TORONTO, September 13, 2023 – Automatic Breeders’ Cup berths are on the line as compelling editions of the Ricoh Woodbine Mile, bet365 Summer Stakes, and Johnnie Walker Natalma Stakes headline Saturday’s Turf Champions Day card of racing at Woodbine.
The 27th running of the Mile, worth $1 million and contested over the world-renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course, has attracted an accomplished field of six hopefuls. The Mile and the Natalma will be showcased on a live broadcast airing on TSN from 5-6 p.m. ET.
Under the terms of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series, the Woodbine Mile winner will be entitled to a fees-paid berth for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile, to be run on November 4 at Santa Anita. The winner of the $500,000 Johnnie Walker Natalma Stakes, for 2-year-old fillies, will be entitled to a fees-paid berth for the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf on November 3, while the winner of the $500,000 bet365 Summer Stakes, for 2-year-olds, receives the same opportunity for the $2 million Juvenile Turf, also on November 3.
Once again, the Mile, Natalma and Summer will showcase an exceptional group of turf talents, local and international standouts, as well as high-profile owners, breeders, trainers, and jockeys.
Godolphin homebred Master of The Seas (IRE) will be making his first appearance in North America after prosperous performances in both England and the United Arab Emirates.
The 5-year-old son of Dubawi (IRE)-Firth of Lorne (IRE), who sports a record of 6-2-2 from 13 starts, is a five-time group winner along with a second and third at the G1 level.
“He has natural pace and travels well,” said Appleby. “The E.P. Taylor is a nice conventional track which suits him. It is a fair track with a nice straight that gives you a chance.”
Master of The Seas (IRE) arrives at the Mile off a score in the one-mile Group 2 Fred Cowley MBE Memorial Summer Mile Stakes on July 15.
Appleby selected that race as the bay’s most impressive outing to date.
“Winning the Summer Mile Stakes at Ascot in his last start where he won by four lengths [is his best performance],” he noted.
Godolphin and Appleby will be looking to duplicate their 2021 Woodbine success when they hit the Pattison Canadian International (Walton Street (GB)), bet365 Summer (Albahr (GB)) and Johnnie Walker Natalma (Wild Beauty (GB)) trifecta.
Last year, Godolphin and Appleby sent out five-time group 1 winner, recently retired Modern Games (IRE), to Woodbine Mile glory, which was followed by a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T). Mysterious Night (IRE) added to the day’s success with a win in the bet365 Summer.
“Both Master of The Seas (IRE) and Modern Games are strong travellers and milers with a will to win,” said Appleby.
William Buick, who won last year’s race with the aforementioned Modern Games (IRE), will make the trip to ride on Saturday.
Dual hall of fame conditioner Mark Casse, who won consecutive editions of the Mile, in 2016 with Tepin and one year later with World Approval, has three chances to add a third victory.
Ice Chocolat (BRZ), a 5-year-old son of Goldikovic (IRE)-Amor Chocolat (BRZ), brings a record of 5-5-2 from 18 starts into his latest engagement.
Owned by Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Peter Deutsch, the multiple graded stakes-placed dark bay took the Group 3 Grande Prêmio Federação Internacional de Autoridades Hípicas at Brazil’s Hipódromo da Gávea on November 7, 2021, in his final start of the campaign.
The gelding, bred by Haras Niju, made his North American debut with a fifth-place effort in his first start of 2022 and then contested his next seven starts at Woodbine.
He arrives at the Mile off a third-place effort in the Fourstardave Handicap (G1T) which saw Ice Chocolat (BRZ) carried six- to seven-wide and then steadied before regrouping to close stoutly, missing top spot by 1 ¼ lengths.
“One horse that has really come around is Ice Chocolat,” praised Casse. “His last couple of races have been really good. We’ve figured out that his best distance is a mile and he’s training really well. In fact, (assistant trainer) David Adams has had him forever at Woodbine. Then, he went to Saratoga and then sent him back to Woodbine. David said, ‘Boy, this horse has really gotten good.’ He thinks he’s changed.”
Joel Rosario will be aboard on Saturday.
Ultra-consistent Lucky Score, a 5-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky-Miss Matzo, is 6-3-4 from 17 starts and has finished in the top three over his past seven starts.
Owned by Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Pantofel Stable, LLC, the bay gelding earned his second graded stakes victory after taking the six-furlong Highlander (G2T) on July 1 at Woodbine. One year earlier, in September, he won the Vigil (G3).
Bred in Ontario by James Everatt, Janeane Everatt (who passed away in July) and Arika Everatt-Meeuse, Lucky Score has raced exclusively at Woodbine.
After a tenth in his debut on September 19, 2020, he broke his maiden next time out, and made it two straight scores in his 3-year-old debut on August 20, 2021.
