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The Shoemaker Mile Stamps the First Breeder’s Cup Ticket This Weekend

Author: Chris Adams
Published: Thursday May 27, 2021

The Grade 1 turf event is run at 1 mile at “The Great Race Place”, Santa Anita Park on Memorial Day. The race is the first U.S. Breeder’s Cup “Win and You’re In” event. The race winner will receive an automatic bid into the FanDuel Breeder’s Cup Mile. 

History of the Shoemaker Mile

The Shoemaker was originally known as the Premiere Handicap and was run at the now-defunct Hollywood Park. In 1990 the race was renamed to honor the great hall of fame jockey Bill Shoemaker. 

Shoemaker rode over 40,000 races in his career and amassed over 8,300 victories. He was a mainstay in the Southern California jockey colony that was considered one of the best in the nation. He won all three legs of the Triple Crown series and the Breeder’s Cup Classic among many other prominent races.

Following the closure of the Hollywood Park in 2014 the race was moved to Santa Anita Park where it has been a key prep for the Breeder’s Cup. 

Significant Stories Heading Into Shoemaker

As previously mentioned, this race kicks off the road to the Breeder’s Cup which is the world championships of horse racing. The chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip into the event often leads to highly competitive fields.

This year’s Breeder’s Cup will take place at Del Mar in Southern California adding to the appeal of California prep races. Trainers may be more inclined to point to these west coast affairs to get a feel for how their runners like the firmer going. 

Although the east coast is known for its turf runners, 6 out of 7 Shoemaker winners have been California-based since the event moved to Santa Anita. Only Raging Bull in 2020 won as an east coast shipper. Of significance is that California was shut down in late March of 2020 which meant that west coast horses likely had training and/or racing interruptions while the east coast runners did have venues that remained open. Whether or not this played a role is unknown, but it could be a factor in the outlier result.

The Contenders

  1. Whisper Not comes off a victory in the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate. The horse is 2 for 4 lifetime on the turf and has never been out of the top 3. The horse was clearly pegged as a runner early in his career as he debuted in a graded stakes race and took third.
  2. Smooth Like Straight came in 1st in the Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile. Since the start of his 4-year-old campaign, he has hit the board in 3 straight Grade 1 races including finishing respectable thirds behind Domestic Spending and Colonel Liam in his last 2.
  3. Restrainedvengence would need to let things out a bit to be a serious threat. The 6-year-old has a few listed stakes victories but has failed to make too much of an impression on the top runners in the country.
  4. Say the Word was a last-minute addition to the field. His trainer saw how light the group came up and figured it was easier to beat this group even though he was pointed toward a deeper race at Belmont. Coming off a Grade 2 victory in the Elkhorn and with a 2nd place finish over the surface in a graded stakes race the colt is a definite player against this group.

Using DHP Tools to Handicap the Race

Over a 636 race sample size at distances one mile and longer on the Santa Anita turf, horses rated either “fast” or “fastest” have won 72% of all contests.

Over the same sample size horses with pace designations of “leaders” have experienced the most success winning 34% of the races. When “leaders” don’t win, horses with the “closer” designation have the next highest win rate at 21%.

Local jockeys Flavien Prat and Umberto Rispoli are rated as “great” jockeys by DHP on the Santa Anita turf with win percentages over 20%. They are the only 2 to eclipse this mark with over 100 starts.

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