(March to the Arch / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the Woodbine Media Team:

Hall of Fame conditioner Mark Casse will send out the talented trio of March to the Arch, Olympic Runner and Ride a Comet, in the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile, part of a stellar Saturday stakes showcase that also includes the Grade 1 $600,000 Pattison Canadian International and Grade 2 $250,000 Canadian Stakes.

The 25th running of the Mile, worth $1 million and contested over the world-renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course, has attracted a strong field of 10 hopefuls. The Mile and International will be showcased on a live broadcast airing on TSN1 and TSN3 from 4:30-5:30 p.m. ET.

Under the terms of the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge Series, the Woodbine Mile winner will be entitled to a fees-paid berth for the $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile, to be run on November 6 at Del Mar.

The silver anniversary edition of the Mile features a gold-standard mix of local and international turf stars, as well as some of the top trainers and jockeys in the sport.

Casse, who won back-to-back runnings of the race, in 2016 with Tepin and 2017 with World Approval, will look for his third victory with three formidable runners.

A six-year-old son of Arch, March to the Arch, a Live Oak Plantation homebred, is no stranger to Woodbine or the Woodbine Mile.

The bay gelding sports a record of 4-3-1 from eight starts at the Toronto oval and an overall record of 8-4-4 from 28 races.

March to the Arch, who was second, a length behind Starship Jubilee in the 2020 Mile, was third in the Grade 3 Dominion Day on July 1 and then won the Niagara Stakes on July 25.

The Florida-bred heads into the Mile off a third-place finish in the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes on August 15 where he made a late surge after encountering traffic troubles down the long E.P. Taylor Turf Course stretch.

“March to the Arch prefers a little more time between his races, plus we brought him in off a mile-and-an-eighth, so he might not have been as sharp that day,” noted Casse. “But he’s a great horse, very consistent, and he’s doing very well ahead of the race.”

Olympic Runner, owned by Gary Barber, arrives at Saturday’s $1 million classic off a sensational score in the King Edward.

With Rafael Hernandez in the irons, the five-year-old son of Gio Ponti found daylight down the lane and went on to notch a 1 ½-length victory.

Sporting a record of 3-5-2 from 13 Woodbine engagements, the gelding, bred by Eutrophia Farm LTD, just missed winning his previous start, the Grade 2 Connaught Cup, finishing a nose behind Avie’s Flatter, who is also set to contest the Mile.

Olympic Runner has a 5-7-2 mark from 23 starts, including a 2-2-0 line from seven appearances this year.

“I thought Raffi [jockey, Hernandez] did a great job,” said Casse, of the King Edward. “The pace was moderate, I guess, so he was able to position him a little closer to the pace. That horse has been so close to having a breakout performance. I kept waiting and waiting for it, and it finally came in that race. It was an excellent effort.”

Multiple graded stakes winner Ride a Comet will seek to keep his perfect record at Woodbine intact.

A six-year-old son of Candy Ride co-owned by John Oxley and breeder My Meadowview LLC, Ride a Comet is undefeated in his four Woodbine starts.

The Kentucky-bred bay’s most recent triumph at the Toronto oval came in the 2020 Grade 2 Kennedy Road.

Ride a Comet, 8-1-2 from 17 starts, comes into the Mile off a third-place effort in the Grade 2 Wise Dan at Churchill Downs on June 26.

“We felt he wasn’t training that well, so we gave him a bit of a break. And that seems to have really helped. He’s training much better coming into this race. He’ll be ready. He’s a nice horse and he obviously like running at Woodbine.”

Casse is grateful to have three shots at winning the Mile.

“I am. Everybody is coming into the race in good order. I think each one has a legitimate chance to win the race.”

Ian Dalos’ consistent graded stakes-winning homebred Avie’s Flatter will chase his seventh win in what will be his 17th career start.

The five-year-old son of Flatter has two wins from three races this year, and goes into the Mile off a fourth in the King Edward.

Trained by Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee Josie Carroll, Avie’s Flatter contested all three jewels of the 2019 Canadian Triple Crown, finishing second in both the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales, and third in the Breeders’ Stakes.

