09/25/2007 11:00PM

BC Mile: After Market and Ascot weigh in

EmailThe shape of the Breeders' Cup Mile should begin to firm up Saturday, its contours drawn more clearly by the horse After Market, and the course Ascot.

After Market races this weekend in the Kelso Handicap, his prep for the BC Mile, while Saturday's action at Ascot in England is highlighted by the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, a potentially major overseas BC Mile prep.

After Market should be heavily favored to win his fifth straight race in the Grade 2 Kelso, but the question remains whether After Market can adapt to a new distance.

After Market began his career in 1 1/16-mile grass race, and has cut back to a mile only twice, finishing eighth this past winter at Gulfstream Park, and sixth March 3 in the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita. His supporters will point out that After Market was not half the horse then that he has become, but After Market may fall into a Breeders' Cup no-man's land, his best distance somewhere between one mile and the 1 1/2 miles of the BC Turf.

No doubt the horses at Ascot on Saturday are crack milers. The question is which of them might wind up at Monmouth Park in October. George Washington, a logical Breeders' Cup horse, was all but taken out of consideration Wednesday for the QE II, a race he won last summer. Trainer Aidan O'Brien told the Racing Post that there was nothing wrong with George Washington, and that the horse had many options for an upcoming start.

O'Brien still is expected to have at least two runners in the QE II, the best of which appears to be the 3-year-old Excellent Art, whose lone career win came in the Group 1 St. James Palace Stakes. The QE II favorite is the filly Darjina, a one-mile specialist who easily beat George Washington earlier this month in France. Between those two was the Godolphin miler Ramonti, who also starts Saturday at Ascot, where he won the Queen Anne Stakes in June.

Shakespeare, who marked himself as one of the Mile favorites with a sharp win in the Woodbine Mile, will be trained up to the Breeder' Cup by Kiaran McLaughlin.