10/13/2009 11:00PM

Cowboy Cal, Court Vision impress with wins

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Benoit & Associates
Cowboy Cal (right) wins the Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita as a prep for the BC Mile.

From California to Kentucky to England, changes have been afoot in the Breeders' Cup Mile division since this time last week.

In California, Cowboy Cal stepped up with a sharp victory in the . While across the Atlantic, lightly raced and talented Zacinto is reportedly skipping this weekend's Champion Stakes at Newmarket in favor of a run in the BC Mile.

There were disappointments, too. Justenuffhumor, who seemed to be emerging as a top U.S. middle-distance grass horse, barely lifted a hoof in the Grade 1 Shadwell, finishing sixth of seven. At Belmont, odds-on favorite Courageous Cat got a strange trip, then ran flat in the final furlong finishing third in the , a turf race for 3-year-olds. The Mile prospects of both horses took a big hit with their respective defeats.

Not so for Court Vision, who was making his first start since being transferred to trainer Rick Dutrow. Court Vision, Dutrow said leading into the Shadwell, had been afflicted with an ascended testicle, a problem that had been corrected since his most recent start, the July 4 United Nations Stakes. Pain free and turning back to a mile for the first time in two years, Court Vision sat fourth in the Shadwell before attacking long-layoff horse Karelian, who had set a slow pace. Under Robby Albarado, Court Vision finished in about 23.60 seconds for his final quarter-mile, impressive on a course rated soft. Late in 2008, Court Vision looked like a major turf player for 2009 after victories over Cowboy Cal and Gio Ponti. Perhaps he will turn out to be such a horse after all.

As for Cowboy Cal, he had not won in five starts dating to the Feb. 9 Strub Stakes, but the Oak Tree Mile marked Cowboy Cal's first race at one mile in about a year. With speedy Monterey Jazz taken off the pace, Cowboy Cal led through a legitimate pace and held clear second-place Global Hunter and show horse Whatsthescript in a fast 1:33. Cowboy Cal ran his record to 3 for 3 in one-mile grass races and showed an affinity for the course over which the Mile will be contested.

Oak Tree Mile third-place finisher Whatsthescript also came home nicely and may be rounding back into the form that earned him the show spot in the 2008 Mile.

Zacinto was the ante-post favorite for the 1 1/4-mile Champion Stakes before his connections elected to target the Mile. Three-year-old Zacinto, a Juddmonte Farms homebred trained by Michael Stoute, has made only five starts, winning twice and finishing second three times. Delegator, also possible for the Mile, beat him 1 1/2 lengths in the Celebration Mile in August at Goodwood, but Zacinto was well clear of third-place Delegator when an improved second to BC Classic-bound Rip Van Winkle in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Sept. 26 at Ascot.