Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Reigning Horse of the Year, Wise Dan, was installed as an overwhelming 2-5 favorite after drawing post position number four, in a field of six, for Sunday’s $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile. The Grade 1 affair will be contested at a flat mile over one of the best turf courses in the world at the Suburban Toronto oval. To be ridden by John Velazquez, Wise Dan will be looking to repeat the impressive victory he registered in this race last year, when he romped home 3 ¾-lengths clear of the rest.
The field from the rail out with morning line odds:
1) Riding the River 15-1 - One of the two local horses in the field, Riding the River finished a late-running 4th in this event last year. The winner of 1-of-4 this year, the David Cotey trained runner got off to a good start this year, but has been a little disappointing with a 7th and 3rd in his last two, including finishing behind Dimension and Excaper in the 7-furlong Play the King in his latest. He looks to be the longest shot of anyone in the small field, and will have to hustle late to repeat his good effort of last year. Interestingly, just like the defending champion, he is a six-year-old gelding by the Pennsylvania sire Wiseman’s Ferry.
2) Excaper 12-1 - Runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in 2011, the talented, but lightly raced four-year-old son of Exchange Rate, only has two starts so far in 2013. After a sharp allowance victory, Excaper chase Dimension all the way around in the Play the King, before finally succumbing to that one by 2 ½ lengths. Both of those races came at seven panels, and he figures hard pressed to be holding off the champ and the late runners when the real running begins down the Woodbine stretch.
3) Trade Storm 8-1 - The wildcard of this field, Trade Storm will be ridden by veteran Gary Stevens as he invades from across the pond for trainer David Simcock. Despite having nothing better than a third place finish to show for his last five efforts, the five-year-old son of Trade Fair has been keeping excellent company in England, while never being embarrassed. A winner of a group 2 earlier this year in Dubai, the mile specialist may find the company on Sunday (other than Wise Dan) to be a bit easier than he has become accustomed to, and could be the one to give the heavy favorite his top challenge.
4) Wise Dan 2-5 - The winner of three Eclipse Awards (Horse of the Year, Turf Male and Older Male) last year, Wise Dan will carry the top weight of 124, as he spots the field between three and seven pounds. That should be of little worry to a horse who has won eight consecutive races as he attempts to become the first horse to repeat in the Woodbine Mile. Tougher tests are on the horizon for the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile champion, but as far as Sunday, anything near his normal race, will put him in the winner’s circle once again … and this is one horse who doesn’t really throw in bad ones.
5) Dimension 10-1 - Coming off the race of his life in easily winning last month’s Play The King, the English import will need to do it again, and then some to put a scare in the defending champion. A new running style of going right to the early lead, employed while winning for the first time in North America in his last, does make him a bit of a threat, but even considering his last, there is nothing in his form to suggest that he can handle the type of horsepower he will compete with in the Woodbine Mile.
6) Za Approval 4-1 - A deserving second choice on the morning line, Za Approval has moved well into graded stakes racing this year for conditioner, Christophe Clement. A consistent sort, and a winner of 6-of-12 lifetime on the turf, the five-year-old son of champion Ghostzapper has won the Appleton, Red Bank, and finished second in the Shoemaker Mile in his last three starts, while utilizing a solid closing kick. Having said that, he proved no match for the best horse he has faced to date, when placing behind Obviously at Hollywood.