Updated on 09/17/2011 11:33AM

Three stakes over weekend will serve as boot camp for North American forces


The $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Mile at Oak Tree at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

Three major races are being contested that will sort out the contenders responsible for thwarting what is expected to be a strong cast of European raiders.

The top preps are the $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, and the $350,000 Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont Park on Saturday, and Sunday's $300,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita. The Shadwell Mile and Oak Tree Mile are likely to draw the strongest fields.

Touch of the Blues, Soaring Free, and Perfect Soul, the first three finishers of the Atto Mile at Woodbine on Sept. 14, start in the Shadwell against major 2003 stakes winners Honor in War and Trademark.

While Touch of the Blues may go favored, there will be plenty of support for Trademark, who won the Bernard Baruch and Fourstardave handicaps at Saratoga during the summer.

The Shadwell Mile is an important test for Soaring Free, who is trained by Mark Frostad for Sam-Son Farm. Soaring Free will be making his first start away from the Woodbine turf course, which is on the outside of the main track and has large sweeping turns.

The Shadwell Mile will be an important test to see how Soaring Free handles the sharper turns at Keeneland, which are similar to what he will face at Santa Anita.

In the Atto Mile, Soaring Free was trying the longest race of his career. He led to deep stretch but finished a half-length behind Touch of the Blues.

"He ran a big race" in the Atto Mile, Frostad said. "This will be his first start around two turns and will help him."

The field also includes Inesperado, who finished second in the restricted Wickerr Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 2, his lone start of the year. Inesperado won four stakes in 2002, including the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby.

The Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap is led by Decarchy, who is trained by Bobby Frankel and will carry 118 pounds. Rouvres, the runner-up in the Explosive Bid Handicap last March at Fair Grounds, is also expected to start.

The Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile may carry the smallest purse of the three stakes, but the field includes Special Ring, widely regarded as America's top hope for the BC Mile.

Trained by Julio Canani, Special Ring has not started since setting a course record with a five-length win in the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar in late July. He will face Apache Wings, Designed for Luck, Green Line, Medecis, and Sarafan.

Medecis finished ninth in the 2002 Breeders' Cup Mile at Arlington Park and has been a disappointment in three starts this year. His best finish was a fourth in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park on May 26.