The Grade 1, $400,000 Shoemaker Mile Stakes at Santa Anita kicks off the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” series in the United States and will serve as a Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Mile division. Three of the nine entries competed in last year’s running over the southern California turf, including third-place finisher Blackjackcat, eighth-place finisher Om, and 10th-place finisher Heart to Heart. The Shoemaker Mile will go off as the seventh on Santa Anita’s special 10-race Memorial Day Card on Monday.
Fan favorite Heart to Heart enters this race with the most momentum after back-to-back Grade 1 victories in the Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes and Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes. The longtime stakes performer is approaching $2 million in earnings and will surpass that mark if he wins from post 6 with Julien Leparoux aboard.
Another hot horse coming into the race is the recent Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes winner Bowies Hero. In that race, he defeated last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile winner, World Approval, as well as several of his rivals here. Corey Nakatani will have the mount once again when Bowies Hero breaks from post 2, which will give him a perfect pocket trip while laying off the pace.
The Breeders’ Cup Mile third-place finisher Blackjackcat enters this race off of two very disappointing 2018 efforts. Last year, he failed to miss the board in seven races, but this year, he has failed to hit the board in both starts. His connections will be looking for a much different result when he breaks from post 9 with Kent Desormeaux in the irons.
The entries from the rail out: Om, Bowies Hero, Pavel, Colonist, Hunt, Heart to Heart, Arms Runner, Next Shares, and Blackjackcat.
#2 Bowies Hero – This son of Artie Schiller comes into the race on fire, having won two of his last three starts. Last time out, the Kilroe Mile was his first Grade 1 victory, and he could make it two in a row with a similar effort. He seems to be improving in a major way, which is what you want to see coming into a tough race like this one.
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#6 Heart to Heart – This is one of the most popular horses in America! After 34 starts, he finally become a Grade 1 winner this year in the Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes, then won his second much quicker, holding on to win the Maker’s 46 Mile in his next start. At the age of 7, he is still going strong, and with a solid performance here, he could push his earnings to over $2 million. However, he has not had much luck at Santa Anita, finishing no better than third here in three lifetime starts. Getting over the Santa Anita hump is one of the few things remaining for him to achieve.
#9 Blackjackcat – He was an absolute monster last year, winning four straight before entering the Breeders’ Cup Mile, where he stormed home from last to finish third at a juicy 19-1 while only being defeated by 1 1/4 lengths. In seven starts last year, he never missed the board, but for some reason, he has struggled in his 2018 campaign. He was fifth in the Grade 3 Thunder Road Stakes to kick off the year, then could only muster fourth in the Grade 3 American Stakes. If he can round back into form, then he will be tough to beat, and with this being his third start off of the layoff, we might see an improved effort from him.
#8 Next Shares – He rounded out 2017 with back-to-back wins on the NYRA circuit before shipping to southern California to begin his 2018 campaign. After finishing second in the $75,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes, he jumped up to Graded company and finished third in the tough Thunder Road Stakes. His next start was the best of his career when he finished second, only beaten a 1/2-length, in the Kilroe Mile. He looked like a winner coming down the stretch, but he just couldn’t get by Bowies Hero in the end. Last time out, he was seventh in the Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland, but he should improve here with a return to Santa Anita, where he runs well.
#5 Hunt – After a failed attempt in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last year, Hunt cut back in distance for his next start and prevailed in the Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar. Perhaps the cut back in distance was a sign of things to come, as he is now entered at a mile for his 2018 debut. He starts here off of a long layoff of over six months, but if he is ready to roll off the bench, then he can still be a formidable opponent.
#1 Om – While he has been a bit inconsistent during his career, at his best, he can compete with anyone. He showed that three races back when he won the Thunder Road Stakes in impressive fashion. This classy horse has competed in two Breeders’ Cup events, finishing second in the 2016 Turf Sprint and eighth in the 2017 Mile. He’ll begin the road to making it three here. With any race in which he enters, he becomes a bit of a Party Crasher because you just never know which horse is going to show up.
#4 Colonist – Though he will be making his first Grade 1 start in this very tough spot, he is coming off of a nice second-place effort in the American Stakes at Santa Anita. This son of Pioneerof the Nile only lost by a neck in that start and is usually competitive in all of his races. If he wins here, it will be his first-ever stakes victory.
#7 Arms Runner – This lightly-raced colt will give stakes company a try after finishing fourth against optional claiming allowance company to kick off 2018. Last year, he was 2-for-2 at Santa Anita, so perhaps he knocked the rust off and is ready to put his best foot forward. He will still need a big improvement to compete today.
#3 Pavel – Trainer Doug O’Neill is never shy about spotting this horse in tough spots. He took on the world’s best horses last out in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup and ran well to finish fourth. Here, he would have tried turf for the first time while also trying to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. However, he was also entered in Saturday’s Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes and chose to enter that instead, finishing fourth.