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Tale of the tape

Breeders Cup Mile Preview: Wise Dan Vs. Excelebration

The Breeders’ Cup Mile has become one of the most exciting of the Breeders’ Cup races every year. Europeans have won three out of the last four editions of this race, due to the unbelievable Goldikova, whose devastating kick was a sight to be seen. There is no Goldikova in this year’s edition, but there are plenty of very talented horses and story lines in this year’s race.

Horse of the Year may be on the line for Wise Dan, who has crushed his American competition this year. Excelebration has credentials every bit as good as Wise Dan’s and is Europe’s leading hope in bringing the title back to Europe after an American, Court Vision, was an upset winner in last year’s edition. Last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and this year’s Arlington Million winner Little Mike add further intrigue to this race. And do not sleep on Moonlight Cloud who is 3 for 5 this year, beaten only by the 22 for 22 Australian Black Caviar and narrowly by Excelebration in a troubled trip. Moonlight Cloud is also trained by Freddy Head, the same man who saddled Goldikova. Here is an in-depth comparison of the two leading contenders for the race, the American, Wise Dan and the European, Excelebration.

(credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Ascot Races
(credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Wise Dan

Excelebration

Charlie Lopresti is a relatively unknown, but crafty trainer. Lopresti has won close to 200 career races, but his best horse to date is certainly Wise Dan. Lopresti became the first trainer to win the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile back to back years, as Wise Dan took this years edition, a year after Turallure did. Turallure proceeded to lose this race by a nose last year. Revenge for Lopresti here? Trainer Despite training in Europe, Aidan O'Brien is much better known to Americans than Lopresti. O' Brien, considered one of the greatest trainers in European history, has won Grade/Group 1 races in 6 different countries. He has twice won 23 Grade/Group one races in a year, which is only 2 off the world record. He also has won 6 Breeders' Cup races, including 2 last year.
John Velazquez is one of the most experienced jockeys around and certainly one of the best in the business. He has won eight Breeders' Cup races and won last years Kentucky Derby aboard Animal Kingdom, who is also in this race. Velazquez was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame this year. Jockey Joseph O'Brien, son of trainer Aidan O'Brien, might only be 19 years old, but he is already immensely successful. O'Brien won aboard his first Breeders' Cup mount in last year's Breeders Cup Turf and has captured the Group 1 Epsom Derby and the Group 1 Irish Derby this year.
Wise Dan has 4 wins in 5 starts this year. He has won 3 races in a row, including the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile and Shadwell Turf Mile. His only blemish this year was a troubled head defeat to Classic runner Ron the Greek on the dirt. The versatile Wise Dan is in top form and is a serious contender for Horse of the Year. Current Form Excelebration is coming off of back-to-back convincing Group 1 wins. He has 3 wins in 5 starts this year, with his only 2 loses coming at the hands of Frankel, the best horse in the world and one of the best of all time. No disgrace in losing to Frankel. Both horses are in top form, but Excelebration gets the slightest of edges based on facing what many perceive to be better horses than the American crop Wise Dan has been beating.
Wise Dan, a winner of 3 Grade 1 races has many signature wins to choose from, but his best was his convincing victory in the million dollar Woodbine Mile this September. Signature Win Like Wise Dan, Excelebration also has 3 Group 1 victories, with his latest coming in the 1.6 million dollar QIPCO Queen Elizabeth II States. Both horses beat the talented Cityscape to earn their signature victory, but Excelebration won a race named after The Queen and it does not get much more prestigious than that.
Wise Dan is 4 for 5 at the distance on the Turf and 6 for 7 at a Mile on any surface. He has won at distances ranging from 6 furlongs to a mile and an eighth. Super versatile, super talented and the best miler in America without question. Distance Capabilites Excelebration's mile record is an outstanding 4 for 8, but it does not jump off the page like Wise Dan's does. In Excelebration's defense, all four of his mile loses have come at the hands of the great Frankel so they are very excusable.

The winner is

Ascot Races
Excelebration
3 out of 5

Two of the best horses in the world running at their best distance should result in an amazing finish. Look for Excelebration to narrowly beat Wise Dan to the finish, but don't forget there are other horses who are not going to give the race to these two. Excelebration has plenty to worry about in Wise Dan and the question is can he hold off Freddy Head's Moonlight Cloud as well?

-Padraic Manocchio, Horse Racing Contributor

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