Woodbine Mile 2020 guide: Odds, picks and analysis

Woodbine Mile 2020 guide: Odds, picks and analysis
Photo: Coady Photography

War of Will, a member of one of racing’s most exclusive clubs, takes center stage Saturday in the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile.

The 2019 Preakness Stakes hero scored his second Grade 1 win July 10 at Keeneland in the Maker’s Mark Mile. With that victory, War of Will joined California Chrome and Secretariat as the only runners of the modern era to win both an American Classic and a Grade 1 turf event.

The 4-year-old War Front colt looks to add to his legacy Saturday in the Woodbine Mile, which is scheduled to run at 5:39 p.m. EDT. War of Will is the 2-1 favorite in a field of eight for trainer Mark Casse.

Another Casse trainee, March to the Arch, is 5-2 on the morning line. The 5-year-old runs Saturday over the same ground where he took the King Edward Stakes (G2) on Aug. 15.

Other intriguing entries include 7-year-old Starship Jubilee, the Sovereign Award 2019 Horse of the Year, 4-year-old Chad Brown trainee Value Proposition and 3-year-old Shirl’s Speight, a former Kentucky Derby hopeful.

Here is a look at the 2020 Woodbine Mile field, with morning line odds:

1. March to the Arch (Mark Casse, Patrick Husbands), 5-2

2. Armistice Day (Barbara Minshall, David Moran), 20-1

3. Shirl’s Speight (Roger Attfield, Kazushi Kimura), 8-1

4. Starship Jubilee (Kevin Attard, Justin Stein), 4-1

5. Olympic Runner (Mark Casse, Daisuke Fukumoto), 15-1

6. Admiralty Pier (Barbara Minshall, Steven Bahen), 10-1

7. Value Proposition (Chad Brown, Luis Contreras), 6-1

8. War of Will (Mark Casse, Rafael Hernandez), 2-1

TimeformUS’ pace projections show Admiralty Pier going out to set a fast pace under jockey Steven Bahen, with favorite War of Will tracking the leader. Starship Jubilee is expected to attempt a late rally.

Check out free PPs from our friends at Brisnet for more information on the Woodbine Mile’s eight runners.

Woodbine Mile on TV

TVG will broadcast Woodbine’s card Saturday. The network will simulcast its “Trackside Live” program on NBC Sports Network from 5-6 p.m., with the Woodbine Mile scheduled to run during that window.

“Trackside Live” will be hosted in-studio by Christina Blacker and Todd Schrupp and will include analysis from TVG talent Matt Bernier, Simon Bray and Britney Eurton, all contributing to the broadcast remotely from home. Jason Portuondo will be live trackside at Woodbine with interviews.

TVG will also simulcast “Trackside Live” on NBCSN from 4-6 p.m. Sunday. That afternoon’s action includes two Grade 1 stakes at Woodbine, the $250,000 Natalma and $250,000 Summer.

Woodbine Mile analysis

Horse Racing Nation asked racing experts from both the U.S. and Canada to offer their Woodbine Mile picks. See the “other Casse” long shot that interests Ed DeRosa of Churchill Downs and TwinSpires.com.

The Woodbine Mile is the third leg of a 20-cent late Pick 4 on Saturday at the Ontario oval. Reinier Macatangay offers picks for the sequence, which includes three stakes races and an optional claiming event.

NYRA on Saturday will offer a Cross Country Pick 5 wager that ends with the Woodbine Mile. The sequence also includes racing action at Belmont Park and Monmouth Park.

In Friday’s edition of Horses to Watch, J. Keeler Johnson takes a look at Woodbine Mile contenders Shirl’s Speight and Value Proposition.

The Woodbine Mile can affect both the Turf Male and Turf Female Eclipse Award races. See where Chip Gehrke ranks Starship Jubilee and War of Will entering this event.

The Woodbine Mile offers a “Win and You’re In” berth for the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile. See the runners who have won Mile Division races this season on four different continents.

Casse, a Hall of Fame trainer on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, has enjoyed recent success in the Woodbine Mile. His champions Tepin and World Approval took this event in 2016 and ’17, respectively.

Woodbine Mile undercard

First post Saturday is 1:10 p.m., with full Woodbine entries available via HRN. The undercard features two non-graded events: the $135,000 Ontario Racing Stakes and the $135,000 Woodbine Cares Stakes.

