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Aaron previews the 2023 Shoemaker Stakes (G1) from Santa Anita Park, then gives his top picks & long shots from this “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. This year’s Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1) champion Gold Phoenix is among the 11 entered in this deep field. Who will emerge victorious? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
One of three talented turf runners from the Phil D’Amato barn, Irish-bred Gold Phoenix heads an outstanding field of 11 three-year-olds and up in the Grade I, $500,000 Shoemaker Mile, one of three Grade I stakes on Memorial Day, Monday at Santa Anita.
Originally run at Hollywood Park in 1938 and renamed to honor legendary late Hall of Fame jockey William Shoemaker, the Shoe Mile is a Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Race qualifier, with the winner earning a fees-paid berth into the Grade I FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 4. The Shoe Mile has the distinction of being the first “Win & You’re In” qualifier to be run in North America this year.
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A game neck winner over the course of the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 4, Gold Phoenix was most recent fourth, beaten 2 ½ lengths by repeat winner Offlee Naughty as the 8-5 favorite going a mile and one quarter on turf in the Grade II Charles Whittingham Stakes April 8.
Freshened and unbeaten in two tries at a mile on grass, Gold Phoenix will be reunited with Japanese sensation Kazushi Kimura, who has been aboard for his last two starts and will fly in from his Toronto base on Sunday.
A 5-year-old gelding owned by Little Red Feather Racing, Sterling Stables, LLC and Marsh Naify, Gold Phoenix seeks his third graded stakes win and approaches the Shoe Mile with an overall mark of 12-4-3-3 and earnings of $687,257.
D’Amato’s other two Shoe Mile entrants, fellow Irish-breds Hong Kong Harry and Balnikhov, both enter the race in top form, with Hong Kong Harry toting a stronger resume.
Off at 7-2 in the prestigious Grade I Old Forester Turf Classic on Derby Day at Churchill Downs, Hong Kong Harry rallied gamely to finish second by 3 ¾ lengths and returns to a course over which he’s got three wins from four tries.
Fourth, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Gold Phoenix as the even money favorite two starts back in the Kilroe Mile, it’ll be up to regular rider Flavien Prat to get this diminutive 6-year-old gelding a bit farther back off the early pace on Monday.
A three-time graded stakes winner for D’Amato, Hong Kong Harry has been favored in six out of his eight stateside starts, winning five of them. Owned by Scott Anastasi, Jimmy Ukegawa and Tony Valazza, “Harry” has an overall mark of 15-9-3-1. With earnings of $789,097, he seeks his first Grade I victory.
Bob Baffert’s Du Jour, most recently fourth as the favorite going one mile on turf here in the Grade III American Stakes April 2, rallied to be second by a neck to Gold Phoenix two starts back in the Grade I, Kilroe Mile and is a stout contender with eastern-based Luis Saez taking over for the first time.
A 5-year-old gelding by Temple City, Du Jour is owned by Natalie Baffert and Debbie Lanni. With all three of his wins coming on grass, Du Jour is 12-3-3-2 with earnings of $677,720.
2023 Breeders’ Cup
First post time for a 10-race card on Monday is at 1 p.m. with admission gates opening at 11 a.m. The Shoemaker Mile, along with the $400,000 Hollywood Gold Cup and the $400,000 Gamely Stakes, is one of three Grade I events on Memorial Day, Monday.
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