Headlined by morning-line favorite Courageous Cat, a predictably deep and diverse field of 12 was drawn for the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) Sept. 18 in Toronto.
Fresh off his gutsy win in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT), Courageous Cat was made the 3-1 choice in the prestigious turf race that offers the winner a berth in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. Courageous Cat will be joined by fellow East Coast shippers Right One and Turallure, who both enter off graded stakes victories, a trio of European invaders, last year’s winner Court Vision, and a local contingent led by Sky Classic (Can-IIT) upsetter Kara's Orientation.
Pam and Martin Wygod’s homebred Courageous Cat has won both of his starts this year—the June 10 Poker (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park when returning from an eight-month layoff, and the July 2 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park when holding off Caracortado by a neck for his first grade I triumph.
The 5-year-old son of Storm Cat has worked steadily at Belmont and Saratoga for trainer Bill Mott since his last race and will have Pat Valenzuela aboard once again. Courageous Cat, the 124-pound high weight, has six wins from 13 starts in his career and has earned $961,300.
"The Poker was very good and he came back on short rest and ran very well in the Shoemaker," said Mott. "He held (Caracortado) safe. It looked like they could have gone around again and he would have still won."
Mott won the inaugural Woodbine Mile in 19997 with Geri.
Ghislaine Head’s Right One has won three of four starts this year since coming to the U.S. The French-bred son of Anabaa got up in the final jump to take the July 16 Jaipur (gr. IIIT) at Belmont in his last start, one month after finishing third to Courageous Cat in the Poker. The 5-year-old gelding ships in from Belmont for trainer Christophe Clement, who named Garrett Gomez to ride.
"Obviously, it's a little ambitious (moving up to grade I company)," said assistant trainer Christophe Lorieul. "But the horse is doing well. The horse has done nothing wrong. He deserves a shot. That's why we are coming."
Donna Arnold’s Turallure (5-1) has won two of his of his last three, most recently coming from well off the pace in the Aug. 26 Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga for his first graded score. The 4-year-old Wando colt went to Keeneland after that last win and recorded a Sept. 9 work over the Polytrack. Turallure has hit the board in eight of his 10 lifetime starts.
Court Vision seeks his first trip to the winner’s circle since winning last year’s Woodbine Mile by 1 1/4 lengths when rallying from last. Recently purchased by Spendthrift Farm and transferred from Rick Dutrow Jr. to Dale Romans, the 6-year-old Gulch horse has not hit the board in his last five starts including three races this season. Last out, he was fourth in the June 18 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs. He will break from the outside post.
"He came to me in very good shape," said Romans. "Rick had him in good condition, especially for a horse his age. And considering the campaign he's had over his life, he's unbelievably sound and in good health. I liked the way he worked. He's fresh, he's coming up to it excellent, and we're hoping he can do it again."
The European hopes are led by Side Glance and Dance and Dance, who finished a neck apart in the Aug. 11 Totepool Sovereign Stakes (Eng-III) at Salisbury. Side Glance, the 4-1 second choice, prevailed for his first graded stakes win and his third victory in the last four starts. A consistent 6-2-3 from 14 starts in England, he is trained by Andrew Balding. Regular rider Jimmy Fortune flies in for the mount
Dance and Dance (6-1), a 5-year-old Royal Applause gelding, was making his graded stakes debut in the Sovereign. He drew post 11 and will have Jamie Spencer in the irons.
The other European entrant is Forte Dei Marmi, who will run for trainer Roger Attfield in his U.S. debut. Forte Dei Marmi is winless in six starts this year. Attfield will also send out Hollinger, who was fourth in the Seagram Cup (Can-III) in his last start.
All three Europeans arrived Sept. 13.
Of the locally-based horses, Kara’a Orientation enters in the best form. The 4-year-old colt jumped out to a huge early lead in the Aug. 21 Sky Classic and wound up scoring by more than two lengths in the 1 1/4-mile race. The son of Orientate has won two consecutive route races at Woodbine and three of five overall in 2011.
"In a perfect world, the Mile might be a bit too short and the mile and a half might be a bit too far," said trainer Steve Chircop. "But, if we go a mile and a half against a bigger field, carrying more weight...that was the factor for us going to the Mile."
Of the other Woodbine-based horses, Riding the River could be one to watch. He was second by a head in the Aug. 28 Play the King (Can-IIT) and has an optional claiming score over the local course earlier in the year.
$1,000,000 Woodbine Mile (Can-IT, Race 10, 5:42 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds 1. Hollinger (ON), T Pizarro, 117, R L Attfield, 30-1
2. Forte Dei Marmi (GB), J R Velazquez, 117, R L Attfield, 15-1
3. Woodbourne (ON), E Wilson, 117, R P Tiller, 30-1
4. Courageous Cat (KY), P A Valenzuela, 124, W I Mott, 3-1
5. Right One (FR), G K Gomez, 119, C Clement, 8-1
6. Grand Adventure (KY), P Husbands, 119, M R Frostad, 8-1
7. Riding the River (KY), R A Dos Ramos, 117, D Cotey, 20-1
8. Turallure (KY), J R Leparoux, 121, C Lopresti, 5-1
9. Side Glance (GB), J Fortune, 119, A Balding, 4-1
10. Kara's Orientation (KY), E Ramsammy, 121, S Chircop, 15-1
11. Dance And Dance (IRE), J P Spencer, 117, E Vaughan, 6-1
12. Court Vision (KY), R Albarado ,121, D L Romans, 10-1