Canadian turf champion Rahy's Attorney returns to defend his Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) crown against a strong group of turf specialists in the $1 million event Sept. 20 that includes the sharp mare Ventura and New York invader Bribon.
Ten are entered in the 13th edition of the Woodbine Mile, which, like last year, is a Breeders' Cup Challenge race guaranteeing the winner (upon payment of appropriate starting fees) a berth in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Nov. 7 at Santa Anita Park.
The Woodbine Mile, which is race 10 with a probable post of 5:42 p.m. EDT, caps a great day of turf stakes racing at the Toronto track. Also on the program is the $750,000 Northern Dancer Stakes, presented by V-Tech (Can-IT), at 1 1/2 miles, which brings out defending champion Champs Elysees and Marchfield, Canada’s Older Male Horse of 2008. The $300,000 Canadian Stakes (Can-IIT), at nine furlongs for fillies and mares, is topped by Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT) victor and Eclipse Award winner Forever Together.
In an evenly matched Woodbine Mile field, Rahy's Attorney is the third choice on the morning line at 9-2, behind Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) winner Bribon (5-2) and Ventura (7-2), who ran second to Rahy's Attorney in last year's renewal and has not started since April 9. Bribon, the 124-pound high weight, drew post 5 for trainer Robert Ribaudo, while Ventura, trained by Bobby Frankel, has post 9. The Ian Black-conditioned Rahy's Attorney is just to her inside.
Black, who was not concerned about Rahy's Attorney's wide draw because of the long run down the back side, thinks the stakes record time of 1:32.72, set by Soaring Free in 2004, is in jeopardy.
“I suspect they’ll break the record," he said. "It’s firm. He showed he could handle it firm in the spring. He set a track record himself.”
Among the other leading candidates in the Woodbine Mile are local hopes Jungle Wave (6-1), winner of the Play the King (Can-IIT) in his last start, and always-tough Sterwins (8-1). Ferneley (8-1), impressive winner of the Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT) last month, ships in from Southern California for trainer Ben Cecil.
Rahy’s Attorney, with Slade Callaghan aboard, can become the first back-to-back winner of the Woodbine Mile.
Co-owned and bred by Ontario’s Ellie-Boje Farm, along with Mitch Peters, Dean Read and Jim and Jean MacLellan, Rahy’s Attorney scored a 12-1 upset in the Mile last year, holding Ventura off by 1 1/4 lengths as odds-on favorite Kip Deville finished fifth. He would go on to be voted a Sovereign Award as Canada’s top turf male.
With career earnings of more than $1.5 million, Rahy’s Attorney, a 5-year-old gelded son of Crown Attorney, has won two of his four tries this year, the 1 1/8-mile King Edward Handicap (Can-IIT) on June 27 and the 1 1/4-mile Nijinsky (Can-IIT) on July 26. Most recently, he finished sixth to Marchfield in the 11-furlong Sky Classic (Can-IIT) on Aug. 23.
Marc Keller’s Bribon won the Met Mile over Belmont Park’s main track on May 25 then took a breather. Returned to action by Ribaudo on Aug. 9 at Saratoga, he easily won a mile turf allowance event in 1:33.69. It was the first time in over two years that he’d raced on grass but his 11th try overall. He competed on turf in his first 10 career starts from 2005-07, the first seven of which were in France.
To be ridden by Alan Garcia, the 6-year-old French-bred gelded son of champion Mark of Esteem is on a three-race win streak.
Juddmonte Farms’ Kentucky homebred Ventura, a 5-year-old Chester House mare, arrives from Saratoga off a five-month layoff while attempting to become the first filly or mare to win the Woodbine Mile. After last year's near-miss, she went on to capture the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint with an explosive burst to defeat two-time Eclipse winner Indian Blessing. Ventura has raced only three times this year, all in grade I events.
She won the Santa Monica in January at Santa Anita over the Pro-Ride surface, then dropped a nose decision to Gio Ponti in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap on the turf in March. In her most recent start, she lost by a head to Informed Decision in the Madison over Keeneland’s Polytrack in April. Ventura, the field’s leading money-winner with over $1.6 million, will be ridden as usual by Garrett Gomez.
A win would give Frankel a third Woodbine Mile victory, following Riviera in 2000 and Leroidesanimaux in 2005, tying him with fellow conditioner Neil Drysdale. Gomez is looking for his second win after taking the 2007 edition with favored Shakespeare.
Tucci Stables’ Jungle Wave, trained by Sid Attard, was claimed for $62,500 on May 10. The 4-year-old gelded son of Hold That Tiger has won three of his four starts since, including the seven-furlong Play The King over a "yielding" course on Aug. 29. He decisioned a closing Field Commission , also a Woodbine Mile contender, by three-quarters of a length. Todd Kabel rides for the fifth consecutive race.
“When you claim a horse for $62,500, you hope that you are going to win for $80,000, never mind going this far," said Attard after Jungle Wave drew the far outside post. "It’s just luck. That’s how I look at it.
“I love the outside," he added. "You get to stay out of trouble. You break and then you decide where you want to be.”
Irish-bred Ferneley, owned by Silver Springs Stud Farm of Kentucky, arrives fresh off a victory Aug. 29 in the Del Mar Mile in 1:33.11, his second win in six starts this year. The 5-year-old son of Ishiguru will be handled for the first time by Rafael Bejarano.
Melnyk Racing Stables’ homebred Sterwins, trained by Malcolm Pierce, has also won two of his six outings this year, including his most recent, the With Approval Stakes on Aug. 9. The 6-year-old gelded son of Runaway Groom will be ridden by Patrick Husbands.
Field Commission (12-1) has raced twice on the grass in his 16 career starts, and he’s been second both times. Co-owned by Edward Seltzer and trainer Danny Vella, he won the Vigil Stakes in May over Woodbine’s Polytrack. The 4-year-old son of Service Stripe will be ridden for the first time by Julien Leparoux.
Sand Cove (20-1) , trained by Roger Attfield, scored an easy win on Polytrack in the Elgin Stakes on Sept. 7 and is unbeaten in two one-mile turf stakes for Ontario sires. The 4-year-old gray/roan colt is by Bold Executive and is owned by Ralph Johnson.
Trainer Mark Frostad will send out Sam-Son Farm’s longshot Grand Adventure (30-1), winner of last year’s Summer Stakes (Can-IIIT). In his only start this year, the 3-year-old son of Grand Slam easily won a 6 1/2-furlong turf contest on Aug. 26. Frostad and Sam-Son won the 1999 Woodbine Mile with Quiet Resolve and the 2004 edition with Canada’s Horse of the Year Soaring Free.
Daylight Express (30-1) has won four of five starts this year in Barbados for owner Clifton Racing (Lord Michael Taylor) and trainer Robert Peirce.
$1 Million Woodbine Mile Stakes (Can-I, Race 10, 5:42 p.m.), 3 & Up (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Sand Cove (ON), R A Dos Ramos, 117, R L Attfield
2. Sterwins (ON), P Husbands, 119, M Pierce
3. Ferneley (IRE), R Bejarano, 121, B D Cecil
4. Field Commission (ON), J R Leparoux, 119, D J Vella
5. Bribon (FR), A Garcia, 124, R Ribaudo
6. Daylight Express (VA), A Ward, 117, R Peirce
7. Grand Adventure (KY), E R Da Silva, 112, M R Frostad
8. Rahy's Attorney (ON), S Callaghan, 121, I Black
9. Ventura (KY), G K Gomez, 121, R J Frankel
10. Jungle Wave (KY), T Kabel, 121, S C Attard