Crushing the Woodbine Mile

Woodbine-Mile-OddsOver the past five years, the winner of the Woodbine Mile has gone on to capture the Breeders’ Cup Mile twice. Granted, both times, the name of the dual champion was Wise Dan, but I don’t think many would argue with the assertion that the Woodbine Mile has become one of the preeminent prep for the Breeders’ Cup.

In addition to Wise Dan, past Woodbine Mile champs include Tepin, Court Vision, Skip Away and Dance Smartly — just to name a few.

Here is an in-depth look at this year’s field: 

1-WORLD APPROVAL (7-2)
Early in his career, he was a one-dimensional closer, prompting his connections to try him at longer distances, but age has brought more tactical speed — take that Father Time! — and it is clear that the Mark Casse trainee is best at shorter route distances. At 10 furlongs or greater, the son of Northern Afleet is 1-for-6, whereas he’s 8-for-14 going shorter on grass.

Last time, he tried a flat mile for the first time (on turf) and posted his most impressive speed and pace figures yet. Major player.

Fair Odds: 3-1 

2-TOWER OF TEXAS (12-1)
This guy was second in this race last year and has been prepared the same way this time around — with a prep in the seven-furlong Play the King Stakes (G2) four weeks ago. Still, he’s six years old now and this year’s field looks tougher than last year’s.

Fair Odds: 15-1

3-LONG ON VALUE (15-1)
Looks like one the early pacesetters and he does show some good running lines in his past performances. Unfortunately, his best races came a long time ago — his last graded stakes win was in the Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 21, 2015 — and I’m not sure he’s the same horse today.

Norman-McKnightFair Odds: 20-1         

4-BEST BARD (50-1)
This guy is sure to be one of the longest shots on the board and understandably so given that his last race was against $40,000 claimers, but two things give me pause:

1) The seven-year-old gelding is owned by Bruno Schickedanz, whose horses have won over 1,700 races.

2) He is trained by Norman McKnight, who, after never winning with more than 19.4 percent of his starters during in his first 17 years in the business, suddenly found the magic touch in 2014, when he won at a 26.8-percent rate. Since then, his lowest win rate for a year came in 2015, when “only” 21.1 percent of his entrants won. This year, he’s visiting the winner’s circle at a 32.2-percent rate and has a positive ROI with first-time claims like Best Bard.

Fair Odds: 20-1        

5-DRAGON BAY (20-1)
Grade II winner has been a longshot players’ delight, having scored at 26-1 in the English Channel Stakes at Belmont, 18-1 in the Eclipse Stakes (G2) at Woodbine and 5-1 in the Nijinsky Stakes (G2), also at Woodbine. He has an advantageous running style and his late pace figures aren’t bad.

Fair Odds: 12-1 

6-DEAUVILLE (5-2)
For the second year in a row, this Aidan O’Brien trainee led after nine furlongs of the Arlington Million (G1) only to fade and finish third. Saturday’s shorter distance would seem to suit — Deauville was third in the one-mile Queen Anne Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot — and the Irish-bred is clearly the class of the field.

On the other hand, Deauville’s price is sure to be skimpy and his North American speed and pace figures are just so-so.

Fair Odds: 7-2 

7-CONQUEST PANTHERA (12-1)
Son of Kitten’s Joy was a close third in the one-mile The Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes (G1) at Keeneland in April and prepped for Saturday’s race with a win in the Play the King (G2), despite a rough trip. His speed and pace figures are right where they need to be and he’s a major contender for trainer Mark Casse.

Fair Odds: 8-1

8-MONDIALISTE (8-1)
On the plus side, he won the Arlington Million (G1) last year; on the negative side, it was his first win since he won this very race on Sept. 13, 2015, and he hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since. Unlike with World Approval, it looks like Father Time has caught up with this talented 7-year-old son of Galileo. In any event, I’d want double-digit odds on Saturday.

Fair Odds: 12-1

9-AROD (20-1)
Trainer David Simcock has done well with horses shipping to North America — and this dude was a close fifth in last year’s Mile. That said, Arod has finished last or second-to-last in each of his last three starts and I’m not sure a prestigious Grade I event is a great place for a turnaround.

Fair Odds: 50-1 

10-LANCASTER BOMBER (9-2)
It’s hard to know what to make of this guy. On one hand, he’s faced some stellar foes, with seven of his last nine races coming in Group/Grade I company. On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he hasn’t won any of those races, although he has finished second three times.

Personally, I’d need a better potential payoff than his 9/2 odds predict he’ll offer.

Fair Odds: 10-1

11-DUTCH CONNECTION (6-1)
Son of Dutch Art was a dull 12th in last year’s BC Mile (G1), but does come off an impressive score in the Group 3 Weatherbys Racing Bank Supreme Stakes across the pond. 

Fair Odds: 15-1

12-GLENVILLE GARDENS (20-1)
Call me crazy, but I think this guy has a good shot of springing a monster upset in Saturday’s feature race at Woodbine. I don’t see him gunning for the lead like he did last year, when he finished a well-beaten seventh in this race and I love his last two workouts.

The big concern is his outside post position, but I still think he’ll outrun his odds. 

Fair Odds: 8-1

My Plays: Win on 1 & 12. Exacta 1,12 with 1,4,5,6,7,10,12.

Derek Simon
Derek Simon is the Senior Editor and Handicapper at US Racing.