10/26/2011 3:18PM

Breeders' Cup Mile: Does Goldikova have one more great run in her at age 6?

Justin N. Lane
Goldikova has won the BC Mile thee times, but has not been quite as sharp during her 6-year-old season, losing three times.

Classic rivals Uncle Mo and Havre de Grace might get the most ink during Breeders’ Cup Week 2011. Whippersnappers. Uncle Mo barely had been weaned from his mother’s side, and Havre de Grace was a yearling in the earliest phases of training when Goldikova won her first Breeders’ Cup Mile, way back in 2008. Goldikova was a 3-year-old then. Twice that age, she returns this week to Churchill Downs, where she won her third BC Mile in 2010 and seeks a fourth victory in the race Nov. 5.

Goldikova tops the 13 horses pre-entered in the Mile on Monday. If all start, they will comprise the largest Mile field since Kip Deville beat 12 foes in 2007 at Monmouth Park. Two horses are entered in other BC races. Sidney’s Candy’s first preference is listed as the Mile, his second the Dirt Mile. Gio Ponti has the Classic listed as his first preference over the Mile, but that also was the case in 2010, when Gio Ponti wound up finishing second to Goldikova. There’s a strong chance Gio Ponti’s career finale will come on turf in the Mile rather than in the Classic, which would be his dirt debut.

The Mile pre-entries include three other Europeans, Strong Suit, Byword, and Zoffany. Strong Suit has no Group 1 wins on his r é sum é and his England-based trainer, Richard Hannon, has found little luck racing in the U.S., but Strong Suit does exit a dominant win in the Burj Khalifa Challenge Stakes on Oct. 8 at Newmarket. Byword, stabled in France with trainer Andre Fabre, has faced stronger competition – beating top European middle-distance horse Cirrus des Aigles in his most recent start – but is more naturally suited to distances longer than a mile. The Aidan O’Brien-trained Zoffany barely lifted his hooves when 5-2 in the Shadwell Turf Mile, and though capable of a much better performance, he has yet to win a race in 2011.

Gio Ponti heads the American group, but was no match for Goldikova in 2010, losing to her by 1 3/4 lengths. Turallure and Courageous Cat (second to Goldikova in 2009) finished one-two in the Woodbine Mile last month. Get Stormy won the Grade 1 Turf Classic over the Churchill course in the spring.

A fourth Mile, it appears, is Goldikova’s for the taking, providing the 6-year-old version of the modest-sized mare retains her sparkle of youth. Goldikova has lost three races in 2011, the same number of defeats she suffered in 2009 and 2010 combined, but has finished first or second in her five starts, all at the Group 1 level.

“It’s very difficult to say,” trainer Freddie Head said, comparing Goldikova today with the horse of previous seasons. “She looks the same. She works the same at home.”

Head said he comes to Goldikova’s fourth BC Mile “with great confidence.” And after her first three trips, why shouldn’t he?