On the weekend of September 15-16, the attention of the racing world will turn to Woodbine in Canada, where a top-class series of eight stakes races worth nearly $2.2 million will take center stage.
Among the highlights of this action-packed weekend are three official prep races for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs. Kicking off the slate is the $800,000 Woodbine Mile (gr. I) on September 15th, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I), while on the following afternoon the $250,000 Summer Stakes (gr. I) and the $250,000 Natalma Stakes (gr. I) will offer the same benefit for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I) and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. I), respectively.
Certainly the most intriguing race of the weekend will be the much-anticipated Woodbine Mile, a high-caliber event that has been won in recent years by the champions Wise Dan, Tepin, and World Approval. According to the Woodbine website, eight horses are currently under consideration for the Woodbine Mile, with the two-time Grade 1 winner Divisidero leading the charge. But the prospective field also includes Delta Prince, Good Samaritan, and Mr Havercamp (all graded stakes winners over the Woodbine turf course) plus the talented filly La Sardane, the Canadian-bred stakes winner Vanish, and the Group 1-placed European shippers Lord Glitters and Stormy Antarctic.
Also on the September 15th card is the $300,000 Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. I), a 1 ½-mile turf race that is expected to draw Hawkbill, winner of the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) during the winter. The graded stakes-place filly Vexatious, a half-sister to the high-class runners Creative Cause and Destin, is also expected to compete. The $250,000 Canadian Stakes (gr. II) for fillies and mares on turf and the $125,000 Bold Venture Stakes (gr. III) for sprinters on the all-weather track add further depth to the card.
On September 16th, the Summer and the Natalma will be conducted over the same one-mile distance as the Woodbine Mile, and with Grade 1 status on the line, expect to see some deep and competitive fields. There will even be representation from Europe, with the Sweet Solera Stakes (Eng-III) runner-up La Pelosa shipping in to contes the Natalma for Godolphin Racing and trainer Charlie Appleby.
The two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, renowned for his astonishing success with turf horses, has nominated Mintd to the Natalma and Fog of War to the Summer Stakes. The latter colt was an impressive debut winner during the Saratoga meet, while Mintd is set to make her U.S. debut after starting her career in Ireland with trainer W. McCreery.
The full schedule of weekend stakes action at Woodbine can be viewed on the Woodbine website.