Every racing fan has their favorite and most memorable moments. Last year, for me, it was the Woodbine Mile.
Who can forget the breathtaking rail move by Shakespeare, who came from eighth and 7 1/2 lengths back at the quarter-pole to nail Kip Deville in the final yards? It was truly one of the best late moves I have seen by a 6-year-old, and to do it after coming back from serious injury made it all the more remarkable. If you would like to see it again, here it is. I was sorry to see Shakespeare retire. When healthy, he was a monster.
The field isn't as large and wide-open for this year's Mile, and it is certainly going to be tough to beat Kip Deville. He is the top turf miler in North America, hands down. And he will have only seven rivals, with his main competition seemingly coming from a filly, Ventura. He is sure to be odds-on and won't offer much in the way of value. Is it worth playing against him?
Aside from Ventura, the other six challengers are all Woodbine locals. On paper, there is nothing in here that blows you away. Just Rushing seems to be the most logical one to challenge, as the 7-year-old gelding hasn't been out of the money in his last nine. But he has only one win to show for it, that coming last out in the grade II Play the King. He also never won at a mile, and his trainer, Sid Attard, admitted coming back in only two weeks will be very difficult.
Also coming out of the Play the King are runner-up Wollemi Pine and fourth-place Mulmur. Wollemi Pine, trained by Ian Black, is a closer who was running in allowance company up until two months ago. He'll need a brisk pace. Mulmur rallied well in the Play the King and won the Ontario Jockey Club two starts back. He comes from winning connections, so I give him an outside chance.
Palladio hasn't won in nearly 14 months.
Other than Ventura, who I will cover shortly, I give Black's other entry, Rahy's Attorney, the best chance for an upset. This 4-year-old gelding doesn't always win but is consistently around the money. He is 6-2-4 from 16 starts and more importantly, is 2-for-2 going a mile and has won five of eight starts on the Woodbine turf. Not bad. He has a graded stakes to his credit this year when taking the Connaught Cup while going 12 furlongs. He cuts back from the 1 1/4 Nijinsky last out, where he finished fourth but was beaten only three lengths. All three of the horses that beat him are entered in the grade I Northern Dancer, which is right before the Mile.
Ventura is a filly on the rise. She is a nose away from winning two in a row in graded action, both against very good company. How will she do against the boys? Well, if her times are any indication, she is right where she belongs. In fact, her final time of 1:32.75 in the grade I Just a Game in June was better than any mile time Kip Deville has ever run. This seems like her perfect distance and the spacing between races couldn't be any better. Throw in Garrett Gomez, who was aboard Shakespeare last year, and trainer Bobby Frankel, who has two Mile victories to his credit, and she should be right there.
Kip Deville has been lightly-raced by Rick Dutrow Jr in 2008. He has only two starts to his credit this season, as opposed to five this same time last year. Dutrow says he doesn't need any more than this, and judging by his Maker's Mark Mile, which came off a nearly six-month layoff, he is probably right. If Kip runs his race and is on the top of his game, he is clearly the best horse here. He is a three-time grade I winner and has beaten much tougher than this.
The Pick: It wouldn't shock me if (4) Kip Deville lost this race, but I don't think it is very likely. The problem is, he'll be odds-on. (8) Ventura is certainly capable here, but she won't offer great value either (likely to be 7-2 or 3-1). I'm going to play $10 across the board on (2) Rahy's Attorney, who is 12-1 on the morning-line, and also use him in a $1 trifecta key that will read like this: 2,4,8/2,4,8/all. That's a $36 ticket.
For the record, I like a Seaside Retreat/Quijano exacta in the Northern Dancer and The Niagara Queen to pull an upset in the Canadian Stakes. If you watched That Handicapping Show this week, you'll know I went with Jade's Revenge in the Turfway Park Fall Championship in the other Breeders' Cup Challenge race.