Updated on 09/16/2011 8:19AM

BC Countdown - Mile: O'Brien has choice of two solid options


Aidan O'Brien has become such a dominant force in Europe that racing fans are accustomed to the youthful trainer dramatically altering the complexion of major races simply by deciding which of his star horses to run and which to keep in the barn.

North American fans, get ready for more of the same. One month before the Breeders' Cup Mile is run at Arlington, O'Brien and his Euro superstars are the most critical variables in the $1 million Mile.

O'Brien has Rock of Gibraltar as the No. 1 prospect for the Mile, but he announced earlier this week that he might run the colt in the Classic. Rock of Gibraltar, a 3-year-old Danehill colt who is regarded as the top Euro miler after winning his last seven starts, including all five this year, has the kind of pedigree that might allow him to cover 1 1/4 miles on dirt, O'Brien said.

"He hasn't been ruled out of either the Classic or the Mile," said O'Brien, adding that a decision will not be made until after the Arc de Triomphe is run next weekend.

Even without Rock of Gibraltar, O'Brien has a major Mile prospect in another 3-year-old, Hawk Wing. Although Hawk Wing has been racing at longer distances in recent starts, and might even run in the Turf, he still has the adaptability and tactical speed usually required to win the Mile. From four starts this year, all in Group 1 company, Hawk Wing has a victory in the Eclipse Stakes and runner-up finishes in the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, and Irish Champion Stakes.

After the O'Brien pair, the balance of Daily Racing Form's initial list of Mile contenders is composed exclusively of American-based runners, all but two of whom are based in California.

Bobby Frankel has two of the contenders in Beat Hollow and Aldebaran. Beat Hollow, winner of the closest finish in the history of the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million in his last start, is scheduled to prep for the Mile in the Oct. 6 Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile. Aldebaran, who has alternated surfaces this year, will move back to grass after finishing second in the Vosburgh last weekend.

Besides Beat Hollow, the Shadwell Mile also could attract Del Mar Show, Balto Star, Touch of the Blues, and Quiet Resolve, Keeneland racing secretary Ben Huffman said Wednesday.

While the Shadwell may be the most productive Mile prep still to come, there are two other key races scheduled the same weekend: the Kelso BC at Belmont, and the Oak Tree BC Mile. Both will be run Oct. 5.

Mostly because the California contingent is stronger, the Oak Tree BC figures to be the more important of those two. Sarafan and Congaree are expected to run in the Santa Anita race, while Atto Mile winner Good Journey is possible, although trainer Wally Dollase has said he is more likely to train straight into the Mile.

The Kelso favorite probably will be the Belmont-loving Forbidden Apple, unless trainer Christophe Clement opts for the Shadwell in case the weather gets nasty in New York next weekend.