Updated on 11/05/2010 3:34PM

Tizway may have slight edge in contentious Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile

Barbara D. Livingston
Crown of Thorns has finished second in four consecutive Grade 1 races, including last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Saturday marks the fourth running of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, but it’s actually the first one run at a mile on dirt. In 2007, it was run at a mile and 70 yards around two turns in the slop at Monmouth Park. The two subsequent years it was run over Santa Anita’s synthetic Pro-Ride surface.

This year’s $1 million Dirt Mile drew the best field it ever has with the 13 horses assembled making it one of the more contentious and compelling races on Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup program at Churchill Downs.

The race scratched down to 12 when Crown of Thorns, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up, was withdrawn Friday morning after suffering a reoccurrence of an old injury to his right keen, according to trainer Richard Mandella.

“I think it’s going to be a really good race, you got some really nice horses in there,” said Charles Lopresti, the trainer of Here Comes Ben, undefeated in four starts this year. “There’s speed, there’s closers; I think it’s going to be a very competitive race. It’s not one of those races where I could say nobody could beat us because it wouldn’t surprise me if one of half a dozen horses jumped up and won it.”

Maybe even more than that.

Tizway, a 5-year-old son of dual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow, may rate a slight favorite at post time based on his 3-for-6 record at a one-turn mile. He is coming off an authoritative five-length victory in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont, which was accomplished off a four-month layoff precipitated by a foot injury.

Prior to that, Tizway ran a terrific third to Breeders’ Cup Classic starter Quality Road in the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont in May.

“It’s the same time period as when I started off in the spring,” said James Bond, trainer of Tizway. “He went seven-eighths at Aqueduct and then came back for the Met Mile. I thought the Met Mile was a great race for him personally. I think Quality Road would be 2-1 in here and I didn’t get beat too far by Quality Road and they ran the second-fastest Met Mile in history.”

Tizway has had a history of physical issues, but Bond believes the horse is physically as good entering this race as he has ever been.

“My acupuncturist looked at him again this morning and he was tickled to death,” Bond said Thursday. “Personally, I’m very excited. I think we’re as good as any horse in the race, we got to get the trip. If he runs back to the Kelso he’ll be awfully strong. I don’t see any reason he wouldn’t right now the way he’s training.”

Tizway will break from post 2 under Rajiv Maragh.

Here Comes Ben is 4 for 4 this year, including a victory in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga nine weeks ago. He won that race off a 10-week layoff.

“I think he’s coming into this race as good or better than he was going into the Forego,” said Lopresti, whose horse is 3 for 5 lifetime at Churchill. “He’s really on his game. The cool weather has picked him up. He’s very sound, very happy, very aggressive.”

Godolphin Stable sends out the uncoupled entry of Grade 1 winners Gayego and Vineyard Haven, both of whom are live at a price. Gayego comes in off a victory in the Presque Isle Mile, in which he defeated Successful Dan, who came back to win two races including the Fayette last weekend at Keeneland.

Vineyard Haven comes in off a third-place finish behind Here Comes Ben in the Forego, but he was stuck down on the inside where he is less comfortable. The fact he drew post 12 may actually be a positive for him.

“We were very happy with that that draw, getting the outside, it looks like there’s pace in there and he can sit off horses, he proved that in the De Francis last year,” said Rick Mettee, Godolphin’s New York-based assistant. “He got off the radar a little bit when he got beat in the Forego. It wasn’t that bad a race, he hooked some good horses and he might have reacted to that comeback race. He’s had time to recover, his last works at Belmont were very good and if you look at his one-turn mile races were very good. We expect a good race from him.”

The Mile is so competitive that if Mine That Bird wins it might be considered as much of an upset as it was when he rocked last year’s Kentucky Derby at 50-1.

Trainer Nick Zito sends out the uncoupled entry of the speedy Morning Line and the late-running Cool Coal Man.

Thiskyhasnolimit and Hurricane Ike are a pair of 3-year-olds who have to be considered live longshots, especially given their past stakes success at Churchill Downs.

Dakota Phone, Aikenite, and Mad Flatter complete the line-up.