The Grade 1, $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile has a field of seven older horses going on the grass. The field contains no winners of Grade 1 races in North America. Om, Bolo, and Midnight Storm have won Grade 2s, and the oldest and most experienced horse in the field, Bal a Bali, was a Group 1 winner in Brazil and has managed 13 wins from 18 tries and accumulated the top bankroll in the field: nearly $700,000.
According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, the early leader will be Midnight Storm. He is followed closely by What a View and Om. Then there’s a gap back to Kenjisstorm.
The fastest TimeformUS Late Pace rating in the field, a 96, belongs to Bal a Bali.
Here is the field in post position order, with morning line odds in parentheses:
Om (3-1): 4 for 7 lifetime on grass, 3 for 4 on Santa Anita grass, and 2 for 3 at this distance, Om is proven against Grade 1 competition and has won three Grade 2s. His top speed figures are in the mid-120s. He has the speed to make good use of this post position. Our only real knock on Om as he prepares to make his second start as a four-year-old is that he was no match for Bolo at this distance on this course a month ago. Om did run his race. Indeed, his speed figure matched his lifetime top. But he received a friendly trip. He sat in the “three hole” in the clear, went up outside Bolo on the backstretch, went three-wide on the far turn, came under a hard ride, could not get near a tiring Obviously, and was no match whatsoever for the comebacking Bolo. That concerns us because it would seem to put Om in the position of having to hope that Bolo does not duplicate that performance. If he does, or even gets close to it, we have a very hard time seeing Om beating him.
What a View (8-1): Five-year-old has come into his own in his last two starts, recording speed figures of 121 and 120 while winning a NWX allowance/OC and a Cal-bred stake. In that stake, he broke a tad awkwardly, engaged for the lead, settled in a two-wide stalking position, took the leader apart late on the turn without really being asked, and then held in commanding fashion. It was a nice performance. But he is facing tougher today, and he would probably need a considerable new top to make his record 4 for 4 on Santa Anita grass. Seems a very tall order but not an impossible one for this razor-sharp gelding who will be getting his first test against graded competition in this Grade 1.
Bal a Bali (7-2): This Richard Mandella six-year-old is as honest as they come. His lifetime record speaks eloquently to that. Proven in all sorts of turf conditions, he put together quite a record in Brazil. In the US, he is 2 for 6 with a Grade 3 to his credit. His top speed figure here is a 126. He has occasionally been difficult to settle early. We thought he was outrun by Midnight Storm on the square in the Seabiscuit in November. Most recently, in the Grade 2 San Gabriel, he sat in the pocket early, lost a bit of position while defending the rail, took dead aim on Obviously (who was running a furlong longer than his best distance), and then could not close the gap significantly on him, while Flamboyant proved best of all. Depending on how strategically this race is run, Bal a Bali’s lack of speed could place him at a disadvantage, though his field-best Late Pace rating should stand him in good stead if a couple of these decide to get serious early. Our feeling is that Bal a Bali is just a bit shy of the best of these in talent, though he is, as always, a horse who commands respect.
He showed big promise in his racing debut, at age two. He came back in his second start and looked every bit like a horse who would become a star grass horse. Then he laid waste to a field in a minor stake and joined the Kentucky Derby chase. After finishing a scary second and then an innocuous second to Dortmund in two Derby preps, he got a taste of American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby, and his connections understandably seem to have concluded that the grass is greener on the grass. After an allowance romp that looked like a confidence builder, he threw in a non-effort in the Belmont Derby and hit the sidelines. His comeback, in the Grade 2 Arcadia, was simply sensational: not so much from a visual standpoint (though he did seem to fool the track announcer with his late burst), but rather from a pure speed figure standpoint. His 132 stamps him as a very serious animal against any level of American grass competition. If he repeats that effort today, he will almost certainly win. Trainer Carla Gaines gets a strong 94 rating second off the layoff. What about a “layoff bounce” off the 10-point new top? Certainly possible, but grass is more forgiving of huge efforts than dirt is, and Bolo has had star quality from the beginning of his career. There is a solid chance that he will take that effort in stride. He will have to work out a trip from behind, however, and that adds some risk to taking the short odds here.
Kenjisstorm (50-1): His recent victory in a bottom-level allowance was the best performance of his career. He earned a speed figure of 119 (a seven-point top) and his victory was stylish. However, his previous attempts in graded stakes have not been encouraging. To run with horses like Bolo and Bal a Bali, he would need to go forward again, this time against a field that receives a Race Rating that is 10 points higher than the field he just beat. We don’t see that happening.
Midnight Storm (3-1): 4 for 7 lifetime on grass, he won the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby in his second turf try, and he fell half a length short in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile in his fourth turf try. He has a lifetime top speed figure of 129, which is not out of place against any of these. He received a short break after winning the Grade 2 Seabiscuit at Del Mar with a figure of 125. He is proven over the surface. Trainer Phil D’Amato is about as good as trainers get. D’Amato is superb (100 rating) off layoffs in general, but less superb (61 rating) off layoffs of this approximate length. One concern that we have is that Midnight Storm has two horses to his inside who could possibly prove capable of keeping him from getting to the rail around the first turn. That could remove a bit of starch from him. On a brighter note, we like the way he just plain outran Bal a Bali in the Seabiscuit in November. Espinoza rides back, andMidnight Storm is a strong contender in here as he makes his five-year-old debut.
De Treville (8-1): Bred in Great Britain, this colt has done all his running in France. He has hit the board in all four Group 3 tries without winning. He was in excellent hands in France. He is proven at this distance, and he has run his race on firm and soft turf. Pace Projector has insufficient data to make a pace projection for him, but he showed early speed on several occasions in France. He switches to the John Shirreffs barn for his US debut. Shirreffs gets a rating of 76 off layoffs of this approximate length. Our main problem with De Treville is that his best effort in France would leave him some 15-20 points too slow against the best of these.
The Play: Bolo on grass (and once or twice too often on dirt) has long been one of our two or three favorite horses in training, and we think he is the most likely winner today, but we doubt that we will be able to stomach his odds, given our concerns about the trip he will get. Therefore, our plan is to use both Bolo and Midnight Storm in multi-race wagers. We will look to make a win bet on Midnight Storm if his odds get above his ML odds of 3-1.