10/25/2007 11:00PM

Luck to play a major role, as usual

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. – The leading European shipping in for the Breeders Cup Mile, Excellent Art, drew post 13, which his jockey quickly proclaimed to be a lousy spot to start. One of the leading Americans, After Market, cannot run on a really wet turf course, and the Monmouth forecast calls for nothing but rain this week. Another top contender, Kip Deville, had his final workout for the Mile postponed by filling in a pastern. His trainer said the setback amounted to nothing, but still.

It's easy to point to all the confusing factors in Saturday's $2,630,000 Breeders' Cup Mile; finding the winner presents a greater challenge.

But isn't that always the case? The winner of the Mile has been between 5-1 and 26-1 in the last six seasons, and not since War Chant scored by a neck over 42-1 North East Bound in 2000 has a favorite won the race.

This year, it's not even completely certain who the favorite will be. Excellent Art has had a strong season, but even when he wins, he cuts things close. His big score came in the St. James's Palace Stakes, which he won by a neck, and he was

beaten a head in the Group 1 Sussex, and a half-length in the Sept. 29 Queen Elizabeth II, his most recent race.

"He's a hold-up kind of horse," said jockey John Murtagh, who has the mount on Excellent Art for trainer Aidan O'Brien, but has never ridden the horse before. "You're definitely going to need some luck with him."

After Market fell to pieces racing on a soft course last year in the Kent Breeders' Cup, the first loss of his career, and was scratched the morning of the Arlington Million because of wet conditions. Trainer John Shirreffs remained optimistic this week that After Market would make the gate Saturday, but even if he does, there are other questions. After Market has gone 0 for 3 in one-mile races, with his best wins at nine furlongs and up. He finished second to Trippi's Storm last out in the Kelso Handicap, but that was a one-turn mile at Belmont, and Shirreffs hopes the two-turn Breeders' Cup Mile configuration will be more suitable.

"The two turns forces jockeys to commit to doing something," Shirreffs said. "I'm hoping they'll stack up in front of him and he can duck in. If he can stay close to the stretch, he's got that big kick."

Trippi's Storm, once a disastrous gate horse, began the year in a $32,000 maiden claimer, but turned his career around with the switch to turf. He cut back in distance from longer grass races to win the Kelso, and probably has found his best trip now.

"I think eight to nine furlongs, that'd be his best distance," said trainer Stanley Hough.

Nobiz Like Shobiz, the Kentucky Derby favorite during last winter, has blossomed with a switch to grass racing, and has won all three of his grass starts, his best performance coming in his most recent start, the Oct. 6 Jamaica Handicap.

"We were able to take him back a little bit there without a lot of fuss," said trainer Barclay Tagg. "That seemed to make him more explosive."

Purim and Cosmonaut finished one-two in what might have been a slightly subpar edition of the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. The English horse Jeremy has the look of a European sleeper, and Kip Deville also warrants strong consideration. Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. insists a minor early-week setback that postponed a half-mile turf work from Monday to Tuesday was no more than a blip, and at his best, Kip Deville won the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile this past winter, and was a good second behind Shakespeare last out in the Woodbine Mile, another Grade 1.

"He's a push-button horse, very easy to train," Dutrow said.

Kip Deville had to be supplemented into the Mile at a cost of $300,000, as did Remarkable News, who on the surface of things fared poorly at the post position draw, landing the 14-hole. While that may not be ideal, Remarkable News has plenty of speed to get good position before the first turn, and jockey Ramon Dominguez was probably going to wind up on or near the lead anyway. Remarkable News faded off the pace and was fourth in the Woodbine Mile, but was beaten less than three lengths there while making his first start in more than 10 weeks. Trainer Angel Penna also believes that the switch from Woodbine's wide, sweeping turf to the tight seven-furlong course at Monmouth is huge.

"The worst racetrack for him is Woodbine, the best racetrack would be Monmouth," Penna said.

And Penna could have spoken for anyone with a horse in the Mile when he offered his final assessment of his chances: "He's definitely a good horse, but luck plays a tremendous role in that race."