Change of Control, trained by Michelle Lovell for Perry Harrison, finished third in her first start at Woodbine, the Grade 2 Royal North Stakes, on August 1.

The five-year-old daughter of Fed Biz, who has compiled a 7-6-6 mark from 28 lifetime starts, will be testing out the Grade 1 ranks for the first time.

She notched her first graded title with a win in the Grade 3 Intercontinental Stakes at Belmont this June.

A bay son of Lope de Vega (IRE), the Mile will represent the Canadian debut for Duke of Hazzard (FR). 

Trained by Paul Cole for Mrs. F. Hay, the five-year-old hasn’t made a trip to the winner’s circle since 2019 when he notched a natural hat trick with two victories at Goodwood and another at Newmarket.

Raging Bull (FR) will get his second shot at Mile glory after finishing fourth, placed third, in the 2019 running.

A multiple graded stakes winner trained by Chad Brown for Peter Brant, the son of Dark Angel is 7-4-3 from 20 starts, his victories including last year’s Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile and this year’s Grade 1 Makers Mark Mile.

The six-year-old bay, bred by Dayton Investments Limited, was recently sixth as the even-money choice in the Grade 1 Fourstardave on August 14 at Saratoga.

Bred and owned by Juddmonte Farms, Set Piece (GB) has been the model of consistency over 17 career races, sporting a 9-2-1 stat line.

The five-year-old son of Dansili has three wins and a pair of seconds in his last five appearances, including a victory in the Grade 2 Wise Dan.

Trained by Brad Cox, the dark bay was off a step slowly in the Grade 1 Fourstardave, but regrouped to finish second.

Space Traveller (GB), a five-time winner from 20 starts, will look to get back to the form that saw the son of Bated Breath (GB) triumph at York this June.

Owned by Clipper Logistics, the Brendan Walsh trainee has competed twice in the U.S., the first assignment coming in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Mile (10th). The five-year-old dark bay was recently fourth in the Grade 1 Mr. D. Stakes at Arlington on August 14.

The Mile will be his first start in Canada.

Trained, owned and co-bred (along with his father Terrance) by Brandon Greer, popular local entrant Town Cruisewill make his 14th career start – all at Woodbine – this Saturday.

A six-year-old son of Town Prize, the chestnut, with a 5-2-1 record from 13 starts, finished a gutsy second to Olympic Runner in the King Edward.

The Mile will be the gelding’s foray into Grade 1 waters.

“Town is coming in with very good energy and high confidence, something I see increasing with each of his races this year,” said Brandon Greer. It’s quite a privilege having the opportunity to run with some of the best horses in Canada and internationally. I’m sure Town will give it his best shot, which could never be disappointing to us.  We’re happy to be here.”

The outstanding Ricoh Woodbine Mile program will also feature the Grade 2 $250,000 Canadian Stakes, part of the Ladies of the Lawn series in support of Rethink Breast Cancer.

First race post time on Saturday is set for 1:10 p.m. For more information, visit Woodbine.com.

$1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Grade 1)

Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer  

1 – Town Cruise – Daisuke Fukumoto – Brandon Greer

2 – Olympic Runner – Rafael Hernandez – Mark Casse

3 – March to the Arch – Patrick Husbands – Mark Casse

4 – Ride a Comet – Antonio Gallardo – Mark Casse

5 – Set Piece (GB) – Joel Rosario – Brad Cox

6 – Change of Control – Colby Hernandez – Michelle Lovell

7 – Raging Bull (FR) – Frankie Dettori – Chad Brown

8 – Avie’s Flatter – Luis Contreras – Josie Carroll

9 – Duke of Hazzard (GB) – Kazushi Kimura – Paul Cole

10 – Space Traveller (GB) – Daniel Tudhope – Brendan Walsh

(Trainer Mike Maker will saddle Bluegrass Parkway in the Canadian International Crown / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)

Desert Encounter Goes For Third Straight Pattison Canadian International Crown 

There’s something about Woodbine that is a win-win for Desert Encounter.

