Ventura became the first female to win the Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) (VIDEO) in 13 years when she swept past the field on the outside to post a one-length victory in the $954,742 event on Sept. 20.
Juddmonte Farms' 5-year-old daughter of Chester House had just one beaten at the top of the long Woodbine turf course homestretch. But, in her first start in more than five months, the Bobby Frankel trainee burst past the entire field while closing six wide in the lane under jockey Garrett Gomez. The final time of 1:32.04 set a stakes mark and was just off the course record of 1:31.84.
Ventura ran second in the Woodbine Mile last year, losing by 1 1/4 lengths over a yielding turf to Rahy's Attorney, who faded out of the money this time. Ventura went on to win the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint by four lengths over Indian Blessing.
“Definitely, the soft ground hurt her chances (last year)," Gomez said. "She's got such a beautiful turn of foot, and on the soft ground she was not able to show that explosive move like you saw today. It takes away from her a little bit. To come off layoff, and to do what she did today, she is a tremendous mare.”
Ferneley, who was just about to pass the leading Jungle Wave when Ventura soared past them both, wound up second, with fast-closing Sterwins rallying for third.
Ventura, a Juddmonte Kentucky homebred who is out of the Be My Guest mare Estala, had not raced since finishing second by a head to Informed Decision in Keeneland's Madison Stakes (gr. I) April 9. She ran twice prior to that this season, capturing Santa Anita's seven-furlong Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) on Pro-Ride in January and running second by a nose to Gio Ponti in the one-mile Frank Kilroe Handicap (gr. IT) on the Santa Anita turf March 7.
“Great credit to Bobby (Frankel) and all the crew, and having her ready of her layoff," said Garrett O'Rourke, Juddmonte's farm manager. "She is one of (Frankel's) very favorites. She is a super mare, she is so full of spit and vinegar, and she came here today, and went one better than (last year)."
Carrying 121 pounds -- three fewer than the top-weighted favorite Bribon -- the ultra-tough mare won for the ninth time in 19 starts. Bribon, in touch all the way as the slight 2-1 favorite over Ventura, rallied in the stretch but faded to fifth.
Grand Adventure broke running and led the field into the stretch after cutting quarter-mile fractions of :23.55, :46.03 and 1:09.08, with Rahy's Attorney prompting the running. Jungle Wave, stalking on the outside of those two, rallied gamely for Todd Kabel and took the lead briefly. But the winner of Woodbine's Play the King (gr. IIT) Aug. 29 could not withstand Ventura, who had only Sterwins beaten at the quarter-pole.
The dark bay mare won under only slight coaxing from Gomez and paid $6.20, $3.30 and $3.20.
“She did everything so well, I didn’t really have to get into her so hard," Gomez said. "I squeezed her, but, I didn’t even use the whip on her today, to encourage her anymore than what she was doing. She went by so fast, and she did quite impressively.”
Ventura earned $562,440 for the victory, boosting her career bankroll to $2,221,910. Since arriving in North America from England in late 2007, Ventura has won six of 11 starts, including three grade I races, and hasn't been worse than third. She has proven her versatility over both grass and synthetic surfaces.
O'Rourke said a return to the Breeders' Cup is likely for Ventura, although probably not the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT). The Woodbine Mile is part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series, earning her a spot in the BC Mile.
“The plan was always to go back in to try to win a second filly sprint, and obviously we will sit down and discuss that," he said. "I think that they will have to bring their running shoes, to try to beat her in that same race. She loves that track.”
It was the third Mile win for Frankel, who also trained Riviera, winner of the 2000 edition and favored Leroidesanimaux, who easily captured the 2005 renewal.
Ferneley, who saved ground while racing mid-pack for Rafael Bejarano, rallied to get second by three lengths but was no match for Ventura. The Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) winner in his last start for trainer Ben Cecil, the Irish-bred 5-year-old returned $5.80 and $4.30 for the place.
Sterwins, who was still ninth with a furlong to run under Patrick Husbands, finished up well to nose Jungle Wave for third. He paid $4.20 to show.