Equibase Analysis: Who Will Earn A Breeders’ Cup Berth Via Ricoh Woodbine Mile?

The 21st running of the Grade 1, $800,000 Ricoh Woodbine Mile drew a field of 12 including four coming in from Europe in search of the winner’s share of the hefty purse and an automatic starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on November 4. The field is led by three previous Group 1 or Grade 1 stakes winners – World Approval (Fourstardave Handicap), Deauville (IRE) (Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes) and Mondialiste (IRE) (2015 Ricoh Woodbine Mile), with World Approval in the best form of the trio off his Fourstardave win last month. Then there are a number of horses with numerous successes on the Woodbine turf. That group is led by the 2016 Woodbine Mile runner-up Tower of Texas and includes recent Grade 2 Play the King Stakes winner Conquest Panthera as well as this year’s Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes winner Dragon Bay. Dutch Connection (GB) ships across the pond off a win in the Group 3 Weatherby’s Racing Back Supreme Stakes and must be respected as well as another European shipper, Lancaster Bomber, who finished fast for second in the 2016 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in his only previous North American start.

Top win contenders:

In 2016, Tower of Texas earned a quarter million dollars without winning a single race in five tries. His best effort came when missing by a half-length in last year’s Woodbine Mile, a race in which he earned a career-best 123 Equibase Speed Figure. Prior to that, Tower of Texas missed by a half-length in the Play the King Stakes, the same race trainer Roger Attfield used for the gelding’s prep for this year’s race. Although fourth in the Play the King last month, Tower of Texas ran much better than it looks on paper as he was sixth of seven when the field turned for home and blocked behind a wall or horses. Glenville Gardens was also blocked and just in front of Tower of Texas, but whereas Glenville Gardens found a path with about an eighth of a mile to run, Tower of Texas had to continue to wait and just in the final yards he accelerated, ending up fourth. Considering the strong run he put in last year off the same prep race and with Woodbine’s leading rider Eurico Rosa DaSilva in the saddle, I’ll give Tower of Texas slight preference among a trio of win contenders particularly as his odds may be high.

Conquest Panthera won the Play the King Stakes last month by a neck and earned a career best 117 Figure in the process. In spite of two poor efforts prior to that, his Play the King race wasn’t a fluke because in April Conquest Panthera missed by a neck and a nose from winning the Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland with a 115 figure effort. Patrick Husbands rode Conquest Panthera for the very first time in the Play the King and rides again, with the horse making his second start following two months off so likely having some improving to do.

World Approval is a grade 1 stakes winner at this mile turf trip, having posted the 5 to 1 win last month in the Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga last month. That effort earned a strong 115 figure that matches up with the best figures of the top contenders in the field. That figure compares well to the one he earned this past May when winning the Dixie Stakes as well as last year when winning the United Nations Stakes with a 116 figure. Considering World Approval gets the ground saving rail and has excellent tactical speed to be in front or close to the pacesetter in the early stages, we should expect another top effort.

The next three I would consider as contenders, each with the ability to win the Woodbine Mile but each with questions regarding whether they run that well, are Deauville (IRE), Mondialiste (IRE) and Dutch Connection (GB). Deauville (IRE) won the Belmont Derby at 10 furlongs last July. He also finished third after leading late in the 2016 Arlington Million last August. Deauville finished third in this year’s Million (with a 119 figure) and just like last year he led with an eighth of a mile to go. Deauville (IRE) could appreciate the cut back from 10 furlongs to eight but has only one second place and one third place effort to show in three previous tries at this mile distance on turf. Mondialiste (IRE) won the Woodbine Mile in 2015 with a 113 figure and ran a big race one before last when beaten a nose in the Sky Bet York Stakes (116 figure) but had no excuse more recently in the Betfred Mobile Strensall Stakes so I am concerned about his ability to rebound to competitive form in this deep field. Dutch Connection (GB) ran poorly in his two previous North American starts when fifth in the Shadwell Turf Mile in 2015 and when 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last fall. However, not only did he run well in his prep for the Woodbine Mile when victorious in the Weatherby’s Racing Bank Supreme Stakes last month (114 figure), he also adds Lasix not used for those previous two North American starts.

The rest of the Woodbine Mile field, with their best representative Speed Figures, is Arod (IRE) (120), Best Bard (105), Dragon Bay (108), Glenville Gardens (117), Lancaster Bomber (119) and Long on Value (115).

My Selections:
Tower of Texas
Conquest Panthera
World Approval

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