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The 2017 version of the Woodbine Mile has arrived, and its $800,000 purse has attracted an incredible field filled with international stars and top-notch American turf milers. Woodbine is no stranger to fantastic horses, as Tepin came north to win this race last year. As always, the Woodbine Mile serves as a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The outstanding card features several outstanding turf races, providing many great betting opportunities.
Leading the international charge is Mondialiste, who won this race in 2015. Last year, he came to the United States and won the Arlington Million, but lately, he’s been on a losing streak. Many handicappers are skeptical that this horse may have lost a step, but his connections seem confident in his abilities heading into this race.
“I’m very lucky to travel over again with this fellow,” said Fearghal Davis, assistant to trainer David O’Meara. “He’s been a superstar. He’s in great form; we’re very happy with him. He loves these trips.”
Dutch Connection is coming off of a sharp score in the Group 3 Supreme Stakes over 7 furlongs at Goodwood. The 5-year-old horse’s five career wins all have come at that distance. Trainer Charlie Hills has had success at Woodbine in the past and seems confident heading into this race as well.
“I came over with Redwood (in 2010) when he won the Northern Dancer for my father (Michael Hills),” he said. “We have lots of good memories at Woodbine. Redwood came back to run third in the International, so we had two good trips over to Canada that year. We’d looked at a race at Doncaster this week, but the ground is going to be soft there, so we decided to take him over to Canada where the forecast looks good. He’s got to get the mile, but he has decent enough form.”
Of course, bettors better not forget about trainer Aidan O’Brien, who invades Woodbine with likely favorite Deauville and the classy Lancaster Bomber. Both horses are accustomed to the American style of racing, and both are coming into this race with a big shot.
#1 World Approval – Call me crazy with all the European shippers coming, but I’m still going with the American-based World Approval on top. His race at a mile last time out at Saratoga was really something to see, as he dominated the Grade 1 Fourstardave. I realize that race was over a soft or yielding turf course, but his other performances this year have also been very strong. Trainer Mark Casse has always had high hopes for this one, and perhaps the mile distance will end up being where he runs best. I also like that he can sit close to the lead but doesn’t absolutely have to have it. This will be a big test and it will be interesting to see if he’s ready for this kind of competition.
#6 Deauville – He disappointed me last time out when I picked him to win the Arlington Million and he finished third despite a perfect trip. At the top of the stretch, I thought there was no doubt that this horse was going to win, but for whatever reason, he just didn’t get the job done. That doesn’t mean he can’t win this race, though, as he does look to be the class of the field. Just like last time, I like the fact that he has come to the United States and performed well in the past. That’s always very important with European shippers. Don’t let him beat you on any tickets, but he’s not the top choice.
#8 Mondialiste – He won this race in 2015 and came back to win the Arlington Million in 2016. However, since that Arlington Million victory, the horse has lost seven in a row, including a very poor effort at the Breeders’ Cup last year. Still, he has solid races in the United States, which is always important for European shippers. He was close to winning two races back, which shows that he still has a bit of form left, so if he can put it together here, then he has a shot at winning.
#11 Dutch Connection – This is an extremely solid European shipper, but he doesn’t quite have the success on the American surface like the two European shippers I’ve ranked above him. The last time he performed in the United States, he was well-beaten in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile, and he also came to Keeneland in 2015 and was well-beaten in a race that would have been a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile had he performed better. He will have to exercise his United States racing demons here, but if he does, he certainly has the talent to win a race like this one.
#10 Lancaster Bomber – He showed up in the United States last year to run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and fared well, finishing second to this year’s leading 3-year-old in the country, Oscar Performance. That’s the good news, but the bad news is that he’s won only once in 11 starts. That’s a troubling trend when he’s looking to win a Grade 1 race like this with so many superstars in the field. From a class standpoint, he has a shot, but he’ll have to find a way to win against this quality group.
#7 Conquest Panthera – He won the local prep race for this event and has Woodbine’s best trainer on his side. This will be one of the tougher races in which he’s ever been entered, but you have to like that he has a recent win over the track. I nearly put him in the horses to use in multi-race wagers category because I think he’s sitting on a big race. If you have the budget, he might be one to throw in, but I didn’t want to put too many horses in that spot.
#4 Best Bard – He runs first off the claim here for a new trainer, Norman McKnight, who’s excellent at Woodbine. I was surprised that he was entered in this tough spot, but McKnight knows what he’s doing, so this makes me think that he’ll run a halfway-decent race. I couldn’t get myself to say that this horse will actually win the race, but I do believe that he could hit the board, as he has decent early speed in a race that looks void of pacesetters.
#9 Arod – He came to United States to run in this race last year and finished fifth, beaten 2 lengths, so there’s hope for him in this spot, even though he’s been beaten badly in his last three starts. There’s no doubt that he’ll have to turn his form around in this one, but if he can get out to an early lead, he could have things his own way on the front end. His best race gives him a halfway decent shot and his price will be right if you’re looking for a longshot.
#2 Tower of Texas – He always seems to have a say in things as a fan favorite at Woodbine. Last year, he finished second in this race to the mighty Tepin, but overall, this field may be a bit tougher, as it looks to have more depth than than last year’s edition. At a price, he might still be a dangerous horse, though, as he’s run well at Woodbine once again this year. If you’re looking for a longshot, you could do worse than him.
#5 Dragon Bay – This local Woodbine horse has done some nice running this year, including a Grade 2 win two races back on the turf. However, this field will be much tougher than anything he’s seen this year.
#3 Long On Value – He’s been sprinting lately but will stretch out to a mile in a tough spot. He does have a few 1-mile victories on his resume, but overall, this field could be too much for him to handle.
#12 Glenville Gardens – There’s nothing wrong with this horse, but this race just looks like a little bit too much for him. He won an allowance nicely two races back, but this is going to be much tougher.
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