Three Great Moments: Breeders’ Cup Mile
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
The Breeders’ Cup Mile is the toughest race to win among the original BC races. There is a slim margin for error in a one-mile turf race against the top thoroughbreds in training. It took a slow break and slight traffic trouble in the 2002 BC Mile to beat Rock of Gibraltar, one of the world’s best that year who looked unbeatable entering the Breeders’ Cup.
The BC Mile has one of the most intriguing histories of all the BC races. It has the highest number of dual winners (five) and the only three-time winner (Goldikova). It also has the most filly winners (five) of the unrestricted BC races. Two of the filly winners are also dual winners (Miesque and Goldikova). To add yet another unique element to the race’s history: Freddy Head was the jockey of Miesque, the first dual winner of the race in 1987 and 1988, and later trained Goldikova to three straight wins from 2008 to 2010. Such a jockey/trainer feat is unprecedented in Breeders’ Cup history and unlikely to ever be matched.
Here are our selections for the Three Great Moments for the Breeders’ Cup Mile, in chronological order….
The French filly Miesque entered the 1988 BC Mile as the defending champion. She beat a deep and talented group of males while setting a track record at Hollywood Park in the 1987 BC Mile.
The buzz horse entering the race was Juddmonte Farms’ Warning, a dual Group 1 winner in Europe. In his lone meeting with Miesque, in a Group 1 at one mile on the turf at Deauville in France, he finished second just a length behind the filly. Even though he came up short in their head-to-head match-up, the bettors made him the post-time favorite in the the BC Mile at Churchill Downs.
The other two entries who were thought to have a chance at upsetting Miesque and Warning were Mill Native, the winner of the 1988 Arlington Million, and Bet Twice, the 1987 Belmont Stakes winner. The field also included Steinlen, who would go on to win the 1989 Arlington Million and BC Mile.
Miesque won the 1987 BC Mile by three lengths, and in 1988 she improved that margin of victory when she beat a classy group of twelve by four lengths. She became the first two-time winner of a Breeders’ Cup race in the event’s history.
Here is the great Miesque winning her second BC Mile in 1988:
Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup
The 1988 BC Mile was Miesque’s final race. She retired with a record of 12 wins from 16 career starts. She became a successful broodmare in Kentucky, where she produced several stakes winners. Her son, Kingmambo, went on to sire a slew of stakes winners, including Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid. Miesque also produced Miesque’s Son, a Group 3 winner in France. When Miesque’s Son went to stud, he sired a horse named Miesque’s Approval, who won the 2006 BC Mile.
1998 Da Hoss
Da Hoss won the BC Mile in 1996 and then disappeared from racing. Physical ailments that plagued him for much of his racing life sidelined the gelding for all of 1997 and most of 1998. In October of 1998, nearly two years after his win in the BC Mile, he reappeared in an allowance race at Colonial Downs in Virginia. He won it handily, but more importantly, he exited the race healthy. His trainer Michael Dickinson boldly shipped him to Churchill Downs with the intention of entering him in the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Mile.
While Da Hoss had won the BC Mile in 1996, his long absence from the races and a solid field of 13 rivals made him an unlikely win candidate. The bettors agreed, sending off him off at odds of 11-1. The post-time choice was Favorite Trick, the 2-year-old who won the Eclipse for Horse of the Year in 1997. He was coming off an impressive turf debut in the Grade 2 Keeneland Breeders’ Cup Mile Stakes in his final prep for the BC. Another highly regarded starter was Desert Prince, a three-time Group 1 winner and the 3-year-old European champion.
Here is the 1998 BC Mile with the famous call by the legendary race announcer Tom Durkin:
Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup
The 1998 BC Mile was the final race of Da Hoss’s injury plagued career. He won 12 of 20 starts, including multiple graded stakes, but his two BC Mile wins were the only Grade 1 wins on his resume. The great gelding now resides at the Hall of Champions at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
The Breeders’ Cup has seen a fair share of upsets. Among the better known is Arcangues win in the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Classic at odds of 133-1. In 2011, Court Vision paid $131.60 when he upset the great Goldikova in the Mile. However, record payouts don’t always tell the story when it comes to big upsets.
Domedriver won at odds of 26-1 in the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Mile. While other winners have paid more, it was the horse that Domedriver beat that puts it among the most shocking upsets in BC history. The Irish-bred Rock of Gibraltar entered the 2003 BC Mile riding an unprecedented winning streak of seven straight Group 1 races over a two-year period in Great Britain, Ireland, and France. Four of those wins came at one mile, a distance at which he was unbeaten.
It would be hard to find a stronger favorite in any Breeders’ Cup race, considering the record of Rock of Gibraltar entering the Mile in 2002. He was sent off at less than even money with the Woodbine Mile winner Good Journey as the distant second choice at 5-1. A slow start and traffic trouble at the top of the stretch for the favorite were all it took for Domedriver, a Group 2 winner who had spent most of his career in France, to beat the mighty Rock of Gibraltar.
Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup
The BC Mile was the last win of Domedriver’s career. He retired with six wins from 21 starts, and the BC Mile was the only Grade/Group 1 win of his career. He currently is a sire at Haras du Grand Chesnaie in France.
Rock of Gibraltar was voted the 2002 European Horse of the Year and retired to stud after the BC Mile. He currently stands in Ireland for Coolmore, where he has produced 49 stakes winners in his first six crops. Among his progeny is Eagle Mountain, the Hong Kong Cup winner and runner-up finisher in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Turf.
In 1984, the filly Royal Heroine won the inaugural BC Mile, beating future champion and the 1995 BC Mile winner Cozzene. She was the first of five fillies who have won the race.
In 1990, Royal Academy won the BC Mile under longtime British jockey Lester Piggot. Piggott had been released from jail, where he had served a year for tax evasion, less than two weeks prior to the race. It was also the lone Breeders’ Cup win for the legendary Irish trainer Vincent O’Brien.
In 2003, the French filly Six Perfections became the fourth female to win the BC Mile. It was the second straight BC Mile win for trainer Pascal Barry, who also trained the 2002 winner Domedriver.
Certainly there are plenty of other great and potentially overlooked renditions, let us know which ones you like in the comments!
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