Woodbine Mile Day always provides us with awesome racing, and this year was no different. The track just north of the border offers something unique for horse racing fans to enjoy while also giving us a glimpse of a few horses that we might need to use at the Breeders’ Cup in November. Speaking of, this year’s host track Churchill Downs also opened its doors last weekend and reminded us why racing beneath the Twin Spires is so special. Let’s take a look at who made our Three Stars of the Week after the action ended:
1. Oscar Performance
This horse shows up with a big race when running a mile. Two races back, he set a world record at a mile in the Grade 3 Poker Stakes. Last Saturday, he didn’t set a world record, but he picked up what could be the biggest win of his career in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile. After breaking well, jockey Jose Ortiz sent him to the front, and the horse never looked back to win the race by 1 1/2 lengths in wire-to-wire fashion over local favorite Mr Havercamp. The win earned him an automatic birth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and there is no doubt that he will be a contender, especially if left alone on the front end.
2. Serengeti Empress
Serengeti Empress is quickly becoming one of the early favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, while also earning the number-one spot on our first Kentucky Oaks Rankings of the season. She made her two-turn debut in the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes last weekend and did not disappoint with an eye-catching dominating performance. After setting the early pace, Serengeti Empress took charge at the top of the stretch and ran away from her competition to win by nearly 20 lengths. A win like this is sure to get everyone talking about massive things in the future. She was never asked for much run during the race, either, which speaks to the fact that there was plenty left in the tank. This win means that she could be favored in the Juvenile Fillies.
3. Johnny Bear
This horse showed resiliency in a dramatic win in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine. This son of English Channel was able to capture the Northern Dancer for the second year in a row, this time at outstanding odds of 16/1. Jockey Luis Contreras knows his way around Woodbine. He dropped Johnny Bear towards the middle of the pack shortly after the gates opened while waiting patiently for his time to move. When turning for home, he asked his horse, and he responded with a nice grind-it-out style move to just outlast Mekhtaal and win the race by a 1/2-length. His effort displayed his immense stamina, which makes sense, as most English Channel offspring can run all day.