“He seems to really enjoy travelling here,” said Ian Russell, travelling head lad for trainer David Simcock, who has accompanied Desert Encounter on his previous forays. “I think when he sees a plane he comes alive because he’s looking for the next adventure.”

That affinity for Woodbine and the E.P. Taylor Turf Course will be put to the test again Saturday when Desert Encounter seeks to become the first runner to capture three consecutive runnings of the Grade 1, 1 ½-mile Pattison Canadian International, a $600,000 race for three-year-olds and upward.

The Canadian International was not held last year on a stakes schedule impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That leaves the Irish-bred gelding Desert Encounter, who is owned by Abdulla Al Mansoori and is based in England, as the two-time defending champion by virtue of his Canadian International victories in 2018 and 2019.

Joshua Tree, based in Ireland, is the only three-time winner of the Canadian International with successes in 2010, 2012, and 2013, interrupted by a second-place finish in 2011.

But, at age nine and winless in 15 races since his last appearance here, does Desert Encounter still have what it will take to defeat seven rivals, ranging from two to five years his juniors, in the prestigious event with the likes of Secretariat, All Along, Chief Bearhart, Singspiel, Youth, Snow Knight, Dahlia, and George Royal amongst its honour roll?

“At nine, there’s a lot of younger horses running against him; he’s got a bit of experience next to them,” said Russell. “For as much as he is older, he’s enjoying it, and he’s showing us the signs that he still wants to do it. I think watching him in his last run, when he was second at Windsor, he’s still got a zest for life.”

Teona, the 3-year-old filly who defeated Desert Encounter that day, has since seen her stock soar with an upset win in last weekend’s Group 1 Qatar Prix Vermeille at Longchamp.

That Windsor race, at 1 7/16 miles on turf, came on August 28. His previous Canadian International successes, when the race was run in mid-October, also followed good efforts at Newbury three weeks earlier.

“We couldn’t wholly keep the same pattern, but generally everything is just the same,” said Russell.

One change does come as rider Danny Tudhope will pilot Desert Encounter, whose previous Canadian International scores came under Andrea Atzeni. Tudhope will be making his Canadian debut but boasts Grade 1 successes in the U.S. courtesy of Mondialiste in the 2016 Arlington Million and Suedois in the 2017 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.

In addition to Desert Encounter, Simcock has been represented by a trio of 2014 stakes winners here in Trade Storm (Grade 1 Woodbine Mile), Sheikhzayedroad (Grade 1 Northern Dancer), and Caspar Netscher (Grade 2 Nearctic). Sheikhzayedroad returned the following year to finish third in the Canadian International.

Walton Street, bred and trained in England and representing the powerful Godolphin, is at seven the closest in age to Desert Encounter and will be making his first trip across the pond for conditioner Charlie Appleby.

“I think the older he’s getting, the wiser he’s getting,” said travelling head lad Chris Durham. “Charlie always wanted to come here with him. He’s happy with him.”

In his most recent outing, the homebred finished third after leading through most of the about 1 ½-miles of good turf in the Group 1 Longines Grosser Preis von Berlin.

That August 8 race was Walton Street’s first since a Dubai campaign that kicked off with back-to-back scores and concluded with an admirable fourth-place finish in a very tough renewal of the Grade 1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic.

“He ran really well in Germany, for his first time out,” said Durham, noting that the runner-up there, Torquator Tasso, has returned to win the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden. “His form looks good.”

Walton Street will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, who will be making his first appearance here since winning aboard Joshua Tree in 2012. That was Dettori’s third victory in the Canadian International, following Sulmani in the 2004 edition and Mutafaweq in 2000.

Appleby is taking his first crack at the Canadian International but has won Grade 1 races here with Old Persian (2019 Northern Dancer) and La Pelosa (2018 Natalma).

Invading from south of the border for the Canadian International will be Corelli, Fantasioso, and Bluegrass Parkway.

