Race of the Week: The Shadwell Mile (Keeneland Race Course)
Very few things point to the start of autumn more than the commencement of the fall meeting at beautiful Keeneland Race Course. For racing fans that have yet to make it to Lexington, Kentucky, do yourself a favor and plan your 2015 trip now. It is simply a beautiful town that offers live thoroughbred racing at its very best. The 2014 meeting kicks off on Friday with a strong card headlined by the $400,000 Grade I Darley Alcibades Stakes for two-year old fillies. The following day brings fans an all-stakes pick four including this week’s focus for “Race of the Week,” the $1 million dollar Shadwell Turf Mile. A strong group has been gathered for one of the States’ most coveted mile grass races including reigning Horse of the Year, Wise Dan. Coming off another narrow victory, the son of Wiseman’s Ferry meets his toughest group in 2014 as he prepares for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
The Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes is a Grade I turf event open to three-year olds and up. While, the event has less history than some of the races we have reviewed in this column, it is not without its share of memorable moments. First contested in 1986, the race was originally run at a mile and an eighth before being modified to its current distance in 1994. It became a graded stakes event in 1988 before being elevated to a Grade II in 1998. It was raised to the ultimate Grade I status in 2002 and became part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series in 2008. There is little doubt that the Shadwell Turf Mile has become one of the most sought-after races of its kind evidenced by the recent increase from $750,000 to $1 million dollars in purse money.
Rusty Arnold’s Leprechauns Wish won the inaugural version of the Shadwell Mile under the handling of Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey. The son of Lyphard’s Wish
covered the mile and an eighth in 1:51.80. Storm on the Loose, Niccolo Polo, and D. Wayne Lukas’ Steinlen closed out the winners during the event’s first decade, while the nineties saw such stars as Itsallgreektome and Favorite Trick hit the finish line first. Kiaran McLaughlin’s Dumaani was the first to win the Shadwell Mile in consecutive years in 1995-1996.
The event was an immediate success, but with the elevation in status to a Grade I in 2008 it reached new heights. The five most recent renditions of the Shadwell Turf Mile unquestionably brought Lexington some of the world’s best grass milers. Zayat Stables’ late son of Unbridled’s Song, Thorn Song took the event in its first year as a Grade I and IEAH Stables’ Court Vision would follow suit in 2009 with jockey Robby Albarado aboard both victors. The event continued to attract the game’s best with Christophe Clement’s offspring of Tale of the Cat, Gio Ponti matching Dumaani’s back-to-back feat crossing the wire first in both 2010 and 2011. Included in the second victory was a win against 5-1 shot Wise Dan who finished fourth with Jon Court aboard. The Charles Lopresti runner improved immensely in 2012 and took down his Shadwell Mile title at 3-5 with long shots Wilcox Inn and Slip and Drive closing out the trifecta.
Last year’s version of the event was marred by poor weather forcing racing officials to move the Shadwell Turf Mile to Keeneland’s all-weather track. Wise Dan would run, but finish second to frontrunner Silver Max setting things up for the 2014 version. An ominous weather forecast a few days out suggests less than a firm turf course, but hopefully we can keep this year’s race on the lawn.
Wise Dan enters Saturday’s Keeneland feature as the 4-5-morning line favorite coming off his narrow win in the Grade II Bernard Baruch at Saratoga on August 30th. The seven-year old gelding grinded out a victory at the mile and a sixteenth distance against Optimizerdespite coming off a layoff for colic surgery. The victory was far from visually impressive, but once again showed Wise Dan’s tremendous heart and desire to win. The Bernard Baruch should have prepared the reigning Horse of the Year for a strong effort in the Shadwell Mile, but the question is whether the near $7 million dollar earner is the same horse he was earlier in his illustrious career. He meets the toughest field he has faced in some time and will be tested before heading off to Santa Anita barring any setbacks. He will be tough to beat, but appears more vulnerable than ever before.
2013 winner Silver Max is the likely pacesetter for the million-dollar affair and one of the few with a chance to upset “the champ.” This five-year old overachieving son of Badge of Silver has had success with one tactic and that is going gate-to-wire. He is 12 for 25 lifetime with nearly $2 million dollars in career earnings. He is 1 for 2 at Keeneland and gets four-time winner of the Shadwell Mile Robby Albarado in the irons. If he can avoid a pace duel with 50-1 shot Two Notch Road and Shadwell Stable runner Sayaad, he has every reason to run huge on Saturday, but that is a big “if” given Sayaad’s inside draw and Two Notch Road’s past performances.
Grand Arch may be the biggest overlay in the race if he is anywhere near his 12-1 morning line. This five-year old son of Arch has run well over this course with a win and two runner-up efforts in three tries and just missed in August’s Fourstardave at Saratoga. Canadian-based conditioner Brian Lynch is more than capable of training a graded stakes runner on the lawn, however this one’s recent tries over a slightly off turf course have not been his best. Kaigun is another contender coming to Lexington from Canada. This four-year old son of Northern Afleet comes into the Shadwell off a near miss in the Woodbine Mile on September 4th, but may be a slight cut below the top few in here. His second place effort in this April’s Maker’s Mile against Wise Dan was one of his many impressive 2014 efforts. A top three finish is far from out of the question. He should get a good trip under jockey Patrick Husbands.
While many could pull the upset of Wise Dan if he regresses off of his last effort, only one runner has a chance to beat him on anything near his best day. Seek Again for Juddmonte Farms and Bill Mott comes into the Shadwell Mile off of a two month freshening and could be ready to run another monster eight furlongs.. In the Grade II Fourstardave, this son of Speightstown had every reason to lose given a troubled trip on the rail, but still found a way to get the job done under red-hot rider Joel Rosario.Saturday’s outside draw should allow Rosario to settle the colt in a few lengths off the lead and follow the move of the heavy favorite. He just missed against Wise Dan several months ago on Kentucky Derby day and may have improved since the mile and an eighth Turf Classic. It will be difficult to get by “the champ,” but if anyone in the States can do it at the moment it may just be Seek Again.
The 2014 Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile could be one for the ages. One of the century’s only immortal runners Wise Dan looks to for his 23rd victory, but faces a solid group of eight that would like nothing more than the lions share of one million “smackers.” On paper it appears that the pace will be legitimate setting things up for a potential stretch run between Wise Dan and Seek Again for the ages.
1st– #8 Seek Again
2nd– #6 Wise Dan
3rd– #3 Grand Arch
4th #5 Kaigun
5th– #2 Optimizer
I love to gamble as much as anyone, but this race offers very little if any value. Wise Dan will be odds on and is almost a lock barring disaster to finish in the top few. The horses that have the best chance to beat him are also short prices other than perhaps Grand Arch and Kaigun, but even their best efforts are probably not good enough to win this. Sit back, relax and enjoy the seven-year old immortal Wise Dan. There are plenty of other races to wager on this weekend.
Scott Shapiro is a professional horse racing handicapper, lead analyst and editor for shapperdacapper.com and a contributor to DanonymousRacing.com.
He lives in Denver, CO but is planning a move to the Del Mar area in 2015. He takes pride in finding vulnerable favorites and defeating them in pick four, pick five and pick six wagers.
Follow him on twitter @shapperdacapper.