03/25/2011 3:01PM

Breeders' Cup Mile again on Goldikova's agenda

Alysse Jacobs
Goldikova, Olivier Peslier up, wins her third straight Breeders' Cup Mile in 2010.

The advent of the European racing season this month promises the return of three horses that should excite even the most jaded of racegoers. Goldikova, Workforce, and Frankel will make their debuts between mid-April and mid-May in what is shaping up as a most exciting spring season.

Goldikova, back in Chantilly after spending the winter at the Wertheimer’s La Presle farm in Normandy, is shooting for an unprecedented fourth Breeders’ Cup Mile title, and will follow a path similar to the one she has used the last two years. The 1 1/8-mile, 55-yard Prix d’Ispahan, which she won last year by four lengths in setting a Longchamp course record, is her likely seasonal debut, according to trainer Freddie Head. That could be followed by a return trip to Royal Ascot for the Queen Anne Stakes. The Prix Jacques Le Marois is also on the schedule, but if all goes well through the Breeders’ Cup, she could conclude her career on Dec. 11 in the Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin.

One hopes to see Canford Cliffs challenge the great mare this year. Trained by Richard Hannon, he avoided Goldikova last season while winning three Group 1 miles, including the Sussex Stakes against older horses, but didn’t run again after that July 28 race. A meeting between the two best milers in the world could come in the Queen Anne on June 14, with a prep in Newbury’s Lockinge Stakes on May 14 first up for Canford Cliffs.

Workforce disappointed us by not running in the Breeders’ Cup Turf despite making the long trip to Louisville from Newmarket. Trained by Michael Stoute and winner of the Epsom Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Workforce rates as the world’s reigning middle-distance horse and is being pointed to the 1 5/16-mile Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh on May 22.

Workforce is owned by Khalid Abdullah, as is the exciting classic contender Frankel. A son of Galileo, he earned European juvenile championship honors with a 10-length cakewalk in the one-mile, Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes, then cut back a furlong to defeat two Group 1 winners in the Dewhurst Stakes. Trainer Henry Cecil will prepare him for the 2000 Guineas (for which he is William Hill’s 4-5 favorite) in the seven-furlong Greenham Stakes at Newbury on April 16. On Friday, Cecil hinted that Frankel could then be tried in the 1 1/4-mile, 88-yard Dante Stakes at York on May 12, just 12 days after the Guineas, in an effort to see if he might be able to stay the 12 furlongs of the Epsom Derby.

Another Juddmonte runner, the 5-year-old Midday, is scheduled to reappear in the Group 2 Middleton Stakes at York on May 12. Juddmonte’s racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe, said that the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, in which she has finished first and second in the last two years, is her ultimate goal.

On the jockey front, Johnny Murtagh is winging it as an independent this year after having parted company with Coolmore at the end of 2010. Trainer Aidan O’Brien has yet to name a replacement for him and at this late date probably won’t, content perhaps to rely on current stable riders Colm O’Donoghue, Jamie Heffernan, and his son Joe O’Brien, while picking and choosing from whoever else is available, including the likes of Pat Smullen and Jamie Spencer, and even using local riders for his frequent forays into England and France.

In France, Christophe Soumillon, the leading rider at the Dubai Racing Carnival, has already taken up his new position as contract rider for Ecurie Wildenstein and trainer Elie Lellouche.

Prize money in Britain, or lack of same, is making headlines these days. Both the 1000 Guineas and the 2000 Guineas will suffer cuts of 100,000 pounds ($160,000) despite picking up a new sponsor in the Qatar Investment and Projects Development Holding Company. Both races are now worth 350,000 pounds ($560,000).

Godolphin kicked up a storm on Thursday when it announced that it would not run any horses in any races that fall below the minimums set by the Racehorse Owners Association’s Horsemen’s Group earlier this year. For example, Group 1 races whose purses fall below 256,034 pounds ($410,000) will be boycotted by Godolphin. That would include the Lockinge Stakes. Godolphin will also boycott any number of lesser races and has said it is prepared to send horses to France for similar events unless British purses are lifted.

◗ The British Jockey Club’s new Racing For Change marketing branch has succeeded in pushing through some highly controversial schedule changes. For the first time in its 135-year history, the Champion Stakes will not be run on the 1 1/4-mile straight course at Newmarket. Instead, it will be run around two turns at Ascot on a card that includes the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, which has been pushed back three weeks to Oct. 15, just three weeks before the Breeders’ Cup.