The presence for the fourth year running in the Grade One Breeders Cup Mile of the Freddie Head trained Goldikova has not been lost on the Churchill Downs organizers. As a special tribute to the wonder mare, who has won this race for the last three years, the organisers have promoted the race to be the penultimate race of the two day meeting, followed only by the Breeders Cup Classic.
It is a clear sign that French trained Goldikova has become a decided favourite with American racing fans, which of course is no less than she deserves. The six year old has won 14 Group One races and although she is probably just past her best, she is potentially still capable of winning this race which is why the Bookmakers have made her the 9/4 (+225) favorite.
To win however, the daughter of Anabaa will need to hold off what is sure to be a determined bid from another European Raider, the Richard Hannon trained, Strong Suit, who goes to the Breeders Cup as a rapidly improving three year old, with two Group Two wins to his name in his last two starts. This Royal Ascot winner was mightily impressive last time out, when winning the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket by over four lengths from the Sir Henry Cecil entry, Chachamaidee. In that race he confirmed what the stable had been saying all along that he is a real tour de force over seven furlongs. However it is pointed that he has only had one start over a mile and that was a losing one back in July in the Group One Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly. Admittedly, he only lost that race by a squeak and as mentioned he has improved out of all proportion since then.
Others in with a chance include the Andre Fabre trained Byword, a very consistent and versatile five year old, who has won his last two starts. The latest of those came over ten furlongs in the Group Two, Prix Dollar at Longchamp on October 1st, where he had Cirrus Des Aigles just a short neck back in second place. Cirrus Des Aigles did of course go on and beat So You Think in the Group One Champions Stakes at Newmarket a fortnight ago, which goes a long way in confirming the form of Byword and that he could be a real threat in this. Before that win, Byword was also successful in a Group Three back in June over a mile, a distance over which he has now won three times.
Gio Ponti, second behind Goldikova in this race 12 months ago represents America’s best hope of a win and is another with chances particularly so as he comes into the race following an excellent win in the Grade One Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes at Keeneland three weeks ago. Before that he ran second behind Cape Blanco in the Grade One Arlington Million in August which is exactly the same route and the same outcomes he had under his belt before coming to the Breeders Cup Mile last year.
However, whilst this looks sure to be a hotly contested affair on paper and many have chances, the scene is set for Goldikova to make history by winning a fourth consecutive Breeders Cup Mile and experience and the filly weight allowance she has taken full advantage of in the last three years could once again go down as one of Racing’s greatest ever fillies.