latter took the French Guineas at the start of the season, and roared back to form with a win at Longchamp earlier this month in the Prix de la Foret. The son of Makfi has gears, and looks the sort to do well in this.
Esoterique has had a terrific season competing at the highest level. She comes here off the back of a stylish win in the Sun Chariot Stakes. Adaptable as regards ground conditions, she is a powerful mare with plenty of speed, as she proved when only just beaten by Muharaar at Deauville in August. She looks sure to go close in this event that has gone to so many classy mares in the past.
Impassable is another French filly that cannot be discounted. Carrying the famous Wertheimer silks that were worn to victory so often by Goldikova, she lacks the experience at the top level though was a cosy winner of a Group 2 last time at Longchamp. That win was even more impressive, coming after a four month absence.
The Brits are dependent on Roger Charlton’s classy colt Time Test. Conditions may well have turned against him as he looked at his very best on rattling ground at Royal Ascot in June. There’s also the likelihood that he is a better horse at 10 furlongs, and this tight track over a mile may prove problematic.
Yet another filly looks to be the best of the home team. Tepin warmed up for this with a stunning seven length victory in a Grade 1 over course and distance. She appeared to appreciate the ease in ground conditions and looks a real danger to the European challenge.
That challenge could well prove to be a glorious one once again, in a race that has so often proved rewarding. Monsieur Fabre appears to hold a pair of Aces, though there remains uncertainty as to whether we see a King or a Queen crowned come Saturday.