10/24/2008 12:00AM

Kip Deville will need his best to repeat


ARCADIA, Calif. - Okay, so the 11 horses entered in the $2.18 million Breeders' Cup Mile won't completely fill the starting gate, which is unusual. Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator, two crack Euro milers, came to Santa Anita, but start in the Breeders' Cup Classic, not the Mile. And generally, the crop of American milers this year has felt, at its hottest, tepid.

But don't make a bet against furious Mile excitement. The race should feature a wicked early pace, and is rife with stretch-runners. And keep in mind that a Mile favorite has not come in for eight years.

The Mile's most likely outcomes have mildly historic impact: Either Goldikova, the probable favorite, or the mare Precious Kitten would become the first female to win since Six Perfections stormed home over this course in 2003. The other logical option has Kip Deville, who slogged home in front last fall at rain-soaked Monmouth, becoming the first two-time Mile winner since Da Hoss took his second in 1998.

"There was only one race that meant anything to us all year, and that was this race," said Kip Deville's trainer, Rick Dutrow.

Kip Deville has started only three times since the 2007 BC Mile, but that was by design. Definitely unplanned was Kip Deville's no-apparent-excuse fifth-place finish in his Mile prep, the Sept. 7 Woodbine Mile. A powerful winner of the Maker's Mark Mile and the Poker Handicap in his two prior 2008 starts, Kip Deville raced close to a slow pace over a yielding course at Woodbine, but came up empty when it counted.

Throw that race out, or take it at face value? And even if Kip Deville rebounds, can he beat the mighty-mite 3-year-old French filly Goldikova? Her trainer, Freddie Head, knows how to win the Mile, at least on horseback. He masterfully piloted Miesque to consecutive victories in the BC Mile, including one at Hollywood Park. Goldikova has not yet reached Miesque-esque heights, but she is on her way. Second over a heavy course she disliked in her first 2007 start, Goldikova then was second in two more races - but who can hold that against her? Her vanquisher in the French 2000 Guineas was Zarkava, who beat her again in the Prix de Diane and retired undefeated after winning the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. And no one has beaten Goldikova since. Kept strictly to one-mile races, Goldikova won the Group 3 Prix Chloe by three lengths, then captured two Group 1's, the Prix Rothschild and the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, beating the top-class filly Darjina both times. And while the pool-table-top consistency of the Santa Anita course might not be ideal, Head said Goldikova has the speed to adapt to California racing.

Precious Kitten also looks dangerous. A tiger on the Hollywood grass, Precious Kitten should run just as well on the Santa Anita course, predicts trainer Bobby Frankel.

"She just likes firm turf," said Frankel.

BC Filly and Mare Turf hopeful Forever Together ran past Precious Kitten last out at Keeneland, but Precious Kitten set the pace that day, which Frankel said was the wrong trip.

"She doesn't like to be on the lead," said Frankel. "She likes to have something to run at."

And while Precious Kitten is fleet of foot, she should track the true speed in the Mile. Trainer Dale Romans said Thorn Song, who wired the field in the Shadwell Turf Mile, will be gunning for the front from post 10. But Daytona, who is 3 for 3 over the Santa Anita turf, seems unlikely to cede any early ground.

"If he's not in front, they're going to be going too fast," said trainer Dan Hendricks. "And if he's laying second or third, he's going to have a chance."

Daytona looked like the boss of California middle-distance turfers last winter, but lately, Whatsthescript has been on top. Whatsthescript drew poorly in post 11, but figures to drop in for position, and in winning two of his last three starts Whatsthescript has unleashed a blazing kick. He and 8-year-old Shakis should be sitting at the back of the pack while the speedballs slug it out and the stalkers bide their time. And when the dust has cleared, the winner's story will have the same elements as every BC Mile - a lot of talent, and a little luck.