Graded stakes spot plays for Woodbine Mile Day

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 13th, 2019

Saturday, September 14 marks one of the biggest days of the year at Woodbine.

The Canadian track will host four graded stakes races, led by the $1 million Woodbine Mile (G1), a prominent “Win and You’re In” prep race for the November 2 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Santa Anita.

Let’s dig in and come up with spot plays for the stakes races on this classy, action-packed afternoon of racing.

Race 3: Bold Venture Stakes (G3)

The winning strategy in this 6 1/2-furlong sprint is probably to accept #2 Pink Lloyd as an almost unbeatable favorite. The 2017 Canadian Horse of the Year has won 21 of his 26 starts and is 5-for-5 in 2019. He most recently claimed the OLG Kenora Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths, with a career-best 105 Brisnet speed figure.

But if you’re stubborn and don’t want to be known as a chalk-eating weasel (where does that phrase even come from?), you could note that Pink Lloyd finished a dull fifth in this race last year. The dominant winner, #7 Yorkton, is back to defend his title, and while his form this season leaves a lot to be desired (he hasn’t cracked the trifecta in three starts), he has been facing tough company on turf and might rebound in a return to Tapeta. At the very least he looms as a contender to round out the exacta.

Race 7: Canadian Stakes (G2)

A group 1 winner in her native Brazil, #1 Touriga encountered some tough circumstances in her U.S. debut. Facing just two rivals in the Matchmaker Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park, Touriga was reserved in last behind very slow fractions, then got placed in tight quarters down the homestretch, where she tried to rally into finishing fractions of :23.15 and :11.34.

This was essentially a hopeless situation, so I give Touriga some credit for finishing just 1 1/4 lengths behind grade 1 winner and fellow Canadian Stakes contender #5 Competitionofideas. Touriga might not be the most likely winner of the Canadian, but she is likely to receive a better setup this time, and trainer Graham Motion has saddled 20% winners at Woodbine since 2016, with graded stakes victories from Utmost, Shahroze, Quidura, Untamed Domain, Can’thelpbelieving and Messi. As a longshot price play, Touriga is an appealing alternative to the favorites.

Race 9: Woodbine Mile (G1)

The filly #5 Got Stormy figures to attract a lot of attention in this competitive heat. Trained by Mark Casse, who saddled the mare Tepin to nab this prize in 2016, Got Stormy has long shown flashes of ability, but she has really put everything together in her last two starts. Most recently she crushed males by 2 1/2 lengths in the Fourstardave Handicap (G1) at Saratoga, where she clocked a mile in the course-record time of 1:32.00.

Got Stormy has improved in leaps and bounds this season and already boasts a win over this course and distance, where she cruised to victory in the 2018 Ontario Colleen Stakes (G3) and sprinted the final quarter-mile in :22.57. With her tactical speed and strong turn of foot, she’s got the versatility to work out a winning trip under just about any circumstances. I say strike while the iron is hot and play her to win right back.

Race 10: Northern Dancer Stakes (G1)

The Godolphin homebred #1 Old Persian is a dangerous shipper for Charlie Appleby, who has compiled a strong 12-4-3-0 record in North America since 2013. Old Persian won the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) in March, but there isn’t much speed in the Northern Dancer, and I suspect this could give an insurmountable advantage to #6 Tiz a Slam.

In recent years the frontrunning Tiz a Slam has made a habit out of wiring long-distance turf races at Woodbine. In his last two starts, he has romped to easy victories in the Singspiel Stakes (G3) and Nijinsky Stakes (G2), where he utilized sub-:24 final quarter-mile fractions to hold all his rivals at bay. If Tiz a Slam shakes loose on another uncontested lead Saturday, he might just lead Old Persian on a merry chase.

Good luck!