Corelli, who began his career in England for owner/breeder George Strawbridge, moved to New York and trainer Jonathan Thomas and finished third in Monmouth Park’s Grade 1 United Nations over 1 3/8 miles of firm turf in his best performance. This year, the six-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding is 2-for-4 including his first graded stakes score here last time out in the Singspiel.

Shipping up from his Saratoga base for trainer Jonathan Thomas, Corelli rallied strongly in the Grade 3 Singspiel over 1 ¼-miles of the E.P. Taylor course for a going-away 1 ¾-length score under a heads-up ride by the returning Kazushi Kimura.

“He exited that race in good order, and had two nice works out of it,” said Thomas.

“We’re really pleased with him,” he added, while acknowledging that Saturday’s 1 ½-mile distance is “a little question mark.”

In his only North American try at the distance, Corelli ended a well-beaten fifth over soft going in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Sword Dancer.

“He ran a very good race going a mile and three, and then he ran a mile and a half on bottomless ground,” said Thomas. “It’s a little bit of a learning curve for us. He seems to be a mile and a quarter horse on the turf; those are rare distances. But he got over the track there beautifully, and he’s starting to relax nicely in his races and finish up, so we’re taking a shot.”

Corelli acquitted himself well when travelling 1 ½ miles and thereabouts in the English phase of his career, although not in group company, and will be looking to provide the U.S. a victory in this race won by Europeans in all but one of the last 10 renewals.  The outlier was Bullards Alley, the Kentucky shipper who was a major upsetter in in the 2017 edition over a soggy turf course.

Fantasioso was scratched from last Saturday’s Calumet Turf Cup, a 1 ½ mile turf race at Kentucky Downs, and has readjusted his sights while seeking his first win since leaving his native Argentina.

A proven marathoner, the six-year-old horse’s best effort in this hemisphere was a second-place finish in the Group 2 Belmont Gold Cup over two miles of yielding going.

Ignacio Correas IV trains Fantasioso and is a co-owner along with Jeffrey Bloom’s Bloom Racing Stable LLC.

Bluegrass Parkway, supplemented to the Canadian International at a cost of $12,000, which includes the regular entry fee, captured the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup over 1 ¼-miles of firm going at Ellis Park but also scratched from the main event.

A five-year-old gelding who was bred in Kentucky by Mike Ryan and is trained there by Mike Maker, Bluegrass Parkway was recording his first stakes win there.

Joel Rosario, coming off an astounding Kentucky Downs meeting, has the mount.

The local contingent for the Canadian International is comprised of English Conqueror, Belichick, and Primo Touch, the first, second and fifth finishers from the Singspiel.

English Conqueror, owned and bred by JWS Farms and trained by Darwin Banach, is a 4-year-old gelding who came up with the best effort of his career despite a less than ideal trip. In his only previous effort over the Canadian International course and distance he was a well-beaten third in last year’s Breeders’ Stakes.

Belichick, who ended a length behind English Conqueror in the Singspiel, was a comfortable winner of the Breeders’, the third leg of the Triple Crown for Canadian-bred three-year-olds. Owned by NK Racing and LNJ Foxwoods and conditioned by Josie Carroll, the Lemon Drop Kid colt will be ridden by Luis Contreras.

Primo Touch has started since the Singspiel, going coast-to-coast over 1 ¼-miles of turf in allowance company, and is expected to set the pace again here.

All Canadian International entrants carry 126 pounds under the weight-for-age terms.

$600,000 Pattison Canadian International (Grade 1) 

Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer

1 – Corelli – Kazushi Kimura – Jonathan Thomas
2 – Walton Street – Frankie Dettori – Charlie Appleby
3 – Desert Encounter – Danny Tudhope – David Simcock
4 – Bluegrass Parkway – Patrick Husbands – Mike Maker
5 – Primo Touch – Daisuke Fukumoto – Harold Ladouceur
6 – Fantasioso – Joel Rosario – Ignacio Correas IV
7 – Belichick – Luis Contreras – Josie Carroll
8 – English Conqueror – Antonio Gallardo – Darwin Banach