Woodbine feature two big grade 1 races in Toronto today: the Woodbine Mile and the Northern Dancer. The Northern Dancer will go to post at 4:34 EDT while the Mile will be run at 5:42.
The Woodbine turf course is currently rated "GOOD". Track conditions and changes can be found at the Woodbine offical website (Link).
The Mile looks to be a fantastic betting race on-paper with a number of horses that have a good shot at winning. Here's a look at today's field.
1-Crowded House (GB) (12/1): I loved this horse in the Pacific Classic when he was going a mile and a quarter but he appears to have major questions at today's distance. He's 1-for-1 at a mile in his career, and that win was in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster as a juvenile, but I'm not sure that race will have much in common with today's as he should see much quicker fractions on the front end. The Doncaster race was on the straight and it's the only time his connections even tried a mile; every race since has been at a 1 1/8th or longer. Crowded House doesn't have a lot of speed at his disposal so he'll probably need some help up front if he's going to get to the front in the stretch.
2-Victor's Cry (4/1): One of the California invaders, this horse won the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood in May and then finished second to The Usual Q.T. in the Eddie Read on July 24th. There's a lot to like with this one: he's got a good late kick, he fits in very nicely at a mile, and every time Corey Nakatani has ridden this one he's come up with a good effort (4-2-2-0).
3-Zifzaf (30/1): Ran well to finish 3rd in the Fourstardave at Saratoga last time out after spending most of his time middling around the maiden and allowance ranks. He's got some tactical speed at his disposal which should keep in the mix during the early parts of the race but you got to think that the quality of this field will make it hard for him to keep up after a half mile or so.
4-Court Vision (7/2): Fourth in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile, Court Vision hasn't yet tasted victory in 2010, although he finished second in three straight Grade 1's to start the campaign (Gulfstream Park Turf, Makers Mark Mile, Turf Classic). He flopped pretty bad in the Manhattan on Belmont day and following that race trainer Rick Dutrow decided to give him some time off. He's got the talent to win and Dutrow does well off the bench but I'm not sure he's great value at 7/2 considering the class around him.
5-Straight Story (12/1): This son of Giant's Causeway likes to get out to the front of the pack in the early parts of the race but he doesn't possess a really big turn of foot. Most of his ½ mile splits are in the average range and it's got to be a concern that he might have to run a bit harder than he's used to in order to maintain his favored track position.
6-Smokey Fire (15/1): One of the local entries and one of two trained by Sid Attard, Smokey Fire won the Grade 2 Play The King at this track back on August 29th. This colt has a good amount of speed as his disposal and he should be on or near the lead after the first quarter mile. He's never run a mile before in his career so he needs to show that he can carry that gate speed an extra furlong.
7-Signature Red (20/1): The other Attard horse finished 5th in the Play The King after winning the Grade 2 Highlander on July 4th. This colt is another that is more of a sprinter than a miler; he should ensure a quick pace on the front end but he's going to need to put up a huge performance to hold off the quality that will be running behind him.
8-Auteur (50/1): This will be the first try against Graded stakes company for this son of El Prado (IRE) after winning an OC/N2X event at Woodbine back on August 14th. He's got a pretty strong late kick so maybe if things melt down he can grab third or fourth but it's hard to see him as the likely winner.
9-Riviera Cocktail (20/1): Another California shipper, this one from the barn of Neil Drysdale. Riviera Cocktail finished fourth last time out in the restricted Wicker Stakes and he's done most of his damage against allowance company in SoCal. It looks like the turf is going to be rated "GOOD" today which may not be what this guy needs to run his best - the last time he ran over a non-firm turf course he ran a so-so race and finished up much slower than what he's shown on firm ground.
10-Woodbourne (30/1): Another local horse and another that wants to get out and run on the front end which is not a bad strategy at Woodbine with the big turns on the turf course. This gelding is probably more suited for high-level claimers than Grade 1 stakes as his last five wins have all been against claiming competition (although he did finish second by a neck in the restricted With Approval Stakes last time out).
11-The Usual Q.T. (3/1): Class-wise, it's tough not to like this gelding in this race. He clearly prefers turf to synthetic, so we should see a much better performance than what he displayed in the Pacific Classic, and he's got excellent tactical speed which should allow him to set up in a perfect stalking position behind the local pacesetters. The biggest question for this one is the going: can he put in a top effort on ground that isn't firm? If he can, he'll have a great shot at the win.
12-Famous Name (GB) (6/1): Value-wise, this is the horse I like the most. There is just too much on his side to ignore him at the windows: he's excellent at the distance (7-5-1-1), he's faced deep and talented fields in Europe, and he's a proven winner over softer ground. Throw in a 6/1 morning line and he makes a lot of sense for a win bet (assuming he doesn't get hammered down to something like 7/2). Check out his race on September 6th of last year - a 2nd place finish in the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp - if he runs anywhere close to that today he'd be awfully tough to beat.
13-Grand Adventure (8/1): The final horse in the field is another local trainee with a knack for running upfront early on. Grand Adventure has run in three straight graded stakes at Woodbine and finished 2nd, 1st and 1st. He's good over softer ground and he's got arguably the best local trainer (Mark Frostad) and jockey (Patrick Husbands) in his corner. If a local horse is going to win this, he would appear to be the one.