Nine turf runners are set to contest the $500,000 Shoemaker Mile Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park in the first American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” event of the 2019 season.
Leading the way is the east coast shipper Delta Prince, winner of the $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes (G1) at Keeneland in his most recent start. The Stronach Stables-owned horse was also third in the inaugural $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes (G1) at Gulfstream Park to kick off his 2019 campaign. He’ll line up against several local California horses, including Ohio, Bolo, River Boyne, Catapult, and Bowies Hero.
The winner of the Shoemaker Mile will receive an automatic position in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile Stakes (G1) this fall at Santa Anita Park. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of California will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
Let’s take a look at the full field:
#5 Catapult – No horse in this race has been as consistent recently as Catapult. In his last five contests, he won twice at Del Mar and finished a close second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile to close out 2018. This year, he opened his season with a solid fourth in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes, then missed winning the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1) by a nose last time out. Trainer John Sadler looks to have him in top form.
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#8 Delta Prince – The race’s lone shipper comes from the east coast for trainer Jimmy Jerkens and brought Joel Rosario along for the ride. He has been tremendous while making two starts in tough spots this season. His third in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Stakes was to Bricks and Mortar, the country’s top older male on any surface right now. This could be the next huge win that he adds to his resume.
#2 Sharp Samurai – He’ll make his 2019 debut in a very tough spot after closing out last season with a win in the $200,000 City of Hope Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. This gelding has hit the board in eight of his last nine starts, and running a mile on the turf seems to be right in his wheelhouse. He also gets the services of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who is in town to ride Vino Rosso one race earlier in the $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes (G1).
#9 Bowies Hero – He ran fifth in last year’s Shoemaker Mile (G1) to kick off a string of four straight races where he was unable to hit the board. The streak has been surprising, considering he won the 2018 version of the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1) before the streak began. Most recently, he failed to make an impact before finishing sixth in the San Francisco Mile Stakes, but that was his first start in over eight months. Look for him to improve off of that effort here.
#1 Ohio – He’s had a big 2019 so far, stepping up in class and competing well against solid competition. He won the $75,000 Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile Handicap at Turf Paradise before taking the $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1) last time out at Santa Anita. That was easily the biggest win to date for this rapidly-improving 8-year-old.
#3 Le Ken – After running fourth in the $250,000 San Francisco Mile Stakes (G3) at Golden Gate, Le Ken returns to Santa Anita, where he has performed his best. However, it has been a long time since last won, dating all the way back to December 17, 2016. He came close two races back, finishing third in the $100,000 Thunder Road Stakes (G3) by a narrow 3/4 of a length.
#4 River Boyne – This colt has yet to win in three 2019 starts, but he ran respectably each time. Two races back, he was a solid fourth in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes, then finished second in the San Francisco Mile Stakes. He was a multiple graded stakes winner last year as a 3-year-old, so he has the class to compete with this group.
#6 Bolo – It is amazing that this horse is still running. After a nearly two-year layoff, Bolo returned out of nowhere to finish fifth in an allowance optional claiming event last month at Santa Anita. He has reason to improve in his second start off of the long layoff. At one time, he was one of the classiest turf horses on the west coast.
#7 Desert Stone – Though he is still seeking his first stakes victory, he has come close recently. Five races back, he was third in the $200,000 Twilight Derby (G2) at Santa Anita, and three races back, he was second in the $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes (G2). Last time out, he finished third in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes. Santa Anita seems to be where he performs his best, giving him a solid chance to make a positive impact in a big race like this one.
The Shoemaker Mile Stakes serves as the biggest race of the Memorial Day card at Santa Anita Park. The track will also host two other Grade 1 races: The Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes and the Gamely Stakes. The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue on June 8 at Belmont Park with three challenge races: The Jaipur Invitational Stakes (Turf Sprint), the Ogden Phipps Stakes (Longines Distaff), and the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap (Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile).