2022 Woodbine Mile, Summer Stakes International Scouting Reports
Charlie Appleby cleaned up at Woodbine last September, and the Godolphin trainer is back with another dynamic duo on Saturday. Mysterious Night ranks as the 6-5 morning-line favorite in the Summer (G1), and Modern Games brings glittering formlines as the 7-5 choice in the Woodbine Mile (G1). Fellow British shipper Finest Sound enters the Mile on the upswing for the red-hot Simon and Ed Crisford.
Summer S. (G1) – Mysterious Night
A full brother to Althiqa, who turned the Just a Game (G1)/Diana (G1) double in 2021, Mysterious Night aims to add another North American trophy to the family cabinet. He’s not gray like Althiqa, or their prolific sire Dark Angel, but still easy to spot with his big white blaze.
Mysterious Night is part of a deep squad of Appleby juveniles. He has enough experience for a transatlantic venture, and he comes off a new career high in France. If there’s one caveat about the favorite, it’s his first try at a mile. That’s a difference from Appleby’s winner of this race last year, Albahr, who had already won a listed stakes at this distance.
Mysterious Night’s dam, the Shamardal mare Mistrusting, never raced past seven furlongs and scored her stakes win over six. Sister Althiqa’s success going further is an encouraging sign, but she stretched out with maturity. The mile would be a bigger question mark for Mysterious Night in stiffer European conditions, so Woodbine is a good place to try.
Never out of the trifecta in five starts, Mysterious Night just missed on debut in a salty maiden at Newbury May 13. The even-money favorite got going a fraction too late to catch Dark Thirty, the future third in the Superlative (G2). Mysterious Night promptly won next time at odds-on at the same venue, attending the pace in a 6 1/2-furlong novice before powering clear with ears pricked.
Up in class for the July (G2) at Newmarket, Mysterious Night placed third to the rock-solid Persian Force, the runner-up in Royal Ascot’s Coventry (G2), the Phoenix (G1) at the Curragh, and the Prix Morny (G1) at Deauville. Mysterious Night raced off the pace after not being quick out of the gate, picked up, but couldn’t bridge the gap where it paid to race handy. Persian Force was just too smart in any case.
In the seven-furlong Vintage (G2) at Glorious Goodwood, Mysterious Night was third again, with a different sort of trip. Nearer early, he was hung out wide – jockey William Buick described it as “no man’s land” – advanced to take the lead on the right-handed turn, didn’t corner efficiently, and drifted wider. Not surprisingly, he couldn’t hold off closers down the straight.
Holloway Boy, the winner of Royal Ascot’s Chesham S., wore him down, then Marbaan packed the biggest punch to beat them both. The improved Marbaan was turning the tables on Mysterious Night, having been third in their mutual debut. Marbaan went on to trail in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1), but soft going at the Curragh undercut him. Vintage fourth Dandy Man Shines, a maiden, has since come stateside and got promoted to third in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf (G3).
Mysterious Night had much more left at the finish of the Aug. 14 Prix Francois Boutin (G3), thanks to more restrained tactics at Deauville. Anchored at the rear of the compact field, the 2-5 favorite progressed down the straightaway for a comfortable win. Mysterious Night was not pushed once he forged ahead, making for a measured half-length margin. We didn’t learn much, other than proof that he coped with about seven furlongs, since his rivals weren’t all that noteworthy. Runner-up Bolshkinov was later put in his place when fourth in the Prix des Chenes (G3).
Appleby mentioned Woodbine in his postrace comments to Racing Post. It’s a plus when this kind of objective is laid out meticulously in advance.
Woodbine Mile (G1) – Modern Games
Well known on this side of the pond as last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner, Modern Games has continued to build his resume this term. Aside from his fine efforts in the French classics, he comes off a second to the all-conquering Baaeed.
By top sire Dubawi and out of the New Approach mare Modern Ideals, Modern Games is a half-brother to two other Group performers. Four-year-old Modern News romped in the May 9 Royal Windsor S. and has since placed in four straight stakes, most recently the Sovereign (G3) at Salisbury. Their juvenile half-sister, Mawj, won the July 8 Duchess of Cambridge (G2).
Modern Games has competed exclusively in Group 1 company since the Breeders’ Cup. Returning in the May 15 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) (G1), he took a nosedive at the start but didn’t miss a beat to stalk. He stayed on strongly to justify 2-1 favoritism in 1:34.98, a good time for the metric mile around Longchamp.
Not as fortunate when trying about 1 5/16 miles in the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) (G1), Modern Games found post 13 of 15 a definite hindrance. Soft ground at Chantilly also worked against the favorite. He used energy early to secure forward position, endured a taxing tempo, and ended up a sitting duck for the swooping Vadeni. He was outstayed by the useful El Bodegon and relegated to third.
Modern Games lost no luster in a deep renewal. Vadeni subsequently won the Eclipse (G1). Fourth-placer Al Hakeem captured the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano (G2), and fifth-placer Onesto starred in a key Grand Prix de Paris (G1) before a bang-up second in the Irish Champion (G1) (beating Vadeni).
