A total of eight Woodbine-based horses were pre-entered for this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup, but by the time the dust settled on Monday, just six remained. Here’s a brief look at which races they’re connections are considering and their preliminary chances at returning to Toronto with the top prize.
The leading contender hails from the juggernaut Mark Casse stable, which is in the process of establishing a new record for wins in one season by one barn. Casse, an Indianapolis native that kicked off his training career in Kentucky, sends out the aptly named Northern Passion, who was cross-entered in the Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile Fillies Turf. The filly will compete in the Juvenile Fillies on dirt – a surface she has yet to race over.
Northern Passion won her debut with style and professionalism, rallying up the inside around the turn and seizing command in early stretch. She won the 5 ½-furlong contest by 1 ¼ lengths. The chestnut daughter of First Samurai followed up with a hard luck second-place finish against one of the leaders of the division, Reade Baker trainee Tu Endie Wei.
Woodbine’s leading rider Luis Contreras will continue to partner Northern Passion.
Tu Endie Wei ventured south, earlier this month and didn’t make much of an impression in the Grade 1 Alicibiades Stakes. Meanwhile, Northern Passion stayed home for a turf try and performed like the Canadian division’s champion, winning a loaded edition of the Natalma Stakes on Woodbine Mile weekend.
Northern Passion - Predicted finish - 4th
Casse is also represented by a male youngster, the Grey Stakes winner Prospective. The son of Malibu Moon defeated Lockout by two lengths as a relative outsider in the wagering at 8-1. He’ll be looking to perform the same double that Macho Uno converted almost a decade ago.
Owned by John Oxley, Prospective may still have some room to improve, considering the Grey Stakes came on the heels of a six-week absence. The Juvenile will be his fourth career start. The buzz out of Louisvill is that he is training well. Hopes are high for the two-year-old.
Prospective - Predicted finish - 7th
Full marks to Gail Cox for committing Hard Not to Like to the Breeders’ Cup. The gray daughter of Hard Spun journeys to Louisville in search of her fourth victory in five career starts on Friday. Her most recent triumph was her second victory against restricted Canadian-bred colts and geldings in the Cup & Saucer Stakes. But before being wowed by the overpowering nature of her 4 ¾ length victory, note that this performance came over a yielding course in an event that two of her rivals wound up with DNFs next to their names. She was a troubled fifth in the Natalma Stakes, which generated the aforementioned Northern Passion and Spirited Miss as Breeders’ Cup pre-entrants.
Hard Not to Like - Predicted finish - 10th
Another two-year-old among the eight Woodbine invaders is the Summer Stakes runner-up Excaper. The Ian Black trainee gave prohibitive favorite Finale a run for his money in the one-mile event. The gray son of Exchange Rate was just three-quarters of a length behind at odds of 15-1 after contesting the pace. Since the Summer, Excaper returned to Polytrack and travelled two turns for the first time in the Grey. He prompted the pace once again and tired to be fourth. He returns to the turf and gets another shot at two turns in Saturday’s Juvenile Turf. He also gets a rematch with Finale, who defeated him in the Summer. However, Excaper drew post 11, which will make break and rush tactics to reach front all the more difficult under Woodbine rider Emma-Jayne Wilson has the call.
Excaper - Predicted finish - 11th
Perfect Shirl will represent the always dangerous Roger Attfield barn. The daughter of Perfect Soul will compete in the very tough Fillies and Mares Turf on Friday. Attfield enters with a fresh filly, having opted to train her up to the Breeders’ Cup after her strong second-place finish to Canadian Horse of the Year candidate Never Retreat in the Canadian Stakes. The race doesn’t appear to feature a great deal of pace, which may force jockey John Velazquez to move a bit sooner aboard the four-year-old Charles Fipke filly.
Perfect Shirl - Predicted finish - 5th
Last of the six is Grand Adventure. Mark Frostad will give the versatile Sam-Son charge another crack at the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, which he failed to make an impression in last year, finishing ninth. This year, he enters the five-furlong fray having finished fourth in the Nearctic Stakes at six furlongs. He'll be partnered by Javier Castellano.
Grand Adventure - Predicted finish - 10th