Morton Fink’s Wise Dan, winner of last year’s Ricoh Woodbine Mile and U.S. Horse of the Year in 2012, has been established as the prohibitive 2-5 choice in a field of six for Sunday’s Grade 1 $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
The 17th edition of one of the premier grass races in North America will be televised live across Canada on Sportsnet 360 in a special presentation from 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm ET, with post time scheduled for 5:38 pm. The winner receives $600,000, while the runner-up gets $200,000. The telecast will also feature coverage of the Grade 1 $300,000 Northern Dancer Stakes, presented by VTech, live at 4:32 pm.
For the sixth consecutive year, the Ricoh Woodbine Mile is part of the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ series and will offer the winner an all-expenses paid berth (entry fees and travel costs) into the Breeders’ Cup Mile, November 2 at Santa Anita in Arcadia, California.
Post positions were drawn Thursday at Woodbine with guest drawmaster Devon White, a seven-time Gold Glove outfielder and three-time World Series champion, including twice with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992-93.
Wise Dan, who will carry top weight of 124 pounds and is trained by Charles LoPresti, drew post 4. The 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner is trying to become the first horse to win the Ricoh Woodbine Mile twice. Last year, as the prohibitive 1-2 choice, he prevailed by a comfortable three and one-quarter lengths over Hunters Bay. He’ll also be trying to give his trainer a third straight Woodbine Mile triumph, beginning with Turallure in 2011, which would tie LoPresti with Neil Drysdale and Bobby Frankel for most wins.
A winner of three Eclipse Awards last year in the United States as Horse of the Year, Turf Male and Older Male, Wise Dan arrives fresh from a one and one-quarter length score in the Grade 2 Fourstardave at Saratoga over one mile of good turf on August 10, a race he also won in 2012. The six-year-old homebred gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry-Lisa Danielle is unbeaten in four starts this year and is on an eight-race win streak, starting with his Fourstardave victory last year.
“He’s always been a really good shipper,” said LoPresti. “When we brought him up here (to Woodbine) last year, he made a few passes around the stall and went to sleep. For the Breeders’ Cup, he got in there a day or so later than he needed to but he handled the shipping well. Nothing seems to upset him.
“He worked really good (Tuesday at Keeneland, four furlongs in 48 1/5 seconds, breezing). He just did it real easy. We’ll get him home Monday (after the race), assess him and see how he came out of the race. There’s a possibility we could freshen him and go to the Breeders’ Cup directly, but I don’t want to rule out the Shadwell (Mile on October 5 at Keeneland).
Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who has won the Woodbine Mile a record three times – with Riviera in 2000, Leroidesanimaux in 2005 and Wise Dan last year, once again has the mount on the versatile career earner of over $4.4 million, who has won stakes on dirt, turf and Polytrack.
Live Oak Plantation’s Za Approval (PP6, 4-1), trained by Christophe Clement, comes from his New York base after finishing second to Obviously in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Betfair Hollywood Park on June 29. The homebred five-year-old gelded son of Ghostzapper-Win Approval has won six of only 14 career outings, including two Grade 3’ s, the Appleton at Gulfstream and Red Bank at Monmouth Park.
He’ll be ridden for the first time by Garrett Gomez, who has won the Mile twice before, with Shakespeare in 2007 and Ventura in 2009. Gomez was also aboard Right One for Clement in 2011 when finishing third in a photo with Turallure and Courageous Cat.
Assistant trainer Christophe Lorieul, who has been with Clement for 19 years, said, “We’re obviously looking for firm turf with him, regardless of the competition. We think he’s a very good horse but he’s a lot more effective on firm turf. He’s fit. He’s run good races off long layoffs. He’s also a little bit better in the cooler climate. I’m not sure we can beat Wise Dan. Wise Dan is a very good horse. But we’ll take him on and see what happens. Our horse is doing very well.”
