2021 Breeders’ Cup Mile Cheatsheet
By TwinSpires Editorial Team, Sponsored Content
By Vance Hanson (TwinSpires.com)
1. MASTER OF THE SEAS (12-1) – A terrific effort last spring in the 2000 Guineas (G1) behind a rival who ultimately proved the most accomplished of the three-year-old colt milers in Europe. However, this one missed out on some important prizes over the summer due to injury. While Appleby was reportedly pleased with his comeback in the Joel (G2), this colt didn’t seem to like the softer conditions at Ascot on British Champions Day. He should enjoy the quicker ground here and still has the potential to become a top-level winner himself. A price alternative to his favored stablemate.
2. SMOOTH LIKE STRAIT (10-1) – Has endured a tough campaign in the sense that he’s missed four times in photo finishes, and was also only a half-length behind arch rival Mo Forza last time. One of several admirably consistent entries here, his presence at least ensures the mare Blowout will not have an opportunity to steal this. If speed is playing well on the course beforehand, he’ll be a must-use in all slots.
3. SPACE BLUES (3-1) – A gem of consistency the last couple of seasons with seven wins in his last 10 starts, and reportedly the horse trainer Charlie Appleby is most confident in this weekend. Indeed, if you ignore his two flops in Dubai, the record looks even better. Although he hasn’t been this far in a while, overseas seven-furlong specialists generally see out the American mile quite well, and he has plenty of experience on left-handed courses. Solid contender.
4. RAGING BULL (15-1) – Won his only previous start here three years ago, in the Hollywood Derby (G1), and has been a mainstay in the division ever since, but with only a couple notable wins due to favorable pace scenarios. Not sure he gets that kind of meltdown setup here, but certainly better than his lackadaisical effort in this race at Keeneland 12 months ago. Minor award appeal only.
5. VIN DE GARDE (20-1) – His best form line is the second-place effort to Lord North in the Dubai Turf (G1) earlier this year. Otherwise, he’s had difficulty being a consistent threat in the mile ranks in Japan, let alone on a world stage like this. Some improvement possible second off the bench, but would be one of the bigger surprises if he pulls this off.
6. MO FORZA (5-1) – Aside from his no-show in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) last winter, his will to win has been incredible over the past 13 months. He’s won eight of his last nine, including three over this course. Barn knows what it takes to win at the Breeders’ Cup, having won the Sprint twice and the Turf Sprint three times. He’ll be facing more than just the familiar Smooth Like Strait and Hit the Road this time, but don’t doubt his ability to bring his best as the circuit’s leading contender.
7. IN LOVE (8-1) – Enters with a profile similar to that which stablemate and returning rival Ivar had last year. An allowance-class type over the summer, he’s exploded on the scene this fall with back-to-back stakes wins, including the Keeneland Turf Mile (G1). The addition of blinkers perhaps a leading factor in this sudden rise. Obviously will need to continue improving as this race is a sterner test of class. Main concern, from a betting perspective, is that price won’t be as nice this time around.
8. HIT THE ROAD (15-1) – Although not much separates the three primary California-based contenders, this one does seem to have found himself firmly third in the pecking order of late. Although he encountered a little traffic in the City of Hope Mile, even that very swift pace was not fast enough to get him ahead of Smooth Like Strait or Mo Forsa. Will need to find more to beat not only those two, but a strong European contingent.
9. MOTHER EARTH (8-1) – Her consistency through a long campaign is commendable. However, the three-year-old filly miler division in Europe had no real leader by the end as they all took turns beating each other for the most part throughout the season. Fifth in the Queen Elizabeth II (G1) was pretty good, given that Baaeed or Palace Pier would have been overwhelming favorites here if they’d been given a placement. Ultimately, the ratio of seconds and thirds to wins makes us more inclined to endorse her for a minor prize.
10. BLOWOUT (8-1) – Speedy mare had trouble closing the deal in a trio of starts last term, including in the Matriarch (G1) over this course and distance, but has been much more effective at reaching the winner’s circle this year. Arguably went a little too fast in the Fourstardave H. (G1) in her one try against the males (ironically won by the mare Got Stormy), but rebounded nicely in the First Lady (G1) last time. However, the presence of Smooth Like Strait makes a wire job potentially less likely, and she must avoid a letdown from that career-peak at Keeneland.
11. GOT STORMY (10-1) – Runner-up in this event two years ago when at her peak, she followed up with a course-and-distance triumph in the Matriarch. Form has been rather uneven the past couple of seasons, though, and it’s been hard to pin down exactly when she’s going to fire one of her best shots. Generally speaking, that’s been against either softer or in the Fourstardave at Saratoga, which she’s won twice. Siding with others for the win.
12. PEARLS GALORE (12-1) – Arguably wouldn’t have been judged classy enough for this just a couple of months ago, but a pair of seconds at Group 1 level should change a few minds. While loss to a 25-1 longshot in the Matron (G1) perhaps not as good as it looks on paper, she proved it was no fluke when only two lengths behind the likely Mile favorite at Longchamp. Seems to handle any type of ground effectively and is a worthy inclusion in exotics plans at the very least.
13. CASA CREED (15-1) – His modest finish at Kentucky Downs last time notwithstanding, he developed this season into a much more capable sprinter than a miler. However, this year’s five-furlong Turf Sprint (G1) is far too short for him, so he’s back trying to improve on his 12th-place run in the 2020 Mile. Given his ineffectiveness against several of these over the past couple of seasons, he appears a cut or two below what it will to take to spring the upset.
14. IVAR (12-1) – Ran best of the U.S. contingent in last year’s Mile at Keeneland following a breakout win in the Shadwell Turf Mile. Has been rather quiet all season with just two starts, and in neither instance would you suspect that he was at full strength as both followed long layoffs. Fourth to a stablemate in his title defense at Keeneland last time, and figures to strip fitter for this as he’s finally putting a couple races together for the first time in more than a year. Whether he can topple the Euros this time, given he lost to a rank outsider 12 months ago, is the major question.
15. REAL APPEAL (15-1) – German-bred produced a couple of mild upsets in group company in Ireland this season, including a victory over the much-improved Pearls Galore in the Ballycorus (G3) in June. Has been toting heftier imposts all season, so should enjoy the more feathery 126 pounds here, but overall has the look of a horse that’s in a bit over his head from a class perspective.
16. QUEEN SUPREME (30-1) – Also-eligible was one of the top mares in South Africa, but her preparation leading up to this and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), in which she is in the main body of the field, seems woefully inadequate. Trailed home last of seven in the Joel at Newmarket in her first run outside South Africa and also in nearly eight months. The competition is significantly more challenging this time.