Deauville, coming off his second consecutive close third-place finish in the Grade 1 Arlington Million, tops a large and competitive field of 12 for Saturday's 21st running of the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
The $800,000 Woodbine Mile, run around one turn on the expansive E.P. Taylor turf course, is part of the Breeders' Cup challenge ‘Win and You're In' series and the winner will be entitled to automatic entry in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Del Mar on Nov. 4.
Post time for the Woodbine Mile, which is the 12th of 13 races on the blockbuster Saturday program, will be 6:34 p.m.
Winner of the Grade 1 Belmont Derby last year, Deauville (Post 6) will be the 121-pound co-second-high weight in the Woodbine Mile and has been made the 5-2 favourite by Woodbine oddsmaker Ernie Perri.
The Arlington Million is run over 10 furlongs but Deauville has displayed strong form over one mile, including a third-place finish this June in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes on a straight course at Ascot.
Deauville is trained by Aidan O'Brien and Jamie Spencer, who rode Deauville in the Belmont Derby, will be reunited with the Irish-bred 4-year-old colt sired by the super stallion Galileo.
“He has tons of experience—nothing seems to both him,” said T.J. Comerford, head traveling lad for O'Brien. “He's a very talented horse.”
World Approval, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding, will be the 124-pound high weight as the lone 2017 Grade 1 winner in the Woodbine Mile lineup, courtesy of his last-out score in Saratoga's Fourstardave over one mile of yielding going.
Last year, conditioner Mark Casse sent out the Live Oak Plantation homebred to capture the Grade 1 United Nations over 1 3/8 miles of good going at Monmouth Park.
Casse won his first Woodbine Mile with Tepin last year.
World Approval, the 7-2 second choice, will be piloted for the first time by John Velazquez who tops all previous Woodbine Mile riders with four wins.
“It looks like this race has some speed in it,” said Casse, who is neither thrilled nor dismayed by his charge's inside draw. “It looks like there's some speed in there. He just wants to kind of have something to run at. We've got a good rider, and I'm sure he'll figure it.”
Mondialiste (Post 8, 8-1), winner of the 2015 Woodbine Mile for trainer David O'Meara, went on to finish second behind the streaking Tepin in that fall's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile at Keeneland.
Last year, the Irish-bred 7-year-old returned to North America to win the Grade 1 Arlington Million and finish a close fourth in Keeneland's Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile before ending well back in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita.
Although winless in five outings this season, Mondialiste was beaten a nose as the runner-up in the Group 2 York Stakes at 1 5/16 miles two starts back. Jose Ortiz Jr. will be in from New York for the mount on Mondialiste, who also carries 121 pounds.
“He loves this track, the long stretch,” said Fearghal Davis, traveling head last for O'Meara. “He'll be holding up, and then come on and pick up the pieces. He's in good form; he looks fantastic.”
Both O'Brien and Casse have second Woodbine Mile entrants in Lancaster Bomber (Post 10, 9-2) and Conquest Panthera (Post 7, 12-1), respectively, and both are legitimate contenders in their own rights.
Often used as a pacemaker for his stablemate Churchill, who was Europe's champion 2-year-old, Lancaster Bomber almost shocked his more illustrious colleague when beaten 1 1/4 lengths at 66-1 in last fall's Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.
The Kentucky-bred followed that effort with a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita last fall and his best result in five starts this season was a second in the Grade 1 St. James's Pace at Ascot.
Firm going evidently is critical for Lancaster Bomber, who will be looking to become the first 3-year-old to win the Woodbine Mile and will have a new rider in Wayne Lordan and will carry just 112 pounds.
“This is his trip,” said Comerford, adding that O'Brien would be dictating the stable's strategy once he analyzed the field and the draw.
Conquest Panthera, owned by Gary Barber and to be ridden by Patrick Husbands, became a stakes winner in his first appearance here, upsetting the Grade 2 Play the King over seven furlongs with Husbands getting the call for the first time.
The Kentucky-bred 5-year-old gelding performed well this spring when finishing third in two starts at one mile on the grass, ending 1 ½ lengths back in Gulfstream's Grade 3 Canadian Turf and just a neck and a nose behind the winner in the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland.
“He's got a good post,” said Casse. “He has to prove he fits with this type of horse, but the good news is he had a race over the track.”
Dutch Connection (6-1, Post 11), a Group 2-winning 5-year-old horse who races for Godolphin, will be making his third trip to North America but first to Canada for trainer Charlie Hills.
All of Dutch Connection's five wins have come at seven furlongs, including his second Group 3 score in Goodwood's Supreme Stakes last time out.