A cutback in trip made sense for Modern Games. Shortening to the about seven-furlong Prix Jean Prat (G1), however, was a bit too extreme. The 8-5 favorite didn’t have the speed to cope with the late kick of Tenebrism, but still ran with credit in fifth, part of a five-horse photo for second. Near-miss runner-up Light Infantry came back to miss narrowly again to Inspiral in the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1).
Back up to a mile in the Sussex (G1) at Glorious Goodwood, Modern Games beat all bar Baaeed to record his career-best piece of form. He settled a few lengths off the pace set by Japan’s Bathrat Leon, and pounced in the stretch, but Baaeed was already imposing his considerable authority. Modern Games kept on determinedly to go down by 1 3/4 lengths.
Appleby was quick to name the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) as his target, with a North American stepping stone on the way. Conditions at Woodbine will be ideal, from the distance to a fair weather forecast for the right ground. If you’re casting about for any possible concern, it might be the overload of speed in this race. That would only be an issue on the off chance that Modern Games is a bit too fresh early. But having others intent on the lead should help him to settle well, and Buick will have him in the right spot.
Woodbine Mile – Finest Sound
Finest Sound has something to prove at this level, but the five-year-old is in the form of his life. And the Crisfords are on a tear of late, with a 40% strike rate in the past two weeks, according to Racing Post.
A homebred for Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum, Finest Sound is a son of Australian champion Exceed and Excel, who has become a successful sire in Europe and Australia. Finest Sound is out of a Dubawi mare from the family of multiple Group 1 heroes Scorpion and Zipping.
As a juvenile, Finest Sound was third to future mile star Palace Pier in their mutual debut, and third to another classy operator in Kinross. Gelded ahead of his sophomore campaign in 2020, he showed promise in handicaps, particularly when finishing second as the favorite in the Britannia at Royal Ascot. He continued in the handicap ranks at four until winning a Class 2 event at Yarmouth in August 2021. Next attempting Group company, Finest Sound held his own with a third in the Darley (G3) to the smart Mostahdaf. The 25-1 shot beat Barney Roy, although it wouldn’t be fair to judge that ring-rusty star off a 13-month layoff.
Finest Sound resurfaced on Dubai’s Super Saturday, in the Mar. 6 Jebel Hatta (G1), and exceeded expectations in second at 14-1. He capitalized on a close stalking trip, struck the front, and was just run down late. That wasn’t the greatest Group 1, won by a fellow 14-1 shot in Alfareeq with favored Lord Glitters unplaced. Hard-trying Sir Busker, along for fourth, has been a different horse since stepping up in trip to upset the York (G2) and place third to Baaeed in the Juddmonte International (G1).
Indeed, the Crisfords didn’t get ambitious upon his return to England. A 12-1 chance in the June 4 Diomed (G3), Finest Sound was a tailed-off last of six. Jockey Andrea Atzeni believed that he just didn’t cope with the idiosyncrasies of Epsom. He turned in a better effort in the Steventon S. at Newbury. Crossing the wire a distant second behind front-running favorite Grocer Jack, he was demoted to third for interfering with Cadillac in the 1 1/4-mile affair.
Finest Sound got a confidence-boosting win next time at Thirsk, albeit as the 5-2 second choice in a three-horse field. Dropping in class (to a conditions race) and trip (to seven furlongs), plus the addition of cheekpieces, all put him back in the winner’s circle. Finest Sound blew the start, but it didn’t matter as he grabbed the lead and bravely fended off odds-on favorite Symbolize.
Just the three runners in the @BritishEBF Conditions Stakes @ThirskRaces but no shortage of drama 😱— Racing TV (@RacingTV) August 5, 2022
Last year's winner Symbolize was tough, but the @SimonCrisford- and @edcrisford-trained Finest Sound (5-2) was even tougher under @Atzenijockey pic.twitter.com/E3ExcATqbG
Although runner-up in his two ensuing starts, Finest Sound outperformed his odds while bumping into a couple of up-and-comers. In the about nine-furlong Strensall (G3) during York’s Ebor Festival, the 25-1 shot settled about midpack behind a tearaway leader, collared him in the straight, but couldn’t contain the late charge of Shadwell’s promising sophomore Alflaila. The Strensall has yielded Woodbine Mile contenders in the past, especially 2015 hero Mondialiste.
Finest Sound wheeled back one week later in the Aug. 27 Celebration Mile (G2) at Goodwood and went much closer. Under a crafty ride by Atzeni, the 7-1 chance set the pace and just got outdueled by better-fancied stablemate Jadoomi. The form was promptly upheld when Jadoomi came right back to romp in the Boomerang Mile (G2) on Irish Champions Weekend.
Given his penchant for hitting the board at generous odds, and his tactical flexibility for Atzeni, Finest Sound is a logical exotics candidate.