Has there ever been the depth of turf milers across the world, and from so many different nations?
New ground was broken in Tuesday’s Queen Anne Stakes as American mare Tepin (she is American, folks, not Canadian as some outlets erroneously reported) defied testing ground and her first attempt at a straight mile and an undulating track to score a historic Royal Ascot win.
It was no fluke – she blitzed a strong Breeders’ Cup Mile field in November and had been scintillating against mares in four runs stateside this year.
Three races later, England’s 2,000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold bested the winners of both the French and Irish runnings in The Gurkha and Awtaad, while the following day, four-year-old Usherette stakes her claim to being a top class miler in the making in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes.
In these five horses, we have five of the world’s best milers, all on the same programme – throw in Queen Anne runner-up Belardo and it is six – but the scary part is, there are so many more all over the world who could challenge them.
Arguably the world’s best miler resides Down Under, with Australian mare Winx leading the way on the back of her easy Doncaster Mile victory in April. She is freakish and despite Tepin’s win in England, will remain the world’s highest-rated mare.
Across in Japan, Maurice was beaten in the Yasuda Kinen but remains the country’s top miler, while Real Steel also pressed his claims with his Dubai Turf victory – admittedly over 1,800m, but still enough to suggest he could win under the appropriate circumstances over 1,600m.
Of course, here in Hong Kong, our best galloper is the convalescing Able Friend. He is scheduled to enter work at Flemington in the coming weeks as he builds up to an Australian return, with the giant chestnut expected to return to Sha Tin in time for the Hong Kong Mile.
And who can forget Solow, the ghostly grey who has won 12 of his last 13 races, with five Group Ones including last year’s Queen Anne and Sussex Stakes. He is currently on the sidelines, but is expected to be seen in the back half of the year.
It is a mouth-watering crop of milers, and debate will rage as to who would win any clash between this stellar group.
At the moment, this is in the realm of phantom calls and hypothetical banter. However, it is in the Jockey Club’s power to do as much as it can to make it a reality.
The Hong Kong Mile is worth HK$23 million just shy of US$3 million on today’s exchange rate. It makes the race the world’s richest mile, on either dirt or turf. It comes at the end of the season, perfectly placed after the Breeders’ Cup Mile, the Longines Mile (the old Emirates Stakes) and the Mile Championship in Japan.
Imagine, come December, they all lined up at the 1,600m start at Sha Tin in the Hong Kong Mile. It’s a one-turn mile, right-handed, on a very flat turf track and on a likely good or good to firm surface.
Who would win? Who would even be favourite?
Ratings gurus Timeform rate Able Friend (somewhat controversially) as the best of the bunch on 130, one point ahead of Solow on 129. Winx and Maurice are on 128, Tepin is on 127, The Gurkha is on 127p, Galileo Gold 126, Real Steel and Awtaad 124, while Usherette’s career best to date is 123.
However, these are their “master” ratings, meaning that age and sex allowances would have to be taken into account should they ever meet.
If it were under the weight conditions of this year’s Hong Kong Mile, on what they have shown to date, the four-pound weight allowance for mares would elevate Winx (132) to top rater, just ahead of Tepin (131) with Able Friend (130) holding down third ahead of Solow (129), Maurice (128) and The Gurkha (128p).
That is assuming all run to their very best form.
Last year saw Able Friend and Maurice line up in what was essentially a bout for the “Beast From The East” title. Chalk one up to Maurice.
This year, though, there is the chance to eclipse even that great contest.
Even two or three of these horses would make it a race worth watching, a race that would attract fans from thousands of miles away. Any others, and you are talking about something truly special. It is Sunline and Fairy King Prawn, taken to a whole new extreme.
It may be almost six months away, but the Jockey Club should do all it can to entice these fine milers to Sha Tin for a race for the ages.