Watch the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd November.
By Peter Fornatale
Race six on Breeders' Cup Saturday is the wonderfully named Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile, of which this will be the thirteenth renewal. The Dirt Mile has been the scene of some big upsets over the years but has also had some of the shortest-priced winners in Breeders' Cup history, with Liam's Map winning at odds of just 1-2 in 2015.
This year's renewal will most likely see another hot favourite in the shape of Omaha Beach, who will attempt to become the second World War II-themed winner after Battle of Midway.
Omaha Beach is hard to knock, coming into the race off a career best effort in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, a race successfully used as a prep by dual Dirt Mile winner Goldencents. The six-furlong distance of that race should have been too short for Omaha, but his class came to the fore and he was able to wear down favourite Shancelot close home. Predictably, Omaha Beach was doing his best work late there and was very strong on the gallop out, so should be very hard to beat back over the mile.
Omaha Beach had won the Arkansas Derby back in April and will face the horse he beat into second, Improbable, whose season as promised so much but thus far has not lived up to expectations.
He was sent off favourite for both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness but could only finish fourth and sixth respectively. He finally got off the mark for 2019 in a Listed Stakes at Del Mar, posting his best Beyer (104) of the season there, but proved disappointing once more on his latest start in the Pennsylvania Derby, mustering only a fourth-placed finish having held every chance at the top of the lane. He has a bit to prove now but is trained by a master in Bob Baffert and the mile distance might be the key to him.
Improbable was behind Mr. Money on that occasion and that horse looks to be coming good at the right time. He was fourth in the Juvenile last year and made a slow start to 2019 with defeats at Grade 2 level at Fair Grounds, but has made big strides since, winning his next four by wide margins. He looked as though he might win the Pennsylvania with a furlong to run but got run down late by Math Wizard, although still emerged as the best horse at the weights. He is consistent and has a good draw for his forward-going style in a race that doesn't look replete with pace, so should run a bold race.
Spun To Run was fifth in the Pennsylvania but had a wide trip there and wasn't beaten too far considering and may have gone close if not for that lost ground. He took a huge step forward last time, annihilating a minor stakes field and clocking a hefty 110 Beyer in the process. He has made big strides in his last three starts and could well run a big race here.
Coal Front looked set for a strong season when winning the Godolphin Mile in March but has had something of a truncated season since, having just three runs. He found top-notchers Mitole and Mckinzie too hot to handle in the Met Mile and didn't appear to get home in the Monmouth Cup when getting involved in a war for the lead. Last time was better, landing a Listed race at Parx when giving weight to the placed horses, but the suspicion is he'll need to step up again to sort in the Dirt Mile.
Giant Expectations ran a 104 Beyer in the Pat O'Brien Stakes last time out and that race has produced winners of the Dirt Mile. He’s run well this season without winning and has extensive experience at Santa Anita having run here 10 times. His inside draw could be tricky to overcome but he can be considered for exotic wagering.
Diamond Oops has some strong numbers but his dirt from has been over sprint distances. He looked to get outstayed when routing on grass last time but ran well to finish second in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile. If he can transfer that stamina back to the main track he would have place claims.
Snapper Sinclair looks a tad overmatched here having only won a Grade 3 on turf to date, particularly from a wide draw. The field is rounded off by two interesting runners. Jane Chapple-Hyam has made the bold decision to run Ambassadorial but his defeat in a three-runner conditions race at Chelmsford highlights the severity of this task.
Blue Chipper is a champion in his native South Korea but it is almost impossible to weight that form up. He has good US breeding being out of a Grade 2 winner at Aqueduct but it would still be a big shock if he could land the Dirt Mile.
VERDICT: OMAHA BEACH looks a special talent and I believe he’s worth a bet at anything over even money.