“Lucky Score, what can I say?” offered Casse. “He shows up every time and gives it his best. He’s been a little unlucky, wide, in the last couple starts. If he could get the perfect storm, it wouldn’t shock me to see him pull off an upset.”
Sahin Civaci, who has partnered Lucky Score in all his starts this year, once again gets the call.
Casse’s third Mile hopeful comes in the form of My Sea Cottage (IRE).
Bred by Mubarak Al Naemi, and owned by Gary Barber, the 5-year-old son of Shalaa (IRE)-Shim Sham (IRE) has compiled a record of 3-1-6 from 16 starts.
The bay gelding is no stranger to Woodbine, having contested three races here, including the 2021 Toronto Cup Stakes (fifth).
His most recent outing was a fourth to Casa Creed in the Fourstardave Handicap (G1T).
“We’re bringing him in from New York,” said Casse. “I thought he ran very well in the Fourstardave. I don’t know how much speed is going to be in the Mile, but he’s fast and he’ll be up on the lead.”
My Sea Cottage (IRE) debuted with a sixth-place result at Belmont on July 3, 2020, in what was his only start of the year. He broke his maiden in his fourth start, a 2 ¼-length triumph over one mile on the Gulfstream turf on March 28, 2021.
Dylan Davis will ride.
A five-time winner, along with a second and two thirds, from 17 starts, Shirl’s Speight rhymed off three straight trips to the winner’s circle from January 15 to April 15 last year, capped off by a nose triumph in the Makers Mark Mile (G1T).
Under the tutelage of dual Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield, the 6-year-old son of Speightstown-Perfect Shirl won his debut, a 7-furlong race over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, on July 4, 2020, by eight lengths.
Bred and owned by Charles Fipke, the bay, who was fourth in this May’s Dubai Turf (G1T) Meydan, finished fourth in last year’s Mile and second, at 55-1, to Modern Games (IRE) in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T).
John Velazquez, who has a record five Woodbine Mile victories, including back-to-back (2012-13) triumphs with Wise Dan, will be in the irons.
Owned by Bruno Schickedanz and trained by Norm McKnight, War Bomber (IRE), a 5-year-old son of War Front-Sun Shower (IRE), heads into his second Mile (he was ninth last year) off a stellar winning performance in the King Edward Stakes (G2T) on August 19 at Woodbine.
The gelding, claimed by Schickedanz for $25,000 in August 2021, brings a mark of 7-2-2 from 19 starts into Saturday’s race. Last August, War Bomber sprung an 18-1 upset in the Seagram Cup (G3), run at 1 1/16 miles on the Woodbine Tapeta.
“He’s versatile,” said Schickedanz, Canada’s champion owner of 2022, after the King Edward. “To me, I don’t know where he’s better. He’s good on both surfaces.”
Rico Walcott, aboard for the past two outings, gets the call on the Coolmore-bred bay.
The lucrative Ricoh Woodbine Mile card will also feature the $150,000 Vigil Stakes (G3), for 3-year-olds and up.
Eight starters, including My Buddy B, go after top prize in the six-furlong main track event.
Trained by Paulo Lobo for owner/breeder Bonne Chance Farm, LLC, the 4-year-old son of Creative Cause-Casting Director has won two straight races and four of his past five starts.
Sporting a record of 6-0-0 from 10 starts, My Buddy B will make his first start outside of the U.S., a career that has seen the grey colt compete at Turfway, Churchill, Ellis Park, Mountaineer, Horseshoe Indianapolis, and Belterra Park.
His only start on the synthetic came in his debut last April at Turfway.
Sent off as the 5-2 choice, My Buddy B, 1 ½ lengths on top at the stretch call in the six-furlong race, dug in gamely to hold on for a neck score in 1:10.18.
“He’s doing very well,” said Lobo. “He won first-time out on the Tapeta in Kentucky. He’s run extremely well this year and we are very happy with him. When he wins, he wins easily. Especially, the last two races, he got very good numbers. Before his first race this year, he was training well, and we could see that he was on top of his game.”
Lobo, who has 320 career wins, 29 of them stakes, is hopeful the lifetime earner of $111,715 (U.S.) will perform well in his first stakes engagement.
“Let’s see,” offered Lobo. “We had tried to find a spot for him here, but we decided to go to Woodbine. He’s a very honest horse and he’s a very kind horse. He’s like a pet.”
Rafael Hernandez will be aboard in the Vigil.
Woodbine-based Last American Exit, trained by Harold Ladouceur, heads into the Vigil in solid form.
Although winless in 2023, the 6-year-old son of Society’s Chairman-Where Oh Where has a trio of seconds and a third from five starts.
