Judging by his overall resume, Dutch Connection doesn’t present a persuasive case for the Mile (G1). But if you’re inclined to think that he’ll love Santa Anita as much he does the sharp twists of Goodwood, the Godolphin recruit has a leg to stand on.
Even grading him on a curve, though, Dutch Connection would need a career best to overturn more accomplished rivals. The pattern was set early on in his juvenile days, with Dutch Connection proving capable in lesser races but getting exposed at a higher level. The Charlie Hills trainee captured the 2014 Acomb (G3) in juvenile course-record time for seven furlongs at York, but was a notch below the best of his generation when only third (of five) behind Gleneagles in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1).
The story was similar during his three-year-old campaign in 2015. Dutch Connection won the seven-furlong Jersey (G3) at Royal Ascot, finished second in a less-than-stellar renewal of the Prix Jean Prat (G1), took runner-up honors to the older Toormore in the Lennox (G2) at Goodwood, and churned home fifth on unsuitable ground in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland.
Dutch Connection hasn’t progressed throughout 2016, but he saved his best effort for his beloved Goodwood, and his pet seven-furlong distance, in the Lennox. He rolled past fellow Godolphin colorbearer Home of the Brave (who’s on the also-eligible list for the Mile, but probably will end up in his second preference of the Turf Sprint [G1]) to earn his first Group 2 laurel.
Otherwise, it’s been business as usual for Dutch Connection. He traveled well, only to be outstayed by Toormore in the Sandown Mile (G2); failed to fire on rain-affected ground in the Lockinge (G1); got put in his place by Mutakayyef when runner-up in Ascot’s Summer Mile (G2); plugged on for fifth in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1); and trailed home last in the Prix du Moulin (G1) after pulling his head off early.
Dutch Connection won’t have a problem settling with plenty of pace on tap in the Mile, and the firm-turf lover will be in his element. But the question remains whether he’s good enough to land a blow. Even if you ignore last fall’s Shadwell form on account of the ground, Dutch Connection is still some way behind Tepin, on a line through Mutakayyef (who was third to her in the Woodbine Mile [G1]). And he’s been well adrift of Mile rivals Limato and Spectre in the Lockinge and Moulin, respectively. You’ve got to make a pretty big leap of faith in Dutch Connection to see him putting it all together here, and he’d excel himself if he can make the frame.
But on a more positive note, Santa Anita has already been the scene of a Breeders’ Cup coup by his trainer. Hills sent out the ill-fated Chriselliam for a devastating victory here in the 2013 Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).
Photo courtesy of At the Races via Twitter