Saturday’s $1 million Coolmore Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland figures to go a long way toward determining the U.S.’s leading candidate(s) for next month’s Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), for which the Coolmore serves as a “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep.
The highly competitive affair has 12 horses in the main body of the field and four also-eligibles. The Godolphin homebred Santin, who has some claim to being the leading domestic turf male still in training, cuts back in distance Saturday following nine-furlong wins in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1) and Arlington Million (G1) at Churchill Downs earlier this season.
Ivar, who won this race two years ago, exits a distant second-place finish in the Woodbine Mile (G1) to Modern Games, the potential Breeders’ Cup Mile favorite. Order of Australia, who shocked the world when upsetting the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland, trailed in this race a year ago and brings a season record identical to the one he brought a year ago, including a second runner-up finish in the Prix du Moulin (G1).
Smooth Like Strait, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last season, has finished second or third in nine of his last 10 starts while enduring numerous photo-finish defeats, including a neck loss over this course in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) back in April. Masen, a nose second in the Maker’s Mark, later won the Poker (G3) and then ran third behind returning rival Casa Creed in the Fourstardave H. (G1).
A pair of three-year-olds that could liven things up are Belmont Derby (G1) winner Classic Causeway and dual graded stakes winner Annapolis, while veterans Somelikeithotbrown, Emaraaty, and Set Piece figure to be longer shots.
The most intriguing of the also-eligibles is Dark Shift, who beat 28 rivals to the line in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot two back.
First Lady S. (G1)
Trainer Chad Brown will be heavily favored to win the $750,000 First Lady S. (G1) for the fifth consecutive year as he saddles three of the six fillies and mares in the one-mile grass test, most notably Regal Glory.
A six-year-old in career-best form, Regal Glory is using the First Lady as a stepping stone toward a possible start in the next month’s Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). Although falling short against the boys as an odds-on favorite in the Fourstardave H. (G1) at Saratoga last time, Regal Glory was dominant within her division earlier in the season, including Grade 1 scores in the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland and Just a Game at Belmont.
Brown’s other entrants are the Diana (G1) one-two In Italian and Technical Analysis, the latter of whom rebounded to wire the field in the Aug. 27 Ballston Spa (G2). In Italian faced Regal Glory back in June in the Just a Game, but proved no match for her fellow Peter Brant colorbearer.
Others lining up include multiple graded stakes winner Princess Grace and Vigilantes Way, who faced softer throughout the summer at Monmouth Park.
Woodford S. (G2)
Golden Pal will turn in a final prep for his title defense in next month’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) in the $350,000 Woodford S. (G2) over 5 1/2 furlongs.
A perfect 3-for-3 over the Keeneland turf, including the 2021 edition of the Woodford, the two-time Breeders’ Cup-winning colt had a closer-than-expected victory when last seen in the Aug. 5 Troy (G3) at Saratoga. An uncharacteristic slow start in the Troy forced Golden Pal to rally from off the pace, but his class prevailed when he won by a head from True Valor.
His Woodford rivals include Artemus Citylimits, a neck second in the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G2) last time; Grade 3 winner Gear Jockey, whose form this year has not been to last season’s standard; and the three-year-old Cadamosto, second in the Mahony S. at Saratoga in his U.S. debut.