10/17/2012 2:56PM

Breeders' Cup Mile: Little Mike faces possible pace conflict


A solid workout this past Saturday at Churchill Downs has sent Little Mike to California for a start in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. It also has put him on a potential collision course with the leading grass miler in California, Obviously.

Obviously has won all three of his starts – including the Oct. 6 Arroyo Seco, the major local BC Mile prep – since being stretched from sprints to short two-turn races. The three successes have come on the front end, with Obviously running sub-46 second half-mile splits in all his two-turn starts. That’s the running style that Little Mike employs. The question now is how much early speed will Little Mike show coming out of two longer, slower-paced races.

Little Mike won the Arlington Million after leading through a half-mile split barely faster than 50 seconds. In the 1  1/2-mile Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on Sept. 29, Little Mike went a half-mile in about 52 seconds before dropping tamely away on a wet course he apparently loathed. But just three starts ago, in the Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita, Little Mike was on the lead through a half-mile in 46 seconds and change. Moreover, in nine of his 10 turf races at 1 1/16 miles and shorter, Little Mike has been the first-call leader.

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A Mile pace showdown – and, perhaps, meltdown – might be inevitable between Little Mike and Obviously.

Door open for Excelebration

After the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is contested on Saturday at Ascot in England, the BC Mile picture will be all but complete. While Elusive Kate, one of the top horses in the QE II, was apparently ruled out of a Breeders’ Cup appearance during the last week, the race favorite, Excelebration, could easily wheel back for the BC Mile. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Excelebration hasn’t raced since Aug. 12 and has made only four starts this season, leaving him fresh for a fall campaign. Excelebration has raced in Frankel’s shadow for much of his career, and once away from that super-horse won the Prix Jacques Le Marois by 1 1/2 lengths over QE II starter Cityscape in his most recent appeareance.

Gordon Lord Byron passes on free pass

The connections of Gordon Lord Byron are passing the BC Mile despite their horse’s victory Oct. 7 in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret, a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In race.

While the Foret win earned Gordon Lord Byron an automatic berth in the Mile and would have paid for his entry fee plus $20,000 for transport, Gordon Lord Byron isn’t an original Breeders’ Cup nominee, meaning his connections would have to pay $100,000 to supplement the gelding to the race.

“We’ve made up our mind and we’re not traveling right now,” trainer Tom Hogan said Wednesday. “We might see you at the Breeders’ Cup next year.”

Gordon Lord Byron, Hogan said, remains in steady training and will make his next start in the Hong Kong Mile.