Dutch Connection, who gets in with 117 pounds, is trained by Charlie Hills and will be ridden by Mikael Barzalona.
“He could have drawn a bit further in”, said Geoff Snook, traveling head lad for Hills. “He probably drops in again. He likes to be held up, off a good gallop.”
Long On Value (Post 3, 15-1), based at Saratoga with trainer Bill Mott, already has put plenty of miles on his odometer this season with a trip to Dubai yielding a very close second-place finish in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint and a subsequent overseas journey resulting in a 12th-of-19 finish in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Both races were run over six furlongs of grass and Long On Value returned with a third-place effort in Saratoga's Troy over 5 ½ furlongs of grass in his last start Aug. 6.
The Virginia-bred 6-year-old horse also has run very well in longer turf races with victories in Gulfstream's Grade 3, one-mile Canadian Turf; Santa Anita's Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile Twilight Derby; and Canterbury's one-mile Mystic Lake Derby.
Long On Value gets in with 117 pounds and will be have his regular rider Joel Rosario in the irons.
Rounding out the quintet of Euro invaders will be Arod.
Arod (Post 9, 20-1), a 6-year-old will be making his second consecutive Woodbine Mile appearance after finishing fifth, beaten two lengths, when trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam.
The Irish-bred will have a new trainer this time around as he was sent to David Simcock's yard after a second stint in Australia this season. Arod's best career effort came at Saturday's distance as he captured the Group 2 Summer Mile at Ascot in 2015.
Harry Bentley will pilot the Irish-bred who gets in with 117 pounds.
Locals Tower of Texas (Post 2, 12-1) Glenville Gardens (Post 12, 20-1), Dragon Bay (Post 5, 20-1) and Best Bard (Post 4, 50-1) round out the field for the Woodbine Mile.
Tower of Texas will be making his third consecutive appearance in the race, having finished seventh in 2015 and second, beaten just a half-length by Tepin, last season.
After coming out of last October's Shadwell Mile at Keeneland somewhat the worse for wear, Tower of Texas was making his first start in almost eight months when he prevailed by a nose in the Connaught Cup over seven furlongs of turf here June 3.
In two subsequent turf outings for trainer Roger Attfield, Tower of Texas has displayed his usual late kick but experienced traffic problems when third in the one-mile King Edward and fourth in the Play the King.
Eurico Rosa da Silva retains the mount on the 6-year-old gelding who will tote 121 pounds.
“I think his post is fine,” said Attfield. “He needs some pace up front, and a good trip.”
Glenville Gardens also contested last year's Woodbine Mile, finishing seventh after setting the pace through six furlongs.
After concluding his 2016 campaign with a second straight Labeeb Stakes score, Glenville Gardens returned with a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Connaught Cup but rebounded with a one-mile turf tally under allowance terms and a solid third in the Play the King.
Glenville Gardens, who will carry 119 pounds, is trained by Sid Attard and will be ridden by Luis Contreras.
Dragon Bay has won the Grade 2 Eclipse over 1 1/16 miles of Tapeta and the Grade 2 Nijinsky at 1 ¼ miles on the turf this season. The 4-year-old gelding now cuts back to the distance at which he became a stakes winner in last summer's Better Talk Now at Saratoga after running fourth in the Grade 2 Sky Classic at 1 3/8 miles on the grass last time out.
Dragon Bay, who has been assigned 121 pounds, is trained by Stu Simon and will be ridden by Gary Boulanger.
Best Bard, recently claimed by trainer Norm McKnight for owner Bruno Schickedanz, will make his first start in the Woodbine Mile. Jockey Rafael Hernandez gets the call.
The Ricoh Woodbine Mile weekend boasts an incredible array of graded turf stakes. Earlier on Saturday, the Grade 1 $300,000 Northern Dancer, at one and one-half miles on the turf for three-year-olds and upward, features multiple Group 1 winner Hawkbill.
Also on Saturday is the Grade 2 $250,000 Canadian Stakes, a mile and one-eighth contest for fillies and mares. On the main track, Saturday's card also includes the Grade 3 Bold Venture Stakes at six and a half furlongs for three-year-olds and upward.
Closing out Saturday's 13-race card is a mandatory payout of the Jackpot Hi-5 which boasts a carryover of $1,425,365.45.
Sunday's card at Woodbine features two ‘Breeders' Cup Win and You're In' races for two-year-olds – the Grade 1 $250,000 Natalma Stakes for fillies and the Grade 2 $200,000 Summer Stakes, both at one mile.
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