Who Will Win the Woodbine Mile?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

The Breeders' Cup is just seven weeks away and so the schedule of prep races is really starting to heat up! This weekend, Woodbine racecourse in Canada will host three "Win and You're In" qualifiers for the Breeders' Cup, led by the $800,000 Woodbine Mile (gr. I) over the massive E.P. Taylor Turf Course.

In recent years, the Woodbine Mile has been pretty kind to foreign raiders-Trade Storm and Mondialiste won in 2014 and 2015, respectively, while Mutakayyef finished a close third in 2016 and Lancaster Bomber was runner-up in 2017.

The 2018 Woodbine Mile is shaping up to be a competitive event, but it doesn't feature any standout North American stars like Tepin in 2016, Wise Dan in 2012 and 2013, or even World Approval last year, so there could be a definite opportunity this year for the raiders to secure another victory.

The two European shippers lined up to contest the Woodbine Mile are Lord Glitters and Stormy Antarctic, and both bring Group 1-level form into the race, though neither horse has won at that level to date. I'm particularly interested in Lord Glitters, who hails from the barn of trainer David O'Meara. In the past, O'Meara has gone 3-for-9 with his North American shippers, picking up Grade 1 victories with the above-mentioned Mondialiste and also with Suedois, who won the 2017 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. I) at Keeneland.

Last year, Lord Glitters was a decent handicap/listed stakes-level competitor in Europe, but he's been an entirely different horse this season. Granted, there aren't really any standout male turf milers in Europe this year (no Frankels or Kingmans!), but Lord Glitters has been busy holding his own against the best available, finishing second by a half-length in the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot, second by a neck in the Summer Mile Stakes (Eng-II), and third by two lengths in the Sussex Stakes (Eng-I).

On August 25th, Lord Glitters showed that he's still in good form by winning the Strensall Stakes (Eng-III) going nine furlongs at York, though a mile really seems to be his best distance and I think his victory while going longer was much more the result of dropping in class than stretching out. As for Racing Post Ratings, he's posted three in the 117-118 range this season, which is right in line with the pair of 117s posted by Mondialiste prior to his win in the Woodbine Mile. And just like Lord Glitters, Mondialiste entered the Woodbine Mile off a victory in the Strensall Stakes.

I also think it's important to note that the purpose of shipping Lord Glitters to Woodbine isn't really to try and snag a Grade 1 win against an easier field than he can find in Europe. To the contrary, Lord Glitters connections are targeting the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot in October, a clear indication of the high regard they hold for Lord Glitters—they aren't ducking anyone. According to a report on the Woodbine website, the rich purse offered by the Woodbine Mile was part of the attraction; Lord Glitters was also among the early entries for Saturday's Boomerang Stakes (Ire-II) at Leopardstown, but passed on the race to travel abroad instead.

That's all reason enough to like Lord Glitters, but for good measure, he'll be ridden in the Woodbine Mile by Jamie Spencer, whose infrequent rides over the local turf course have resulted in four Grade 1 wins aboard Wigmore Hall (2011 and 2012 Northern Dancer Stakes), Just the Judge (2014 E. P. Taylor Stakes), and Trade Storm (2014 Woodbine Mile). For all of these reasons, I'm siding with Lord Glitters to win the Woodbine Mile.

As for Stormy Antarctic, he's finished second on three occasions at the Group 1 level, though in the scheme of Group 1s they were somewhat weaker races than the events in which Lord Glitters has been participating. Still, Stormy Antarctic missed by just a length in the Celebration Mile Stakes (Eng-II) at Goodwood last month, and the winner—Beat the Bank—edged out Lord Glitters in the Summer Mile Stakes (Eng-II), so judging by form lines Stormy Antarctic isn't that far off of Lord Glitters. His Racing Post Ratings agree with that assessment; in all five of his starts this year, Stormy Antarctic has earned ratings between 114 and 115. This race is wide-open enough that victory is probably within reach for Stormy Antarctic if he gets the right trip, but my preference is for Lord Glitters and I personally would restrict my usage of Stormy Antarctic to the trifecta and superfecta.

Among the North American representatives, the most accomplished is certainly the three-time Grade 1 winner and 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf champion Oscar Performance, but he's also one of the biggest wildcards in the field. What do we make of his chances? Two starts back, he cruised to victory in the Poker Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park, clocking a mile in a blazing 1:31.23 to equal the North American record for the distance. Last time out, he was pulled up late in the 1 ¼-mile Arlington Million (gr. I) and failed to finish the race.

If there's any consolation, it's the fact that Oscar Performance was vying for command through the opening mile of the Arlington Million, so the cutback in distance for the Woodbine Mile should be beneficial to his chances. Then again, two of Oscar Performance's Grade 1 wins have come going 1 ¼ miles and he's Grade 1-placed going 1 ½ miles, so it's not likely he's shown severe distance limitations in the past. It seemed as though he just failed to seriously fire in the Arlington Million, which raises the question—why? And which version of Oscar Performance will we see in the Woodbine Mile?

Well, he's bounced back with three half-mile workouts since the Arlington Million, including a bullet breeze on turf, so he seems to have recovered well from his non-finish. And he shouldn't face much pace pressure at all in the Woodbine Mile—the filly La Sardane, drawn inside of Oscar Performance, is the only other front-runner in the field, so Oscar Performance should be able to secure a picture-perfect trip tracking the pace. For these reasons, I'm going to draw a line through the Arlington Million and expect to see a significant rebound from Oscar Performance, though I still narrowly prefer Lord Glitters as my top choice.

Divisidero, Good Samaritan, and Delta Prince are all quality Grade 1-level competitors with the form to challenge for victory on their best days. Good Samaritan's last eight races have come on dirt, but he was an accomplished runner on turf early in his career, even winning the Summer Stakes (gr. II) over this course and distance in 2016. Meanwhile, Divisidero is a two-time Grade 1 winner, but his complete lack of tactical speed often leaves him at a disadvantage and makes him more of a "pick up the pieces" type than a frequent winner.

In contrast, the lightly-raced Delta Prince generally shows more speed than either Good Samaritan or Divisidero, which could be an advantage given the lack of pace horses entered in the Woodbine Mile. He demonstrated that tactical speed while rallying from mid-pack to win the King Edward Stakes (gr. II) over this course and distance in a fast time earlier this summer, though exactly how fast he ran is unclear since the track timer malfunctioned and the race was hand-timed. Actually, Craig Milkowski of TimeformUS produced evidence that the final time was closer to 1:31 3/5.

Delta Prince came from farther off the pace to finish second by a neck in his most recent start, the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga, but that was a bit of an odd race in which the front-running winner Voodoo Song shook loose on a long lead over a rain-soaked course labeled "good," so Delta Prince's failure to stay engaged early on may have been more the result of tricky race dynamics than anything else. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens seems to have Delta Prince in career-best form right now, and with a return to pace-stalking tactics, that should be enough to get the son of Street Cry on the board.

So to recap, here are my top three picks for the Woodbine Mile:

1st: Lord Glitters
2nd: Oscar Performance
3rd: Delta Prince

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Woodbine Mile?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.

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