Shoemaker Mile draws strong six-horse group

Six of America’s best turf milers have come together to contest the Grade I, $400,000 Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita Park this Saturday. It’ll go as Race 6 on the program at the Southern California venue, with an estimated post time of 4:30 p.m. PST.

#1 HEART TO HEART (9-5, morning-line favorite) is clearly the one to beat, but he can only win one way; by getting the lead. He’s gone to the front and won in three of his last four races, all graded stakes, with his last start being a loss to the world-class filly Miss Temple City in the Grade I Makers Mile at Keeneland. That string of success occurred on the heels of some attempts to rate HEART TO HEART off the pace, with the results ranging from mediocre to awful. The rail post should help HEART TO HEART secure the early advantage with regular rider Julien Leparoux abroad, but #6 MIDNIGHT STORM could be a thorn in his side.

MIDNIGHT STORM (4-1), with Rafael Bejarano taking over today, has flashed blistering speed throughout his career and has two Grade II wins on turf to his credit. He was also second in this race last year but was nipped late after dueling almost every step of the way. I can’t imagine Bejarano letting this horse go wild early, but I think the pressure he’ll put on HEART TO HEART might be enough to make that one cave in late.

For that reason, and because HEART TO HEART will likely go off at an underlaid price, my top pick will be #2 TWENTYTWENTYVISION (7-2). He’s never been worse than second in his six career turf starts, including runner-up finishes in two turf stakes attempts. Flavien Prat has been aboard for all of those starts, and he’s been on fire at Santa Anita over the last month (30%). This will be TWENTYTWENTYVISION’s third start off an August layoff, and his first of the year on a firm turf course; there’s a lot to like about him at the price.

#3 TOURIST (5-2) also has a good shot at the win here. He couldn’t quite reel in HEART TO HEART when settling for third in the Makers Mile off the bench then found nine furlongs too far in the Turf Classic at Churchill last month. Jose Lezcano sees fit to make the trip to ride this Bill Mott trainee that’s run some fast speed figures at this distance. He could be sitting on a breakthrough performance in his third race off a layoff, especially if the predicted pace duel takes place.

The play: $2 exacta box 1/2/3, $4 win 2,3 ($20)

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