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Odds-on favourite Wise Dan runs away with the $1 million Woodbine Mile

Wise Dan (second left) is untried over the Classic trip of 1m2f

  PICTURE: Woodbine/Michael Burns Photography  

Classic not Mile the wise choice for Dan

WORLD CLASS: an analysis of the international scene according to Racing Post Ratings

CHARLES LOPRESTI has been leaning towards the Breeders' Cup Mile with his stable star Wise Dan, but after last week he should have another look at the Classic.

Jockey Club Gold Cup weekend is always an interesting guide to the Breeders' Cup, but this year the races only served to highlight a gaping hole in the Classic division.

After Game On Dude beat up another fairly weak field in the Awesome Again and the favourites faltered behind Flat Out and Stay Thirsty at Belmont, the picture is clear: there is no stand out 1m2f performer in the US.

All the leading fancies for the Breeders' Cup Classic have legitimate concerns in one form or another - distance, class or current form - and the result is a very winable Classic.

The opposite is true of the Mile. The turf route for Wise Dan would mean taking on the likes of Excelebration, who has the same peak turf RPR of 127, and Moonlight Cloud.

Moonlight Cloud, trained by Goldikova's trainer Freddie Head, also has a 127 RPR, but she will receive a mare's allowance, making her the ratings choice for the race - and Head is confident.

If the aim was to prove Wise Dan as the best turf horse in America, then even a loss to Moonlight Cloud or Excelebration could secure him that prize. Essentially, running a place in this race will achieve that goal. Job done.

But if the aim is to prove he is the best horse on the continent - which he is - why not ignore the Euros and allow him to strut his sensational stuff in the Classic?

The Classic has fallen apart and the Mile looks rock solid. The real question should not be: why the Classic, but why not the Classic? There appears far more upside to running in the dirt race than on the turf.

The one doubt for Wise Dan in the Classic is the 1m2f distance. This is a reasonable concern, but there isn't a horse in this year's Classic who doesn't come with one concern or another and Wise Dan has the number one requisite on his side: class.

Stamina may not be an issue anyway. It is currently an unknown rather than a negative. For all we know he may actually improve for the distance. He certainly shaped well enough in the Clark last year, when staying on strongly over 1m1f.

We don't know if he will see it out. But what if he can? Shall we just ignore the chance to win a Breeders' Cup Classic because he hasn't yet been asked to prove himself over 1m2f?

Wise Dan is fast. He clocks great final times in his races and and posts killer sectionals in his works. He is so dominant on the track and runs to superior ratings with such consistency that it is hard to envisage him not doing the same in any race on the big night.

The five-year-old is the outstanding animal in America this year. He's top of the tree on turf, dirt and synthetics and now, finally, he tops the NTRA poll for Horse of the Year.

He could run anywhere, but where should such a horse run? What is best for the horse? For his legacy?

Remarkably, the debate in the Wise Dan camp is not whether to go to the Mile or the Classic. What trainer Lopresti and owner-breeder Morton Fink are currently deciding is whether or not to run in Saturday's Shadwell Turf Mile.

Lopresti is worried that he might have a hard race at Keeneland and not get back in time for the Breeders' Cup. If that was the case, Lopresti says he could skip the Breeders' Cup altogether and go straight to the Clark Handicap before being put away for winter.

It's probably time for connections to pause and take in the landscape. This horse is in red-hot form and wherever he runs now may ultimately define his legacy. He may not be as good next year, so this time matters. These next races matter.

The big picture is that there's a Breeders' Cup Classic here without a name on it and an outstanding horse without a title.

The best performance in the world this week came from Game On Dude in the Awesome Again Stakes. The five-year-old matched his best synthetics figure with an RPR of 125 on the Santa Anita dirt.

He was always close to the pace and runner-up Nonios (runner-up to Paynter in the Haskell) was always handy. Both horses ran to form.

The positives for Game On Dude as regards the Breeders' Cup Classic are that it is on his track (unbeaten in five) and that he seems to be a tick or two above his figures going into last year's Classic, where he finished second.

He also arrives on the back of a career best over the track, so he will likely go off favourite, which means the real question for him is one of class.

He has only met one top-drawer rival this year (Dullahan) and he lost that race. That was on Polytrack and Dullahan is superb on synthetics, but the Dude's record, even going back to last year, suggests that he is vulnerable when up against real Grade 1 horses.

Game On Dude is the horse most likely to run his race, but will that be enough?

Over at Belmont there was a four-way tie for the top rating on the card. Royal Delta was the first of those, when she ran to form with an RPR of 123+ in the Beldame Invitational.