Qatar Racing’s Trade Storm (PP3, 8-1), trained by David Simcock, arrives from England after battling some of Europe’s best, including three-year-olds Toronado and Dawn Approach, and four-year-old Declaration Of War. To be ridden by 50-year-old Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, who is in the midst of an incredibly successful comeback this season after a seven-year retirement, the five-year-old son of Trade Fair-Frisson enters off a third place finish to Afsare in the Betfair Celebration Mile at Goodwood on August 24. Afsare finished second to Little Mike in last year’s Arlington Million.
He’s won five of 26 overall with earnings approaching $700,000 and earlier in the year was fourth to Sajjhaa and The Apache in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free in March at Meydan.
Riverside Bloodstock’s Dimension (PP5, 10-1) returns to Woodbine for a third consecutive race, after first competing in the Bold Venture on Polytrack July 17, when beaten a neck by champion sprinter Essence Hit Man. Sent off at 10-1 in the seven furlong turf, Grade 2 Play the King on August 25, Dimension set blazing fractions with jockey David Moran, eventually winning by two and one-quarter lengths over Mile rivals Excaper and Riding the River.
Trained and co-owned by 29-year-old Irishman Conor Murphy, the British-bred five-year-old gelded son of Medicean-Palatial will try to become the first horse since Soaring Free in 2004 to win both the Play the King and Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
Excaper (PP2, 12-1), trained by Ian Black for Richard Kaster and Frederick Wieting, enters off a runner-up finish to Dimension in the Play the King. Two years ago, Excaper finished second in the Summer Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
To be handled by Woodbine’s leading rider and two-time Sovereign Award winner Luis Contreras, the four-year-old son of Exchange Rate-Ada Ruckus will be making just his third start of the year. Contreras was aboard for his winning seasonal debut. Black saddled Rahy’s Attorney to a 12-1 upset in the 2008 Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
Riding the River (PP1, 15-1), trained by Dave Cotey, makes his third consecutive appearance in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile after finishing fifth to Turallure in 2011 and fourth to Wise Dan in 2012. Last year, he won the Grade 2 King Edward and Nijinsky Stakes and repeated in the King Edward this year. Most recently, the six-year-old gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry finished third to Mile rivals Dimension and Excaper in the Play the King on August 25.
Owned by Dominion Bloodstock, HGHR Inc. and Linmac Farm, Riding the River, who has banked over $870,000 from nine wins in 24 starts, will be ridden by Todd Kabel, who was aboard Soaring Free when winning the 2004 Mile.
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 Wise Dan is the shortest-priced winner ($3.10 in 2012). Leroidesanimaux established the largest margin of victory, seven and three-quarter lengths, in 2005.
Only four favourites have won the Mile in its first 16 editions – Soaring Free in 2004, Leroidesanimaux in 2005, Shakespeare in 2007 and Wise Dan last year.
Four horses which raced in the Woodbine Mile have won the Breeders’ Cup Mile. However, Wise Dan is the only one to win both Grade 1 races in the same year. The others are 2007 Woodbine runner-up Kip Deville and 1999 fifth place finisher Silic, who both went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile the same year. 2010 Woodbine Mile winner Court Vision captured the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Mile. Four other Woodbine Mile winners – Geri (1997), Touch of the Blues (2003), Leroidesanimaux (2005) and Turallure (2011) went on to finish second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile the same year.
The $300,000 Northern Dancer, at one and one-half miles on the turf for three-year-olds and upward, drew seven hopefuls, including the Roger Attfield trainee Forte Dei Marmi, third to Wigmore Hall in last year’s edition and winner of the Sky Classic the last two years. Stormy Len, winner of the American Derby and runner-up to Admiral Kitten in the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington Park on August 17 for trainer David Donk has also been entered, as has Irish Mission, Canada’s top three-year-old filly last year.
Another major turf stake on the undercard, the Grade 2 $300,000 Canadian Stakes, which also has Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In status, has attracted a select group of nine fillies and mares for the mile and one-eighth contest, headed by locals Solid Appeal and No Explaining and England’s Ladys First.
Post time for the first of 11 races on Sunday’s card is set for 12:50 pm.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s card at Woodbine includes two Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In races for two-year-olds – the $200,000 Natalma Stakes for fillies and the $200,000 Summer Stakes, both to be contested at one mile on the grass.