Will Integration Surprise in the Maker’s Mark Mile?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

One of the best races on the second week of the Keeneland spring meet is Friday's $600,000 Maker's Mark Mile (G1), a one-mile turf test that features a heavy favorite in the form of #4 Master of The Seas (4-5).

The credentials of Master of The Seas are impressive. He's won stakes around the world—in England, in Dubai, in the United States. A three-race stateside campaign last fall yielded stellar results; he dominated the Woodbine Mile (G1) by 3 3/4 lengths, finished second by a nose to champion Up to the Mark in the Keeneland Turf Mile (G1), and then rallied from out of the clouds to win the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1).

In the Breeders' Cup Mile, Master of The Seas was racing in 11th place with a furlong remaining, but by running his final furlong in something like :10.60 (wow!) he got up to beat British classic winner Mawj by a nose in 1:32.45. It was a terrific performance, hence his 4-5 odds for the Maker's Mark Mile.

But is Master of The Seas unbeatable while starting 2024 in the Maker's Mark Mile? There are a couple of reasons to believe the Charlie Appleby-trained six-year-old might be vulnerable. For starters, there aren't any definite speed horses in the Maker's Mark Mile field, so a modest pace may unfold. When Master of The Seas won the Breeders' Cup Mile, he benefited from closing ground into fast early fractions of :22.16, :45.37, and 1:09.12; the fractions could easily be two to three seconds slower at Keeneland.

For another, there's a chance Master of The Seas will be a bit rusty in his first start off the layoff. In 2022, Appleby saddled Woodbine Mile winner Modern Games to deliver an impressive stretch-running victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Five months later, Modern Games made his 2023 debut as an odds-on favorite in the Maker's Mark Mile, where he failed to bring his A-game and settled for second place. Benefiting from that comeback effort, Modern Games won England's Lockinge (G1) in his second start of 2023.

Perhaps Master of The Seas is talented enough to win the Maker's Mark Mile with something less than his absolute best, even if he encounters a slower pace than in the Breeders' Cup Mile. But he's facing some talented rivals in the Maker's Mark Mile, and I believe #8 Integration (9-2) is capable of springing a surprise.

Integration showed immense talent as a three-year-old last season, going 3-for-3 while conquering quality competition. After obliterating a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Colonial Downs by 6 1/2 lengths, he took the 1 18-mile Virginia Derby (G3) over the same course, defeating Saratoga Derby (G1) and Hollywood Derby (G1) winner Program Trading by 1 1/4 lengths. The third-place finisher, Runaway Storm, further flattered the form by returning to win the Bryan Station (G3) in his next start.

Integration wrapped up 2023 with an awesome performance in the 1 1/8-mile Hill Prince (G2) at Aqueduct. After tracking the pace from third place, he seized command and rocketed his final furlong in :10.85 to win by five lengths over I'm Very Busy, who has since finished second in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and first in the Muniz Memorial Classic (G2).

So why is Integration the 9-2 third choice in the Maker's Mark Mile? It's because he finished fifth in the Pegasus World Cup Turf, beaten 1 3/4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite. At first glance, it looks like a dull performance, but watch the replay and it's easy to see what happened. After saving ground for most of the journey, Integration found himself boxed in behind rivals with nowhere to run down the homestretch. By the time he found racing room, it was far too late to make an impact, especially since the victorious Warm Heart was finishing fast to record a course-record time of 1:44.45 for 1 1/8 miles.

Drawing an outside post for the Maker's Mark Mile should allow Integration to stay out of traffic under internationally renowned jockey Frankie Dettori, fresh off a six-win afternoon at Santa Anita last Saturday. The tactical speed Integration showed in the Hill Prince should come in handy in this seemingly paceless Maker's Mark Mile field, allowing the four-year-old colt to assume a favorable position near the front and get the jump on Master of The Seas turning for home. From there, I believe Integration can outkick the favorite and secure his first Grade 1 win.

#3 Naval Power (10-1), a second Appleby trainee shipping in off a two-length victory in the Singspiel (G2) in Dubai, can round out the trifecta under hot jockey Tyler Gaffalione.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Maker's Mark Mile?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.

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