Woodbine Mile undercard includes Northern Dancer Turf, Canadian
The Woodbine Mile (G1) isn't the only thing to pique the interest of North American racing fans on Sunday, for the undercard includes a trio of stakes.
The C$300,000 Northern Dancer Turf (G1) has attracted two horses last seen running on Arlington Million Day -- Triple Threat, a subpar 11th in the Million, and Lucky Speed, the course record-setting hero of the American St Leger (G3) -- as well as the exciting Breeders' Stakes winner, Danish Dynaformer, and the sneaky Glenard.
I was among those expecting Triple Threat to win the Arlington Million, based on the raw talent he'd shown when on song in Europe, and especially on his last-stride victory in his U.S. debut in the Monmouth (G2). Unfortunately, the Bill Mott trainee simply never got involved at Arlington. The next day, Team Valor International tweeted the reason: Triple Threat "bled a 3 out of 5." The son of Monsun attempts to rebound while stretching out to 1 1/2 miles for only the second time in his career. In his prior try, he was eighth in the 2013 Prix Niel (G2) on soft ground, where Flintshire was bogged down in fourth. Hope to see the real Triple Threat do himself justice here.
Lucky Speed, in contrast, comes off one of his absolute top efforts and cuts back in distance from the 1 11/16-mile American St Leger. Based in Germany for much of his career, the Peter Schiergen pupil was best known as the 2013 Deutsches Derby (G1) victor before pitching camp in North America this summer. He was a useful fourth in the July 19 Nijinsky (G2) at Woodbine, a doubly encouraging run since he hadn't raced since last September, and resumed over a trip too short for him. Lucky Speed moved forward as expected at Arlington, where he brandished his class. Now he'll try to string two big performances in a row, against a field that may offer more strength in depth.
Danish Dynaformer takes a sizeable jump in class for Hall of Famer Roger Attfield. The royally bred son of Dynaformer warrants it, however, in the wake of his 7 3/4-length demolition job in the Breeders' over this course and distance. Granted, that came at the expense of fellow Canadian-bred sophomores, and he has to prove himself against older horses with international credentials. Yet it would be no surprise if Danish Dynaformer backed up his Canadian classic romp at a higher level. The question may be one of how soon. At any rate, he's found his niche as a turf marathoner, and there's no telling just how good he could turn out to be.
Several other entrants are veterans of past Breeders' Stakes. Ami's Holiday, the 2014 Breeders' winner, is still relatively unexposed this season. Eligible to improve quite a bit off his tightener in the Seagram Cup (G3), he fired a bullet to polish off his preparation for Josie Carroll. Note that the horse who finished second to Ami's Holiday in that classic, Interpol, just landed the August 16 Sky Classic (G2). Aldous Snow, the 2012 Breeders' runner-up, has won the past two runnings of the Singspiel (G3) at this course and distance. But he's found life tougher when upped in class, and was only sixth in the 2014 Northern Dancer. Fellow Ontario-bred Oil Strike was sidelined for most of his sophomore campaign. Now making up for lost time, he's ready for a stakes debut for Mark Casse.
Glenard, just a handicapper in England, made an immediate splash in his U.S. debut for Graham Motion. Closing like a rocket off a slow pace in the Fair Grounds H. (G3), he grabbed second behind the pacesetting Chocolate Ride, who went on to steal the Mervin H. Muniz (G2). Glenard flopped next time in the Pan American (G2), got time off, and appeared back in business versus lesser this summer. He again lost the plot last time in the Cliff Hanger (G3) at Monmouth, but that wasn't really his fault. As a one-run closer, he shouldn't have been asked to make a middle move. If new rider Drayden Van Dyke masterminds a patient trip, Glenard looms as a dark horse.
Kiwi import Habibi, who beat males in the 2013 New Zealand Derby (G1), halted her losing streak in the August 15 Flaming Page against fellow distaffers. Connections now find themselves at a crossroads: to keep her at 1 1/2 miles, she'll have to take on males. When they tried that before in the Singspiel, the result wasn't pretty. Conversely, to stay in her own division, she'll have to shorten up to 1 1/8 miles for Sunday's C$300,000 Canadian (G2). Habibi was cross-entered to both, so stay tuned to see which she chooses. The daughter of Ekraar is capable at the Canadian distance, in light of her near-miss here June 6.
The Canadian, a "Win & You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), marks the return to action of Niarchos homebred Hoop of Colour. Two-for-two since joining Motion stateside, the half-sister to Grade 1 star Aruna has been idle since taking the March 15 Santa Ana (G2).
Personal Diary hasn't won since the 2014 Del Mar Oaks (G1), but the Vicki Oliver filly was a close fifth, beaten less than a length, when short of room in the August 8 John C. Mabee (G2) back at Del Mar. Overheard is another who hasn't built on her 2014 Dance Smartly (G2) victory as much as you'd expect. At the same time, she's often in the hunt, and her recent allowance score is cause for optimism.
Canadian champion Strut the Course is the reigning Dance Smartly winner, edging Watsdachances, who came back to be awarded the Beverly D. (G1) via disqualification. In the interim, Strut the Course was second in the Ontario Matron (G3) on Polytrack to Uchenna, a European import who's thriving in Attfield's care. Uchenna will be joined by stablemate Llanarmon, most recently third in the Flaming Page.
Button Down was probably outstayed by Habibi when second in the Flaming Page, and the cutback in trip promises to suit. Bred by Juddmonte and sold for $106,757 at Tattersalls last December, the Oasis Dream filly hails from the prolific family of Midday, Elmaamul, and Reams of Verse.
Yet another import, Ticking Katie, overcame a stumble at the start to prevail in her American premiere at Belmont. Fourth on Saratoga's inner turf in the August 8 De La Rose, she adds Lasix this time for Brian Lynch.
Bear's Pride gets a class test in the wake of her score in the restricted Victoriana, while Copper Kitten looks well held on her past form.
Sunday's stakes action opens with the C$150,000 Bold Venture (G3) at 6 1/2 furlongs on the Polytrack. Defending champion Calgary Cat, who rolled by three lengths in this race on the way to a 2014 Sovereign Award, meets former two-time champ Essence Hit Man. Now eight years old, Essence Hit Man resurfaced from a 20-month layoff and finished second to Calgary Cat in the August 12 Ontario Jockey Club. The elder statesman can strip fitter second time out, but has his era passed? Only four have signed on to face them -- Megahertz's three-quarter sister Endless Light, who was just denied in the Seaway (G3); Stacked Deck; Speightsong; and Puntrooskie.
Triple Threat photo courtesy of Ryan Denver/Equi-Photo.