10/16/2007 11:00PM

Inaugural race draws small field

EmailEither the inaugural running of the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile was not particularly appealing to horsemen, or the race drew such an outstanding core of contenders that outsiders didn't bother to apply.

Eleven 3-year-olds and upward were pre-entered for the Dirt Mile, and two of those, Commentator and Forefathers, have a first preference in the BC Sprint. That leaves a prospective field of just nine, which is okay for everyday racing but below average by the lofty standards of the Breeders' Cup, where full fields of 14 are commonplace.

Nonetheless, pretty much all nine of the probable starters have merit, with triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures and plenty of "1s" dominating many of their past performances. Daily Racing Form's Brad Free has made Diamond Stripes a 3-1 favorite over Discreet Cat (7-2), Lewis Michael (5-1) and Corinthian (6-1).

Discreet Cat, the Godolphin standout based in recent weeks at Belmont Park, will be trying to overcome what many handicappers will interpret as a disadvantage in recent seasoning. After starting his career with six straight wins, ending with the Cigar Mile last November, the colt has raced just twice this year, finishing last of seven in the Dubai World Cup in March, then failing to threaten when third in his lone BC prep, the six-furlong Vosburgh on Sept. 30.

Several horses that had been considered for the Dirt Mile were not pre-entered. Magna Graduate will skip the Breeders' Cup to make his final career start next month in the Cigar Mile or Clark Handicap, according to Kim Valerio, racing manager for owner Elisabeth Alexander. Daaher also goes instead in the Cigar Mile. Zanjero was withheld with the purpose of regrouping toward a big 4-year-old campaign. And Surf Cat will stay put in California for a race to be determined.

The Dirt Mile is something of a misnomer - at least for this year - because it actually will be run at a mile and 70 yards due to the Monmouth track configuration; the run into the first turn is too short and dangerous by starting at the finish line, and the additional 70 yards alleviates that situation. In some future years, the race will be run at a mile, depending on the site.

The Dirt Mile will be the last of the three new Breeders' Cup races run on Friday, Oct. 26.