After a runner-up effort in his seasonal debut at 5 ½ furlongs on the Tapeta, Last American Exit contested the Pink Lloyd Stakes on June 4. Dismissed at 52-1, the bay, under Jose Campos, finished third to Rockcrest.
Fourth and second in his next two starts, the gelding galloped into the stakes spotlight again, this time in the Bold Venture (G3) on August 20.
Sent on his way at 45-1 in the 6 ½ furlong race over the Tapeta, Last American Exit put in another determined performance to finish second to Canadian sprint sensation Patches O’Houlihan (in to run in the Vigil), 1 ¼ lengths behind the winner.
“He’s doing really well,” said Ladouceur. “I’m so happy with him. He just seems to get better and better. I don’t why and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet. He’s hooked some very nice horses, and not to take anything away from them, but this guy, he makes them run for their money.”
Ladouceur, who claimed the horse for $25,000 (CDN) late last year, continues to be impressed by the veteran’s gritty ways.
“He does try every time. He’s a nice horse and he’s beautiful too. I used to gallop his mom (Where Oh Where) when I worked for (Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame trainer) Bob Tiller. She is probably the strongest horse I ever sat on. It was like riding three horses at once. When he was dropped in for $25,000, he won and when he was back in on the last day of racing and I thought, ‘We should take this horse.’ The owner, Kirk Sutherland, was all for it. He likes these kinds of horses.”
Bred by Frank Di Giulio, Jr., Last American Exit is 6-11-3 from 30 career starts.
Ladouceur and his wife, Jessie Ladouceur, share groom duties.
First race post time for Saturday’s 12-race card is set for 1:15 p.m. Fans can watch and wager on all the action through HPIbet.com, bet365 and the Dark Horse Bets app. For more information, visit Woodbine.com.
Previews for the bet365 Summer Stakes and Johnnie Walker Natalma Stakes will be distributed tomorrow (September 14).
$1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Grade 1) – Race 9
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Master of The Seas (IRE) – William Buick – Charlie Appleby
2 – War Bomber (IRE) – Rico Walcott – Norm McKnight
3 – Shirl’s Speight – John Velazquez – Roger Attfield
4 – Ice Chocolat (BRZ) – Joel Rosario – Mark Casse
5 – My Sea Cottage (IRE) (S) – Dylan Davis – Mark Casse
6 – Lucky Score – Sahin Civaci – Mark Casse
$500,000 Johnnie Walker Natalma (Grade 1) – Race 8
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Dazzling Star (GB) – William Buick – Charlie Appleby
2 – Bolt Enoree – Patrick Husbands – Kevin Attard
3 – Dancing Duchess – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Mark Casse
4 – Brocknardini – Declan Carroll – George Weaver
5 – Ms. Tart – Antonio Gallardo – Todd Beattie
6 – Airosa – Rafael Hernandez – Kevin Attard
7 – Simply in Front – Jose Campos – Patrick Dixon
8 – Ready to Jam – Sahin Civaci – Mark Casse
9 – Go With Gusto – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Mark Casse
10 – She’s Fire – Addiel Ayala – Kevin Rice
11 – She Feels Pretty – John Velazquez – Cherie DeVaux
12 – Ozara (IRE) – Dylan Davis – Christophe Clement
13 – Dea Matrona (FR) – Joel Rosario – Chad Brown
14 – Golden Canary – Sahin Civaci – Mark Casse
15 – Rhapsody – Kazushi Kimura – Kevin Attard
$500,000 bet365 Summer (Grade 1) – Race 6
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Souper Attentive – Patrick Husbands – Mark Casse
2 – Carson’s Run – Dylan Davis – Christophe Clement
3 – My Boy Prince – Joel Rosario – Mark Casse
4 – Tunechi – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Barbara Minshall
5 – Go With Gusto – Joel Rosario – Mark Casse
6 – Bolt Enoree – Kazushi Kimura – Kevin Attard
7 – Airosa – John Velazquez – Kevin Attard
8 – Western Whirl – Rico Walcott – Stuart Simon
9 – Bucyk – Kazushi Kimura – Kevin Attard
10 – Golden Canary – Sahin Civaci – Mark Casse
11 – King of the Track – Rafael Hernandez – Mark Casse
$150,000 Vigil (Grade 3) – Race 7
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Rockcrest – Keveh Nicholls – Nigel Burke
2 – Old Chestnut (S) – Rico Walcott – Martin Drexler
3 – Souper Watson (S) – Sahin Civaci – Martin Drexler
4 – Secret Reserve – Eswan Flores – Mike Mattine
5 – Last American Exit – Jose Campos – Harold Ladouceur
6 – Patches O’Houlihan – Daisuke Fukumoto – Robert Tiller
7 – Outlaw Kid (S) – Kazushi Kimura – George Weaver
8 – My Buddy B – Rafael Hernandez – Paulo Lobo
Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms