Last Sunday's Woodbine Mile might have revealed the best North American miler pointing for the Breeders' Cup Mile, but after seeing last year's Mile, one wonders how much that matters.
Shakespeare won the Woodbine Mile by a length, but it was the manner of his victory - think lightning bolt crackling through deep stretch - plus his compelling personal history that vaulted Shakespeare to the head of the pack. Shakespeare rallied from eighth a quarter-mile from home, and came home that final quarter-mile in about 22.40 seconds. Away from the races for more than a year because of a tendon injury, Shakespeare has come all the way back - and then some.
"He's a very special horse," said Kiaran McLaughlin, who has trained Shakespeare through the two races of his 2007 comeback, and confirmed the horse's intended participation in the BC Mile on Tuesday. "He just has so many gears."
Shakespeare is back at Belmont Park and "came out of his race great," according to McLaughlin, but the most highly regarded horse does not always win the Mile. Last year, Miesque's Approval, considered something like the fourth-best American horse in the race, won the Mile at 24-1.
His victory made it three straight for U.S.-based horses in the Mile, but the pendulum could swing this year, if only because the depth of the Mile division in the U.S. is, well, shallow. Look out for any of the top three finishers in the Sept. 9 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp: Darjina, Ramonti, and George Washington. The connections of Darjina, a 3-year-old filly, are passing the 1 1/4-mile Champion Stakes in England to keep her in one-mile races. Ramonti looked like Europe's top miler before his runner-up finish at Longchamp. George Washington, sixth last year in the BC Classic, was a closing, troubled third. Darjina and Ramonti would each have to be supplemented for $180,000.
After Shakespeare at Woodbine came the highly capable Kip Deville, but he would have to be supplemented to the $2 million Mile at a cost of $300,000. So would Crossing the Line, California's top miler, and his connections already have said they will bypass the Breeders' Cup.