An international cast will gather Saturday in greater Toronto for the $1 million Woodbine Mile, one of the more powerful springboards to the Breeders' Cup over the years. The main event anchors 4 consecutive stakes events (Races 7-10) on a 12-race card that begins at 1:10 pm ET.
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Grade 1 winners in the lineup boast MODERN GAMES, IVAR, SHIRL'S SPEIGHT and defending champion TOWN CRUISE. Add in the likes of Grade 2 winners MIGHTY HEART, WAKANAKA, GET SMOKIN' and MARCH TO THE ARCH. English Group 1-placed FINEST SOUND adds more class. The race should not be won on the class rise, given plenty of proven commodities.
TOWN CRUISE led every step of the way last year and is a comitted front-runner. Expect pace pressure from rail-drawn MIGHTY HEART, the fleet GET SMOKIN' and perhaps even WAR BOMBER. The pace should be fast and give late runners every chance to flex their muscles.
MODERN GAMES will be heavily backed after a strong runner-up to world No. 1-ranked turfer Baaeed in the Group 1 Sussex over a mile. He showed with his Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf win at Del Mar last fall that an overseas trip is within his capabilities. While the long stretch should also play to his talents, there are a couple of historical hurdles. No 3-year-old has won this race since debuting as a turf mile in 1997. Second, only 2 Europeans have won this race in those 25 years. He's the horse to beat, but shopping remains open.
The Americans are led by IVAR, third and fourth in the last 2 editions of the Breeders' Cup Mile; WAKANAKA, an Italian export who came north from her Belmont base to win the Dance Smartly at Woodbine in July; and HOMER SCREEN, a Brazilian export who has been nibbling the exotics in California for 3-time Woodbine Mile-winning trainer Neil Drysdale. Of this group, IVAR interests decidedly most.
MIGHTY HEART looks for a historic Queen's Plate-Woodbine Mile sweep of the track's premier races. But he's coming to their game in a turf mile and will have to really step it up as part of the local contingent. TOWN CRUISE is 0-3 since upsetting this race at 8-1 last year when in much better prior form. GET SMOKIN' and MARCH TO THE ARCH provide an early-late pace punch for trainer Mark Casse, a 2-time WO Mile victor. WAR BOMBER won the Seagram Cup on the main track and could be a pace factor. The most interesting local is SHIRL'S SPEIGHT for 2-time Woodbine Mile winner Roger Attfield. He's had some excuses of late, but tipped his hand with a massive workout September 10 that he could be trending back toward his Keeneland spring form when he won the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
MODERN GAMES has class and the mile trip is his best distance.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
SHIRL'S SPEIGHT likely will be let go after a disappointing Connaught Cup prep.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$80 win SHIRL'S SPEIGHT. $10 exacta box SHIRL'S SPEIGHT and MODERN GAMES ($20).