Breeders' Cup: Top seven Mile memories

October 19th, 2021

As we gear up for Breeders’ Cup 2021, thoughts turn to championships past. Here’s my idea of the seven most memorable runnings of the Mile (G1).

Goldikova (2010)

A Mile three-peat may never be equaled, so Hall of Famer Goldikova’s incredible third straight victory tops my rankings.

The French filly had shown her greatness in her two previous Miles as well. Trapped stalking on the inside in the 2008 edition at Santa Anita, she extricated herself in a flash and deployed a blistering turn of foot to dethrone defending champion Kip Deville. In her 2009 title defense at the same track, Goldikova’s far outside post required different tactics, dropping back near the rear, but her furious rally propelled her.

At Churchill Downs in 2010, Goldikova was again drawn toward the outside in post 10, and she found herself stacked wide in midpack on the clubhouse turn. Commencing her bid wide turning for home, she soon ended the suspense in the stretch and reigned supreme over multiple Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti.

Although future Hall of Famer Beholder would go on to win a total of three Breeders’ Cup races, no one has matched Goldikova’s feat of sweeping the same championship event three times – let alone in succession.

Miesque (1987)

Hall of Famer Miesque was the first two-time winner in Breeders’ Cup history. The French star cemented her legendary status with her 1988 title defense, despite a limited campaign, when dominating Steinlen (the 1989 Mile champ) at Churchill Downs.

But her first Mile is what is emblazoned in the memory. With a paint-scraping gambit at old Hollywood Park, Miesque blew the race apart in a course-record 1:32.80. In a fine piece of historical continuity, Miesque’s jockey, Freddie Head, would return to the Mile as the trainer of Goldikova.

Royal Academy (1990)

Under an inspired ride by the all-time great Lester Piggott – who had just returned to the saddle, at the age of 54, from a five-year retirement – Royal Academy recovered from a slow start in a last-to-first thriller. His win rates as one of the most significant in the championships’ history for another reason. Royal Academy was the only Breeders’ Cup runner for Irish training genius Vincent O’Brien.

Da Hoss (1998)

Sidelined for two years after his 1996 Mile victory, Da Hoss had just one prep race ahead of the 1998 edition at Churchill Downs. It was an amazing training performance by Michael Dickinson to get him back to peak form to regain his title. And Da Hoss himself delivered a remarkably game effort, revealing that he’d lost nothing of his competitive fire. After sweeping to the fore in the stretch, he was collared by Hawksley Hill, who put his head in front. But Da Hoss didn’t come this far to lose. Digging in again, he somehow found enough to force his head back in front at the wire.

Domedriver (2002)

French longshot Domedriver capitalized on an inside passage to overturn 4-5 favorite Rock of Gibraltar in the 2002 Mile at Arlington. It’s a race that “Rock” fans would rather forget, after he was stone last on the backstretch and had to alter course abruptly swinging into the lane. Yet Domedriver was worthy on his day to spring one of the Breeders’ Cup’s most famous upsets.

Lure (1993)

In the 1992 Mile, Hall of Famer Lure parlayed his rail post to a brilliant front-running score in a course-record 1:32.90 at Gulfstream Park. But in his repeat bid at Santa Anita in 1993, Lure had to overcome post 12. He was hung out very wide on the first turn through an opening quarter in :22.67, and accordingly expended more energy to take control than the half-mile clocking of :45.88 implies. Yet Lure opened up by daylight in an ultimately comfortable victory over a field including the 1994 Mile hero, Barathea.

Wise Dan (2012)

Which Mile win by Hall of Famer Wise Dan at Santa Anita was more memorable? His repeat victory in 2013 served up more drama, with Jose Lezcano a last-minute sub for John Velazquez, who was injured in a spill, and Wise Dan’s bobbling start that put him further behind.

But if you emphasize depth of the opposition, and final time, his first Mile in 2012 deserves the nod. Wise Dan rolled in 1:31.78, then a stakes and course record, while beating such champions as Animal Kingdom, the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Dubai World Cup (G1) winner; Excelebration, a star miler when not playing second fiddle to Frankel; and Moonlight Cloud, who nearly toppled Black Caviar at Royal Ascot.