She won by nine-and-a-half lengths from It's Tricky, but third-placed Go Unbridled may be a closer guide to the form.

The Lumber Guy was the next Belmont runner to hit 123 when clocking a good time up against his elders and down in trip for the Vosburgh Invitational, winning by a length and a quarter from Caixa Eletronica (119).

The final 123ers came in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, where front-runner Stay Thirsty was caught on the line, losing by a head to Flat Out. Flat Out is clearly in form, but the question with him is again one of class - and, perhaps, course-specialism.

He is three from three at Belmont and he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup last year before going into the Classic as favourite. He couldn't follow-up at Churchill Downs, finishing fifth behind Drosselmeyer and history could repeat itself when he travels to Santa Anita.

Outside Belmont his best RPR Is 123, which shouldn't be good enough to win a Classic. His best RPR at Belmont is 125.

Ron The Greek had been well fancied for the Classic but he could finish only sixth behind Flat Out on Saturday. The hold-ups didn't really get into the race and trainer Bill Mott hopes it may have just been an off-day, but a dose of faith is required to fancy him on the back of that run.

For Fort Larned stamina is the worry. He faded tamely to finish third to Flat Out on the weekend, on what was his first try at the distance. There is nothing to suggest he will suddenly stay 1m2f next time.

TOP OF THE CLASS Game On Dude 125 Bob Baffert (US) (Awesome Again Stakes, Santa Anita, 1m1f, September 30)


TOP LIST


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1  Frankel (GB)
Queen Anne/International 142T
2
 Cirrus Des Aigles (Fr)
Prix Dollar
131T
   Cirrus Des Aigles (Fr)
Prix Ganay 130T
4
 Hay List (Aus)
Newmarket Handicap 129T

 

 Orfevre (Jap)
Takarazuka Kinen
129T
6
 Camelot (Ire)
Derby 128T
   Wise Dan (US)
Ben Ali/Stephen Foster  128A/D
8  Excelebration (Ire)
Lockinge Stakes 127T

 I'll Have Another (US)
Preakness Stakes 127D
   So You Think (Ire)
Tattersalls Gold Cup 127T
   St Nicholas Abbey (Ire)
Coronation Cup 127T
   Nathaniel (GB)
Eclipse/King George 127T
   Moonlight Cloud (Fr)
Prix Maurice de Gheest 127T
   Dullahan (US)
Pacific Classic 127A

TOP TURF PERFORMERS


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1  Frankel (GB)
Queen Anne/International 142
2
 Black Caviar (Aus)
Lightning Stakes 130

 Cirrus Des Aigles (Fr)
Prix Ganay 130
4
 Hay List (Aus)
Newmarket Handicap 129

 Orfevre (Jap)
Takarazuka Kinen
129
 6
 Camelot (Ire)
Derby 128
 7  Excelebration (Ire)
Lockinge Stakes 127
   So You Think (Ire)
Tattersalls Gold Cup 127
   St Nicholas Abbey (Ire)
Coronation Cup 127
   Moonlight Cloud (Fr)
Prix Maurice de Gheest 127
   Nathaniel (GB)
Eclipse/King George 127
   Wise Dan (US)
Fourstardave Handicap 127

TOP DIRT PERFORMERS


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1  Wise Dan (US)
Stephen Foster Hcap 128
2  I'll Have Another (US)
Preakness Stakes 127
3  Bodemeister (US)
Arkansas/Preakness 126
   Caleb's Posse (US)
Met Mile 126
5  Amazombie (US)
Churchill Downs 125
   Fort Larned (US)
Whitney Handicap 125
Game On Dude (US) Awesome Again 125
8  Ron The Greek (US)
Stephen Foster Hcap 124
   Shackleford (US)
Met Mile 124
   Successful Dan (US)
Alysheba Stakes
124

TOP ALL-WEATHER PERFORMERS


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1  Wise Dan (US)
Ben Ali 
128
2  Dullahan (US) Pacific Classic 127
3
 Monterosso (UAE)
Dubai World Cup 126
4  Amazombie (US)
Bing Crosby Handicap 125
   Game On Dude (US)
Hollywood Gold Cup 125
6  Camp Victory (US)
Triple Bend Hcap 124
7  Krypton Factor (BHR)
Golden Shaheen
123
8  Musir (SAF)
Maktoum Challenge R1
122
   Colour Vision (GB)
Sagaro Stakes 122
   The Factor (US)
Triple Bend Hcap 122
 
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