Wise Dan, the odds-on morning line favorite at 2/5, ships up to Canada to face a field of just five rivals in Sunday's Grade 1 Woodbine Mile at Woodbine Racecourse outside of Toronto. (Post time: 5:38 p.m. Eastern; TV: TVG) Wise Dan won the 2012 Woodbine Mile by over three lengths in what was the second win in his current eight race win streak, a performance so dominating that it appears to have sent his rivals in search of easier spots to race.
I know the standard defense of small fields in a big race like the Woodbine Mile is to assert that Wise Dan scared away the competition but that can't be the entire reason only five horses chose to challenge the reigning American Horse of the Year. I mean, the Woodbine Mile is a $1 million race so even if we concede the $600k to the heavy favorite, there is plenty of good money left on the table, including $200,000 for the runner-up. And yet only five other horses/connections were willing to challenge for the remaining purse money - that's disappointing. It's hard to believe there aren't eight to 10 horses on the East Coast that are worthy of running in a Grade 1 race at a mile on the lawn, but what we get is what we get.
I don't blame Woodbine for this predicament as they are featuring a Grade 1 race with a million bucks in the purse. If the conditions of the Woodbine Mile are not enough to entice owners/trainers to enter horses then we might as well shut the whole ball game down right now. Perhaps it really is the fact that nobody wants to lose, which is a continuing awful trend for the sport. While horsemen pick and choose for that perfect spot (or just wait for the racing secretary to write a race specifically for their animal), race after race is run with less-than-stellar betting fields, a situation that directly impact handle. We saw it at Saratoga with some of those brutally small fields for the distaffers and 3yo fillies, and we'll likely see it again on Sunday at Woodbine.
The Woodbine Mile isn't a N1L with a purse of $12,500, it's a Grade 1 race with a million bucks up for grabs. If we can't fill our high level/big purse graded stakes races, perhaps it's time to re-allocate that money to the claiming ranks.
Anyway, turning back to Sunday's Woodbine Mile: it's a case of Wise Dan vs. very little. While there are some decent horses within the field, it's tough to call this a Grade 1 quality field if you are looking at any horse other than the odds-on favorite.
- 1-Riding the River won the Grade 2 King Edward at Woodbine this summer but has never defeated a horse with the class of Wise Dan.
- 2-Excaper won an optional claiming event two back and an N1X at Churchill earlier this year. He's yet to win at the graded stakes level.
- 3-Trade Storm (GB) has given a good account of himself in Great Britain before making the jump to North America. He was recently third in the G2-Celebration Mile at Goodwood.
- 4-Dimension (GB) won the G2-Play King at Woodbine in late August.
- 6-Za Approval is the most accomplished of Wise Dan's rivals; the five-year-old gelding won a pair of Grade 3 races earlier this year and was second in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood in is most recent effort.
Get ready for some bridge-jumping cause the show pool is going to be insane.
Sunday's card will also feature the G2-Canadian Stakes (field of nine); the G3-Ontario Derby (field of five), and the G1-Northern Dancer (field of seven).
Below are the entries, post positions and morning line odds for Sunday's Woodbine Mile.
|1||Riding the River||T. Kabel||D. Cotey||15/1
|2||Excaper||L. Contreras||I. Black||12/1|
|3||Trade Storm (GB)||G. Stevens||D. Simcock||8/1|
|4||Wise Dan||J. Velazquez||C. LoPresti||2/5|
|5||Dimension (GB)||D. Moran||C. Murphy||10/1|
|6||Za Approval||G. Gomez||C. Clement||4/1|