We don't pay that much attention to mile turf racing in North America - not nearly as much as we should, in my opinion. In Europe it's a very big deal, but here we care much more about the dirt than the grass and fixate either on the sprints or the classic distance. A mile too often is what a horse tries only after nothing else seems to fit. Every September, though, we see a truly great turf mile in the Woodbine Mile, not surprisingly taking place at Woodbine just outside of Toronto. This race has been a very important proving ground for Breeders' Cup Mile success. The legendary Wise Dan won this race in 2012 and 2013 before winning both the BC Mile and Horse of the Year. Three other times since 1999 the winner of the BC Mile has come out of this race, and nine more horses have placed or showed in the BC Mile after running here. In 2014 Bobby's Kitten was third here and then went on to win the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.
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In short, this is a very important race.
Even if it wasn't historically a significant race, it would be important because of the favorite. The 1-2 morning line favorite, Tepin, is about as good a horse as there is in training right now. The mare won the Breeders' Cup Mile last year and has spent this season proving that that was no fluke. She has won seven straight races. After the Breeders' Cup, which was the second race of the streak, she won twice at Tampa Bay and also at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. By far the most impressive, though, was when she invaded the home of the turf mile, Royal Ascot, and handily won the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes. It was a huge effort. The track there is a straight mile - no turns as there is here - and she was facing males who focus on this style of race, enduring soft ground, and running without Lasix for the first time in her career. None of that mattered, though.
That huge win clearly took a lot out of her. She returned to Saratoga for the summer, but her first two timed works were very flat, and you couldn't help but wonder whether she had done too much. She has worked well each of her last four times, though, and has clearly improved, so she seems ready.
Julien Leparoux is her regular rider and will be aboard here. He is an asset on this Woodbine track - he won this race in 2011 and won the Queen's Plate, Canada's biggest race, this year. Combine his comfort and the mare's excellence with the three pound weight advantage she gets as a mare and she will be very tough to beat. Personally, I'm not betting against her, though at the price she is at that makes this a very tough race to bet. I'll likely just watch as a fan with a token bet for fun, but if you are looking to mix things up and chase a better price let's look at the highlights of the rest of the eight-horse field.
Mutakayyef (7/2): This is a five year old who is based in England. He was second or third in his first nine starts and had the look of an eternal bridesmaid. This year, though, he has been much improved. He has won his last two races, including a Group 2 win at Royal Ascot. European shippers have won the last two editions of this race, and this horse is a specialist, so he is in the mix. Neither his trainer nor his jockey has raced in North America before, though, and that's a concern. My gut says good but not good enough.
Arod (10/1): Quite often we see obviously talented Euro runners who have never quite found their stride over there come to North America to try to grab glory. It works, but far from all the time. This is such a horse. He had a decent win and a nicer second last year but hasn't done enough in four races this year as a five year old. So here he comes. His owners won this race in 2014, but I don't see them repeating with this one.
Mr. Owen (15/1): This horse has the same owner as Arod but a different trainer. Jockey Jamie Spencer won this race in 2014, so that's a positive. The horse also has experience in this race - he was sixth last year. He should do a little better than that this year, but his results this season don't make me think he is ready to dethrone the queen.
Full Mast (12/1): If you want an intriguing domestic long shot, this could be it. Or sort of domestic, anyway. This horse started his career in Europe, winning several group 1 races. His career hit a rocky patch last year, though. He raced only twice and was eventually set stateside to work with trainer Bill Mott. Early indicators have been positive - he ran a nice allowance in June at Belmont. If I was looking to beat Tepin I would take a flier on this guy at this price - or hopefully a higher one.
Glenville Gardens (20/1), Passion for Action (20/1) and Tower of Texas (20/1): These are the three local entries in the race. I don't think they are nearly of caliber, and I am not going to bother profiling them - which means that they are all but certain to make up the trifecta. Maybe you should box them just in case.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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