On Saturday at Keeneland, more than a dozen of the world’s fastest turf milers will face off in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). With eight runners representing the home team and seven shipping in from Europe, the 1-mile event looms as a difficult (but potentially lucrative) handicapping challenge.

Breeders’ Cup Mile Picks

  • #9 One Master
  • #11 Ivar
  • #2 Kameko
  • #3 Lope Y Fernandez
  • #5 Digital Age
  • $4 exacta: 9 with 2,3,5,11 ($16)
  • $4 exacta: 2,3,5,11 with 9 ($16)

Breeders’ Cup Mile contenders

#1 Circus Maximus has repeatedly proven his class against tough competition, winning the St. James’s Palace (G1) and Queen Anne (G1) during the last two Royal Ascot meets. But he struggled when finishing tenth over extremely soft ground in the Oct. 17 Queen Elizabeth II (G1) at Ascot, so it remains to be seen if he can bring his A-game while running back just three weeks later. Circus Maximus wasn’t disgraced when finishing fourth in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Mile, but he may lack the tactical turn-of-foot to thrive in a two-turn American mile.

#2 Kameko won the 2,000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket during the spring and has competed admirably against tough competition all year long, most recently beating globetrotting Group 1 veteran Benbatl in the 1-mile Joel (G2). A son of Kitten’s Joy, who has already sired three Breeders’ Cup winners, Kameko arrives at Keeneland off a six-week layoff and should be fresh for a peak effort under accomplished jockey Oisin Murphy. He’s a logical contender in a deep field.

#3 Lope Y Fernandez has been sprinting as of late, but speed is often an asset in the Mile, so this Aidan O’Brien trainee is arguably better-suited to the Keeneland conditions than stablemate Circus Maximus. Lope Y Fernandez doesn’t perform at all over soft ground, so we can draw a line through his seventh-place effort in the British Champions Sprint (G1) at Ascot three weeks ago. With 14-time Breeders’ Cup-winning jockey Frankie Dettori picking up the mount, Lope Y Fernandez is intriguing as a live longshot.

#4 Siskin went undefeated in four starts as a juvenile and kicked off 2020 on a bright note when beating Lope Y Fernandez, among others, in the Irish 2,000 Guineas (G1). But gate issues contributed to defeats in the Sussex (G1) and Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (G1), and the Breeders’ Cup Mile is serving as an originally unplanned last hurrah before Siskin retires to stud. The Juddmonte Farms homebred will need a clean break under Britain’s leading rider Colin Keane if he’s going to fight for victory.

#5 Digital Age isn’t exclusively a miler, as evidenced by his late-rallying victory in the 1 1/8-mile Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby day at Churchill Downs. But the improving 4-year-old boasts a strong turn-of-foot and is 2-for-2 racing a mile, so the cutback in distance at Keeneland shouldn’t be a big issue. Jockey Javier Castellano and trainer Chad Brown have been striking at a 29% rate together, so ignore Digital Age at your own risk.

#6 Safe Voyage probably isn’t quite up to winning at the Grade 1 level, but at least the 7-year-old veteran arrives at Keeneland in better effort than ever before, posting victories in the City of York (G2) and Boomerang Mile (G2) before finishing third by a neck in the Prix de la Forat (G1). In Europe, Safe Voyage is arguably more effective over 7 furlongs than a mile, which bodes well for his chances of handling a fast-paced, tight-turning event at Keeneland. He’s one to consider for the bottom of the exotics.

#7 Casa Creed is consistent and hasn’t been beaten more than 2 1/2 lengths in his last seven starts, which includes a third-place effort in the Fourstardave H. (G1). But at this point, the bay 4-year-old seems to have leveled out as a Grade 2 type, so the competition at Keeneland may be tougher than he can handle.

#8 March to the Arch showed improvement during the summer for two-time Mile-winning trainer Mark Casse, romping to victory in the King Edward (G2) before finishing second with a slow start in the Woodbine Mile (G1). A stretch-running 5-year-old, March to the Arch picks up the services of hot jockey Tyler Gaffalione and would surely benefit from a contested pace. One more step forward can put him in the hunt for a spot on the board.

#9 One Master has thrived over distances ranging from 7 furlongs to a mile, most notably winning three straight editions of the Prix de la Foret (G1). Two years ago, One Master unleashed a strong late rally to finish fifth in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Mile, beaten just a length for all the glory. If this Lael Stables homebred can bring her A-game three weeks after finishing third in the British Champions Sprint (G1), she can fight for victory at an appealing price.

#10 Halladay boasts an abundance of tactical speed and put it to good use in the Fourstardave H. (G1) at Saratoga, leading all the way to win by 1 1/4 lengths. 2019 Breeders’ Cup Mile 1-2 finishers Uni and Got Stormy were among his beaten rivals, so we know Halladay has the class to compete at this level. But he’s unlikely to shake loose on another easy lead while facing a full field at Keeneland, and he missed a scheduled prep run in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), making it difficult to analyze Halladay’s chances.

#11 Ivar made a great impression in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland last month, rallying powerfully down the lane to beat a deep field by one length. Sprinting the final quarter-mile in approximately :22 1/5 hints this Brazilian-bred 4-year-old has the talent and turn-of-foot to be a major threat in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The only question is whether he can hold his own against the formidable European shippers.

#12 Uni unleashed an explosive late rally to win the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Mile in impressive fashion, but the 6-year-old mare hasn’t seemed quite as sharp in 2020. After finishing third and seventh while favored in the Just a Game (G1) and Fourstardave H. (G1), Uni had to work harder than usual to post a one-length victory in the First Lady (G1) at Keeneland. Considering Uni annihilated the 2019 First Lady by 2 1/2 lengths with a 102 Brisnet Speed rating, the 91 rating she posted this season suggest this Chad Brown trainee will need improvement to defend her title.

#13 Factor This has won five of his last six starts for ultra-hot trainer Brad Cox, most recently firing off a 110 Brisnet Speed rating in the Dinner Party (G2) at Pimlico. A versatile 6-year-old capable of winning over both firm and soft turf, Factor This came up short against Digital Age in the 1 1/8-mile Old Forester Turf Classic (G1), but was beaten less than a length and may appreciate the cutback to a flat mile. The tricky part for this pure front-runner will be avoiding ground loss from post 13.

#14 Raging Bull benefited froma fast pace when rallying to victory in the Shoemaker Mile (G1) during the spring, and although he’s gone 0-for-3 since then, he was hardly disgraced when charging to finish second behind Ivar in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). The third Chad Brown trainee in the Mile field is always a factor from off the pace, but drawing post 14 sets the stage for a problematic wide journey.

AE #15 Order of Australia has spent most of the season running 1 1/4 miles or farther, with a fourth-place effort in the 1 1/2-mile Irish Derby (G1) his best effort to date. Cutting back to a mile is a big question mark, especially since Order of Australia has yet to win a group stakes race of any kind. He’ll need one scratch to draw in off the also-eligible list and will be a longshot if he’s able to start.