The Woodbine Mile card’s other graded stakes event is the $125,000 Singspiel Stakes (G3) going 1¼ miles on the turf. Here’s a preview of that race from the NTRA:

4:27 p.m.—$125,000 Singspiel Stakes (G3), TVG

Trainer Graham Motion has a two-pronged entry for the 1¼-mile Singspiel in stakes winner Standard Deviation and Nakamura. Standard Deviation traveled to Doha earlier this year where he ran second in the H.H. The Amir Trophy (G1), but the son of Curlin has been off the board in his last two starts including a seventh-place run in the United Nations Stakes (G1). Nakamura has finished third in his last two outings with his latest effort coming in an allowance optional claiming race Aug. 16.

Woodbine Mile preview

From Woodbine’s communications team…

Starship Jubilee
, Canada’s reigning Horse of the Year, will take on a gifted group of seven rivals, including 2-1 morning line favorite War of Will and undefeated 3-year-old Shirl’s Speight, in Saturday’s Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

The 24th running of the Woodbine Mile, worth $1 million and contested over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, has attracted a competitive field of eight hopefuls. With an estimated post time of 5:39 p.m. EDT, the race will be showcased on a live broadcast on TSN3 & TSN5 in Canada and on NBCSN in the U.S. from 5-6 p.m.

Under the terms of the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge Series, the Woodbine Mile winner will be entitled to a fees-paid berth for the Breeders’ Cup Mile, to be run Nov. 7 at Keeneland.

This year’s edition of the Mile showcases an intriguing mix of local talents and U.S. headliners.

Starship Jubilee, Canada’s 2019 Horse of the Year, will make her 38th career start in the fall turf classic for owner Blue Heaven Farm and trainer Kevin Attard. The bay was claimed for $16,000 on Attard’s behalf by his father and fellow trainer, Tino Attard, at Gulfstream in early 2017.

Entered in the 2018 November Breeding Stock Sale at Keeneland, Starship Jubilee failed to meet her $425,000 reserve and was subsequently sold privately to Bonnie Baskin’s Blue Heaven Farm.

The 7-year-old daughter of Indy Wind has assembled a career record of 18-5-3, going 3-3-1 from seven starts in 2019 en route to her Sovereign Award recognition, which also includes three straight (2017-19) Champion Female Turf Horse honors.

“I don’t think people realize how hard it is to keep a horse consistent,” Attard said. “When you see that consistency – there are always so many things that can go wrong, bad trips, bad luck, horses waking up on race day and not feeling well – bringing their A-game each and every time, it shows you how special it is and how special this horse is.”

In five starts this year, Starship Jubilee, bred in Florida by William Sorren, won her first four starts before finishing fourth in her most recent engagement, the Diana (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 23.

Attard is hoping a return to the E.P. Taylor course – where she has won six races, including back-to-back (2018-19) Canadian Stakes (G2) – results in a trip to the winner’s circle.

“You can see that she seems like she enjoys winning,” Attard said. “She has that desire and she has that feisty attitude in the morning. I think, especially with fillies, that attitude carries over to the afternoon.”

Now, her connections are hoping to add more hardware to an already impressive haul.

“She’s a multiple Sovereign Award winner, which is pretty special in itself,” Attard said. “But to train a Horse of the Year, that’s icing on the cake, a huge accomplishment. To look back at the season that she had, winning the E.P. Taylor Stakes, an international race like that, it was a fabulous season, and she’s a fabulous mare. They are once-in-a-lifetime horses.”

Attard has enjoyed having a front-row seat to watch her compete.

“When I look at her, she’s tiny – definitely not big,” Attard said. “She’s fierce, she’s feisty and she just has this mental approach and attitude. … She goes out there and wants to do everything hard and fast. She loves what she does. She’s a true competitor – loves to train, loves to run and enjoys what she does. And we enjoy watching it all.”

Should she win, Starship Jubilee would join Ventura (2009) and Tepin (2016) as the only mares to take the Mile.

Leading jockey Justin Stein picks up the mount on the mare, who is approaching the $2 million mark in career earnings.

A Keeneland sale graduate, War of Will is a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of War Front out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Visions of Clarity.

Gary Barber’s 2019 Preakness Stakes winner heads into Saturday’s engagement off a nose win in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) on July 10.

The Maker's Mark was the fourth graded stakes victory for War of Will and his first on turf.

Last year, War of Will took the Lecomte Stakes (G3) and Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds before his Preakness victory in mid-May. The Preakness came after a troubled seventh-place finish in the 2019 Kentucky Derby.

The Woodbine Mile represents his third Woodbine start.

He launched his career with a pair of races at the Toronto oval, including a third in his debut Aug. 24, 2018.

In his second start, three weeks later, the colt contested the Summer Stakes (G1), finishing second to even-money choice Fog of War.

Now, after two years, the well-travelled bay is back at the place where it all began.

