TORONTO – With Saratoga in the rear view mirror, we head to the great white north Saturday and the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile, one of the biggest turf races in North America.
The 100-mile trek up the Queen Elizabeth Way from downtown Buffalo to Woodbine Racetrack on the outskirts of Toronto is a treat for turf lovers. The outer E.P. Taylor turf course is one of the best in the world and a reason why the top turf milers assemble annually.
A quality field of 11 will tackle the $1 million race on one of Woodbine’s signature race days.
The winner will earn an automatic bid to the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 2. There have been five previous winners of the Breeders’ Cup Mile that have made starts in the Woodbine Mile in the same year.
The 23rd edition of the Woodbine Mile is scheduled to go to post at 5:42 p.m. and is Race 9 on the 12-race card. Two other graded stakes are on the undercard, including the Grade 1 Northern Dancer.
Got Stormy (8-5) was tabbed the morning line favorite in the Mile for trainer Mark Casse coming off a win at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Fourstardave.
The race has also attracted two runners from the Chad Brown barn, Raging Bull (3-1) and Made You Look (12-1), who finished second and fourth, respectively, in the Fourstardave.
The draw, held trackside Wednesday, featured Norman Powell of the NBA champion Toronto Raptors, who served as the drawmaster to track announcer Robert Geller.
Let’s take a look at the field from top to bottom (post position, trainer, jockey, morning line odds in parenthesis):
1 – El Tormenta (Cox, Rosa da Silva, 20-1). Owner Sam-Son Farm has two Woodbine Mile wins on the books, but will have its work cut out with the Ontario-bred son of Stormy Atlantic. The Gail Cox-trained gelding is one of the hometown favorites, but has had trouble getting by Silent Poet in his last two efforts. Has run 11 of his 12 career races at Woodbine but will have to run a career best to compete for top honors.
2 – Lucullan (McLaughlin, Saez, 8-1). Rare appearance by a Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt with Maximum Security jockey Luis Saez aboard the son of Hard Spun. He will cut back in distance after a six-week layoff coming out of a non-graded stake win at the Spa. The Godolphin colt is just a cut below the top horses in here, but could be useful underneath in the exotics.
3 – Silent Poet (Gonzalez, Boulanger, 15-1). Longtime Fort Erie conditioner Nick Gonzalez looks for his first win in the Mile with the Stronach Stables’ 4-year-old. Comes out of a solid win in the Grade 2 Play the King on the E.P. Taylor course. Has won his only effort at the mile distance over the course and will need his “A” game. Siding with others, but wouldn’t be surprised if he made a good showing on the home turf.
4 – Synchrony (Stidham, Prat, 6-1). The red-hot Flavien Prat returns to the track where he won his first Queen’s Plate in June, to ride the 6-year-old son of Tapit. Pin Oak Stables well-traveled horse won the local prep, the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes on Plate day. His workout patterns indicate he could be sitting on a big one for Mike Stidham, who is also looking for his first Mile win. Dangerous.
5 – Got Stormy (Casse, Gaffalione, 8-5). Casse will look to win his third Mile in the past four years. His two winners both went on to win at the Breeders’ Cup, including the filly Tepin. The daughter of Get Stormy and morning-line favorite comes out of a monster win at Saratoga in the Fourstardave and all the hype that goes with it. She won a Grade 3 over the course in her only Woodbine visit, which occurred in 2018. Talented, but looking for a regression after the big effort at the Spa.
6 – Awesometank (GB) (Haggas, Egan, 8-1). The other filly in the race finished second in the Beverly D on Arlington Million day last month in her inaugural North American start, losing to superstar filly Sistercharlie. Euros have fared well over the E.P. Taylor and have two of the last five WoMile winners. She gets a huge seven-pound weight break from a good number of her competitors, including Got Stormy. Willing to give her a shot at the price. Contender.
7 – Raging Bull (Brown, Rosario, 3-1). Was coming late for Got Stormy in the Fourstardave and ran out of real estate after going six wide and having to make a late run. Chad Brown trainee is the only other Grade 1 winner in the field. Race should set up perfectly for Joel Rosario, who knows how to win a big race. No Bricks and Mortar to deal with, so he’s the pick.
8 – American Guru (Doyle, Hernandez, 30-1). Longest shot in the field and son of Unbridled’s Song is a lightly raced 5-year-old who only has six career races under his belt. His last two efforts at Woodbine don’t exactly inspire confidence. Still waiting for a return to form on the NYRA circuit from 2018 where his speed figures were legitimate. Passing on this longshot.
9 – Made You Look (Brown, Contreras, 12-1). The “other” Brown in the race led the Fourstardave before being overtaken late by Got Stormy and Raging Bull in the stretch. Could go overlooked at the price when he ran a sneaky good race and his numbers fit in here. Don’t discount Chad, who doesn’t ship without purpose.
10 – Emmaus (IRE) (Murphy, Hill, 20-1). Irish-bred son of Invincible Spirit struggled to win Group races over the pond and hasn’t exactly set North America on fire upon his arrival. He’s 0-for-4 at the mile distance and hasn’t fared well against weaker opposition.
10 – Admiralty Pier (IRE) (Minshall, Husbands, 30-1). Shares longshot honors with American Guru and has been off the board in his last three races. Solid turf breeding as the 4-year-old gelding was sired by English Channel out of a Kitten’s Joy mare, but he’s just not fast enough to hang with this crew.
Outlook: Chad has shipped in and cleaned up before (see Arlington Million) and Raging Bull looks tough in here. The filly Americantank is my price play to sneak into the exotics. Prat is on fire and can’t be discounted aboard Synchrony. Looks to be a terrific race.
Post Time Selections: 1 – Raging Bull; 2 – Awesometank; 3 – Synchrony; 4 – Got Stormy
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.