Top turf horses from the East, West, Europe, and a handful of local contenders will converge in Toronto for a sparkling edition of the $1 million Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) on Sept. 19.
A well-matched field of 13 was drawn for the Woodbine Mile, a key prep for the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs. Post time for the marquee event, which is one of three graded stakes on a program that also includes the $750,000 Northern Dancer (gr. IT) and $300,000 Canadian Stakes (gr. II), is slated for 5:42 p.m. EDT.
Representing the East is three-time grade I winner Court Vision, who enters the race off a more than three-month freshening for trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. Though he was sixth last out in the June 5 Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) and runner-up in two starts prior to that, the 5-year-old son of Gulch remains near the top of his class.
Owned by IEAH Stables and Resolute Group Stables, Court Vision won the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) through disqualification in his season debut. As a 4-year-old, he won the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland before placing fourth in the BC Mile at Santa Anita Park.
An earner of more than $1.9 million from 23 starts, Court Vision has produced a 7-4-4 record. He has worked steadily for this race at Saratoga for Dutrow, who has assigned Robby Albarado to ride the 7-2 second choice again.
“I’m hoping he likes that grass (at Woodbine) and I’m hoping he’ll like the one-turn (mile)," said Dutrow.”
Dutrow has twice finished second in the Mile, with Rebel Rebel (IEAH and Resolute) in 2006 and Kip Deville (IEAH and partners) in 2007.
Also shipping in from New York for the race is Richard Santulli’s Straight Story(12-1), winner of Saratoga’s West Point Stakes last out, and AJ Suited Racing’s Zifzaf (30-1), third in the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) last month at the Spa.
The West Coast contingent is led by two-time grade I winner The Usual Q. T., who has established himself as the top grass runner in California over the past 12 months and has been installed as the 3-1 choice. The 4-year-old Unusual Heat gelding reeled off six consecutive victories during one stretch in 2009, including three at the one-mile distance. This season, the James Cassidy trainee has won three times in five starts, including the grade I Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar. Last out, he was fifth as the favorite in the 10-furlong Pacific Classic (gr. I) Aug. 28 on Polytrack.
“He came out of the race (Pacific Classic) really well,” said Cassidy. “I thought, initially, three weeks (between races), that’s a little tight. But he doesn’t seem to be any worse for it. He’s put on his weight again. He acts good. I really have no reason to think he won’t perform well.”
Victor Espinoza will fly in to ride The Usual Q. T., an earner of more than $1 million.
The other California shippers include Victor's Cry (4-1), winner of the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) in May at Hollywood Park and runner-up in the Eddie Read, and English-bred Crowded House (12-1), who was runner-up in the Pacific Classic in his second U.S. start.
The lone European-based colt is a good one, Juddmonte Farms’ Famous Name (6-1), a son of Dansili making his first start in North America. The English-bred 5-year-old enters off a sixth-place finish in the Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) on Sept. 4, but has been extremely consistent for more than a year. Famous Name has won six of his last nine starts, all of them in stakes company, including a trio of group III scores.
Famous Name, who is being pointed toward the BC Mile by trainer Dermot Weld, is a perfect five-for-five at the distance. He was assigned 119 pounds, which is significantly less than he has been carrying in Europe His regular rider, Pat Smullen, will be in the irons.
“We’d like it if we can get a few showers. He does run well (on the soft going),” said Weld.
Juddmonte won this race a year ago with Ventura.
The local contenders are led by Sam-Son Farms’ Grand Adventure (8-1), a three-time graded stakes winner over the course. Two of the victories have come this year, as the 4-year-old Grand Slam colt took the Connaught Cup (Can-IIIT) in May and the King Edward (Can-IIT) in June. He exits out of the Nijinsky Stakes (Can-IIT), where he set the pace and finished second in the nine-furlong event.
Trainer Mark Frostad has assigned Patrick Husbands to ride Grand Adventure, who was ninth in the Mile a year ago.
Other Woodbine-based starters include Signature Red (20-1), winner of the six-furlong Highlander Stakes (Can-IIT) in July, and Riviera Cocktail (20-1) from the barn of Neil Drysdale, who has a record four wins in the race.
$1,000,000 Woodbine Mile (gr. IT, Race 10, 5:42 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Crowded House (GB), J Rosario, 117, B D Cecil
2. Victor's Cry (VA), C S Nakatani, 124, E G Harty
3. Zifzaf (KY), J R Leparoux, 117, J J Toner
4. Court Vision (KY), R Albarado, 124, R E Dutrow, Jr.
5. Straight Story (NY), R Maragh, 117, A E Goldberg
6. Smokey Fire (ON), J C Jones ,121, S C Attard
7. Signature Red (KY), E R Da Silva, 121, S C Attard
8. Auteur (KY), M E Smith, 117, B J Minshall
9. Riviera Cocktail (KY), E S Prado, 117, N D Drysdale
10. Woodbourne (ON), C Sutherland, 117, R P Tiller
11. The Usual Q. T. (CA), V Espinoza, 124 ,J M Cassidy
12. Famous Name (GB), P J Smullen, 119, D K Weld
13. Grand Adventure (KY), P Husbands, 121, M R Frostad