Casse, who won the 2016 Mile with Tepin and the 2017 running with World Approval, is hopeful the third time is the charm for the five-time winner.

“He’s coming off that nice win in the Maker’s Mark Mile and he’s trained as good as I’ve ever seen him train since that race,” Casse said. “We’re expecting him to run well. Rafael (Hernandez) is going to ride him. We had got the call for Rafael for the Mile two or three weeks before March the Arch ran. So, it doesn’t have anything to do with him picking one over the other. He had committed to Gary Barber and War of Will before he even rode March the Arch. I don’t want anybody to read anything into it – that they think one is better than the other. It has no bearing.”

Lightly raced Shirl’s Speight, denied a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate after developing a cough ahead of the race, will be making his third start in the Mile.

After a brilliant debut July 4, an eight-length score at seven furlongs on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, Charles Fipke’s homebred three-year-old son of Speightstown followed it up with a 2 3/4-length triumph in the main track Marine Stakes (G3) at Woodbine on July 25.

"He missed a work, but I kept him galloping and galloping,” Attfield said. “He had a very good work (Tuesday) morning."

Shirl’s Speight also was being considered for the Preakness Stakes on Oct. 3 before the connections decided to keep their budding star at home.

"This (Mile) is still a big step, but it's better than the alternative,” Attfield said. “There was the dirt, the ship, I couldn't send help with him."

A 5-year-old son of English Channel, Admiralty Pier brings back-to-back second-place efforts into the Mile.

Trained by Barb Minshall, the gelding was a half-length back of Silent Poet in the Connaught Cup (G2) on July 11, before taking the runner-up spot to Mile rival March to the Arch in the King Edward (G2) on Aug. 15.

In his first start of 2020, the Calumet Farm-bred chestnut sprung a 21-1 upset in the Tampa Bay Stakes (G3) on Feb. 8.

Owned by Hoolie Racing Stable and Bruce Lunsford, Admiralty Pier, 5-3-2 from 21 starts, was seventh to El Tormenta in last year’s running of the race.

Armistice Day, also from the Minshall barn, will be making his third straight start at Woodbine.

Owned by Bruce Lunsford and Lansdon Robbins, the 4-year-old son of Declaration of War has a 3-2-1 record from five outings at the Toronto oval, including a one-length score in last July’s Toronto Cup Stakes.

The chestnut gelding’s most recent win came Aug. 2 at Woodbine, a 1 1/4-length triumph in a 1 1/16-mile main track race that originally was scheduled for the grass.

Live Oak Plantation homebred March to the Arch, also trained by Casse, took the one-mile turf King Edward on Aug. 15.

Under Hernandez, the 5-year-old gelded son of Arch notched a 2 1/4-length win in the Grade 2 stakes event, the seventh win in 23 starts for the Florida-bred bay.

“I was extremely impressed with his last win,” Casse said. “More importantly, he’s come back and trained very well. Patrick (Husbands) is going to ride him. We’ve had tremendous success with Patrick over the years, and he’s also had great success for Live Oak. It was a perfect match.”

Casse’s third Mile entrant comes in the form of hard-knocking Olympic Runner, who recently earned silver against multiple stakes champion Pink Lloyd in both the Bold Venture (G3) and Vigil (G3).

A 4-year-old son of Gio Ponti, the Barber-owned gelding has a record of 3-3-2 from 12 career starts.

Last year, Olympic Runner, bred by Eutrophia Farm, won the King Corrie Stakes, at Woodbine. In his last eight starts, the Kentucky-bred has two wins, three seconds and two thirds.

“He’s a horse that’s just become better and better,” Casse said. “We just feel like the mile will suit him well, but he still has to prove he fits in the caliber of March the Arch and War of the Will. He’s doing well.”

Daisuke Fukumoto, who teamed to win the Queen’s Plate with Mighty Heart on Sept. 12, gets the call.

Value Proposition, a 4-year-old son of Dansili, will try the Canadian green scene for the first time.

Trained by Chad Brown for Klaravich Racing Stables, the dark bay heads into the Mile off a third-place showing in the Poker (G3) on July 4 at Belmont.

Bred by Meon Valley Stud, Value Proposition is 3-0-1 from five career starts.

The lucrative Woodbine Mile program also will feature the $125,000 Singspiel Stakes (G3), the $135,000 Woodbine Cares Stakes, and the $135,000 Ontario Racing Stakes. Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series action will continue on Sunday with the $250,000 Summer Stakes (G1) and $250,000 Natalma Stakes (G1).

First race post time on Saturday is set for 1:10 p.m.

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