The 16th edition of one of the premier grass races in North America will be televised live across Canada on The Score in a special two-hour presentation from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm ET, with post time scheduled for 5:42 pm. The winner receives $600,000. The telecast will also feature coverage of the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes, presented by VTech, live at 4:37 pm.
Post positions were drawn Thursday at Woodbine with guest drawmaster Rosie MacLennan, Canada’s sole gold medallist (Individual Trampoline) at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
Wise Dan (PP3, 6-5), trained by Charles Lopresti, will try to give his trainer a second straight Woodbine Mile triumph, after conditioning last year’s winner, Turallure. Wise Dan is fresh from a five-length romp in the Grade 2 Fourstardave at Saratoga over one mile of yielding turf, August 11.
In his only other starts this year, the five-year-old homebred gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry crushed his rivals in the mile and one-eighth Ben Ali Stakes over Keeneland’s Polytrack, recording a career high 117 Beyer rating in his opener April 22, then was second, just a head behind Ron the Greek, in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Stakes, June 16 at Churchill Downs.
John Velazquez, who has won the Woodbine Mile twice – with Riviera in 2000 and Leroidesanimaux in 2005, once again has the mount aboard the versatile Wise Dan, who will carry 121 pounds. Wise Dan, a career earner of almost $1.4 million, has won stakes on dirt, turf and Polytrack.
“It’s (post 3) okay by me,” said Lopresti. “He just won from the one-hole at Saratoga. If it was a great big field I might worry about it. I’m glad we didn’t get the one-hole and I wouldn’t want to be all the way on the outside either. I’m happy with it. Johnny (Velazquez) said to me when you get that horse covered up, he’s a lot better and he relaxes. He did a good job with him the last time.”
Three challengers from Europe have shipped to Woodbine for the Mile - Cityscape, Dance And Dance and Worthadd.
Cityscape (PP7, 5-2), a six-year-old Juddmonte British homebred by Selkirk, captured the Group 1, $5 million mile and one-eighth Dubai Duty Free March 31 at Meydan in his season opener and most recently was second to Excelebration in the Group 1, one mile Prix Jacques le Marois, August 12 at Deauville, France.
Overall, he’s taken six of 20 career outings, with eight seconds, for earnings of $4,206,935, far and away the field’s leading money winner. Trained by Roger Charlton, Cityscape, who will carry topweight of 124 pounds, will be ridden by James Doyle, as Juddmonte seeks its second Mile victory after winning the 2009 edition with Ventura.
“He shipped really good,” said John Da Costa, assistan trainer for Charlton. “He’s really settled in. He’s taking on plenty of fluids. Wilson (de Souza), his regular exercise rider, is delighted with him. He’s moving great. We know Wise Dan is a wonderful horse. We really respect him. It’s going to be a tough race. But our fellow is good right now.”
Trainer Dan Vella will saddle Kendel Standlee’s Big Band Sound (PP5, 6-1), an impressive two and one-half length winner over Mile rival Riding the River in the seven furlong Play the King Stakes, considered a key prep for the Mile, at Woodbine on August 26. The five-year-old son of Bernstein has been positively consistent this year, winning twice and finishing second four times in seven outings. He’ll be ridden by Tyler Pizarro.
Riding the River (PP1, 10-1), trained by Dave Cotey, won both the Grade 2 King Edward and Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine in June and July, respectively, before finishing second to Big Band Sound in the Play the King. The five-year-old gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry will be ridden by Patrick Husbands, who was aboard 2001 Mile winner Numerous Times. He’s owned by Dominion Bloodstock, HGHR Inc. and Linmac Farm and has banked over $600,000 from eight wins in 19 starts.
Stronach Stables’ Hunters Bay (PP6, 15-1), winner of the Grade 3 Eclipse and Dominion Day Stakes this year over Woodbine’s Polytrack, will make his turf debut for trainer Reade Baker. Should he win, he’ll become the first horse to capture the Woodbine Mile without previous grass experience. The five-year-old son of Ghostzapper exits a seventh place finish to Fort Larned in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Whitney Stakes, August 4. Emma-Jayne Wilson rides.
Worthadd (PP9, 8-1), trained by Sir Mark Prescott for owner Diego Romeo, has earned almost $1 million, most of which came in the 2010 Italian Derby. The five-year-old Irish-bred son of Dubawi also caught a brief glimpse of superhorse Frankel this year, finishing 20 lengths behind the unbeaten Juddmonte marvel in the Group 1 Queen Anne at Ascot in June. He’ll be ridden by Luis Contreras.
Mohammed Rashid’s Dance And Dance (PP2, 12-1), an Irish-bred six-year-old gelded son of Royal Applause, makes a return Mile appearance for trainer Ed Vaughan, after finishing a troubled sixth to Turallure last year, beaten just one and three-quarter lengths. He’ll be ridden by Garrett Gomez, who has twice won the Mile – aboard Ventura in 2009 and with Shakespeare in 2007.
Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield, who has won a record-tying eight Queen’s Plates but has yet to win the Mile, will send out Hollinger (PP8, 20-1), once again, after an eighth place finish last year. Owned by Robert Harvey and Al Wortzman, Hollinger was Canada’s champion two-year-old male of 2009, when he was undefeated in four starts, winning the rich Cup and Saucer and Coronation Futurity. The five-year-old gelded son of Black Minnaloushe will be ridden by Alex Solis. Harvey and Wortzman were co-owners of Committee Stable’s Numerous Times, winner of the 2001 Mile.
Gustav Schickedanz’s Artic Fern (PP4, 20-1), trained by Mike Keogh, completes the field. Most recently fourth to Big Band Sound in the Play the King, the five-year-old gelded son of Langfuhr, a seven-time winner in 16 career outings, will be handled by Justin Stein.
Hollinger or Artic Fern would become the fifth Canadian-bred to win the Mile, joining Rahy’s Attorney (2008), Soaring Free (2004), Numerous Times (2001) and Quiet Resolve (1999).
The stakes record time for the Woodbine Mile is 1:32.04, set by Ventura in 2009 when she became the first and only filly or mare to win the race. Quiet Resolve ($91.10 in 1999) is the longest-priced winner while Leroidesanimaux is not only the shortest-priced winner ($3.30) but also established the largest margin of victory, seven and three-quarter lengths, in 2005.
Only three favourites have won the Mile in its first 15 editions - Soaring Free in 2004, Leroidesanimaux in 2005 and Shakespeare in 2007.
Three horses which raced in the Woodbine Mile went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile - 2007 runner-up Kip Deville, Silic (1999), who had finished fifth, and 2010 Woodbine Mile winner Court Vision, who captured the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Mile after finishing seventh at Woodbine. Four other Woodbine Mile winners - Geri (1997), Touch of the Blues (2003), Leroidesanimaux (2005) and Turallure (2011) all went on to finish second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
The $500,000 Northern Dancer Stakes, at one and one-half miles for three-year-olds and upward, drew eight hopefuls, including two Roger Attfield trainees - the 10-year-old stakes-winning Musketier and recent Sky Classic victor Forte Dei Marmi, along with last year’s winner, Wigmore Hall.
Meanwhile, another major turf stakes event on the undercard, the Grade 2 $300,000 Canadian Stakes, has attracted a wide-open group of fillies and mares for the mile and one-eighth contest, headed by Laughing, Kapitale and Smart Sting. Post time is 3:05 pm.
Post time for the first of 11 races on Sunday’s card is set for 1:05 pm. As part of a special Ricoh Woodbine Mile Day promotion, many of Woodbine’s jockeys will be at the front gates to welcome racing fans, beginning at 11:45 am.
As always, general parking and admission are free.