Monday’s $300,000 Shoemaker Miles Stakes at Santa Anita Park kicks off the U.S. schedule of Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” races as a qualifying race for the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.
The Memorial Day race is named after legendary Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker and regularly draws a deep, talented field. With limited opportunities over the last few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Shoemaker Mile lured a gifted cast of 11 turf milers for what should be an excellent edition of the Grade 1 race.
The Shoemaker Mile will be televised live on TVG and NBCSN, with NBCSN coverage starting Monday at 6 p.m. ET.
Read on for more information about the contenders for the 2020 Shoemaker Mile.
1. Without Parole (4-1 morning line): A Group 1 winner at Royal Ascot in 2018, he has not been quite the same racehorse since that victory, which capped a four-race winning streak to begin his career. He’s been well-beaten in each of his seven races since then with the lone bright spot a solid third in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile last November. Came up very small in his 2020 debut when 11th of 12 in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational. He’s a threat at his best and you almost certainly will get the best price we’ve seen in his third start in the U.S., but Without Parole is one that I’ll take a stand against here. Looking elsewhere.
JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.; TRAINER: Chad Brown
2. True Valour (20-1): A multiple graded stakes winner on this course at this distance, True Valour is winless in three starts this year but his most recent race – fourth by a length in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile – was a nice step in the right direction as he came just a point from matching his career-best Equibase Speed Figure with a 113. Prefer others on top but he’s capable of filling out the trifecta or superfecta at a nice price.
JOCKEY: Jose Valdivia Jr.; TRAINER: Simon Callaghan
3. Next Shares (12-1): All or nothing type who is capable of winning a Grade 1 (see 2018 Shadwell Turf Mile) or finishing way up the track. Most recently ran third, beaten by only a neck by River Boyne on this course and distance in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile. A tough one to predict but when he’s good, he’s very good. Demand a price … if you get it, Next Shares is worth rolling the dice on.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Richard Baltas
4. Voodoo Song (12-1): He can get very brave when allowed to set the pace uncontested, but he has not been competitive on open stakes since winning the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap in August 2018. Probably safe to toss his 2020 debut when sixth in the Grade 3 San Simeon because he broke poorly and lost position early, but he has not shown much against elite competition over the last 20 months.
JOCKEY: Mike Smith; TRAINER: Richard Mandella
5. War of Will (4-1): Grade 1-placed on the grass as a 2-year-old, the 2019 Preakness Stakes winner makes his return to turf racing in a tough spot with a new rider against a quality field off a 6 ½-month layoff. He’s a talented racehorse, no doubt, but I’ll let him beat me here given the circumstances. Looking elsewhere.
JOCKEY: Flavien Prat; TRAINER: Mark Casse
6. Blitzkrieg (20-1): Returns for his first start since a four-race stretch in Dubai from January to March where he ran well enough, including a third-place finish in a Group 2 race, without winning. Three of his five wins came sprinting on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita, and at this mile distance against this group he looks a bit overmatched unless he’s allowed to absolutely steal it on the front end.
JOCKEY: Drayden Van Dyke; TRAINER: Doug O’Neill
7. Majestic Eagle (20-1): Won the Grade 3 American Stakes on this course at this distance in June 2019 but is winless in five subsequent races with only one top-three finish. Wouldn’t be a shock to see him get a nice stalking trip and run well, but I’d have trouble using him on my exotic tickets given the quality of the opposition.
JOCKEY: Jorge Velez; TRAINER: Neil Drysdale
8. Raging Bull (7-2): He has not raced since a troubled third-place finish in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile Sept. 14, 2019, but he’s a definite threat at his best having won a Grade 1 in Southern California back in December 2018 and competed admirably in five Grade 1 races in 2019: one second, two thirds, and two fourths. Tough to win off this long of a layoff against elite competition, but he’s a serious turf miler in with a shot if ready to fire.
JOCKEY: Joel Rosario; TRAINER: Chad Brown
9. March to the Arch (6-1): Hard-hitting vet ventures to the West Coast for the first time in his career. Grade 2 winner is always flying late and his last two races were very good, but he’s stepping back up in class and a minor award might be his ceiling. Viewing him more as a closer at what figures to be a price who might spice up the exacta or trifecta.
JOCKEY: Victor Espinoza; TRAINER: Mark Casse
10. Neptune’s Storm (15-1): Makes his 4-year-old bow coming off a very nice 3-year-old season in which he won four times and finished in the top three in all 11 of his starts in 2019. Might have a bit of a tactical advantage as one of the few runners entered with early speed. He needs to take a step forward from a speed-figure perspective to win but it’s possible he matured and filled out in his five-plus months on the sidelines.
JOCKEY: Umberto Rispoli; TRAINER: Richard Baltas
11. River Boyne (4-1): Enters Shoemaker Mile on a roll coming off back-to-back wins at this distance and turf course in the Grade 3 Thunder Road Stakes Feb. 8 and Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes March 7. He’s super-consistent, too, as he’s only lost by more than three lengths once in his 21 races in the U.S. River Boyne has shown a little more tactical speed this year and that’s been a big help. Top win candidate.
JOCKEY: Abel Cedillo; TRAINER: Jeff Mullins
THE PICK: River Boyne
LIVE LONGSHOT: Neptune’s Storm