Hall of Fame conditioner Mark Casse will send out the three-pronged attack of March to the Arch, Olympic Runner and Ride a Comet, in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile on Sept. 18, part of a stellar Saturday stakes showcase that also includes the Grade 1 $600,000 Pattison Canadian International and Grade 2 $250,000 Canadian Stakes.
The 25th running of the Mile, worth $1 million and contested over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, has attracted a strong field of 10 hopefuls and is a Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge Series race that grants the winner a fees-paid berth for the $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), to be run on Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
The silver anniversary edition of the Mile features a gold-standard mix of local and international turf stars, as well as some of the top trainers and jockeys in the sport.
Casse, who won back-to-back runnings of the race, in 2016 with Tepin and 2017 with World Approval, will look for his third victory with three formidable runners.
A six-year-old son of Arch, March to the Arch, a Live Oak Plantation homebred, is no stranger to Woodbine or the Woodbine Mile. The bay gelding sports a record of 4-3-1 from eight starts at the Toronto oval and an overall record of 8-4-4 from 28 races.
March to the Arch, who was second, a length behind Starship Jubilee in the 2020 Mile, was third in the Grade 3 Dominion Day on July 1 and then won the Niagara Stakes on July 25. The Florida-bred heads into the Mile off a third-place finish in the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes on Aug. 15 where he made a late surge after encountering traffic troubles down the long E.P. Taylor Turf Course stretch.
“March to the Arch prefers a little more time between his races, plus we brought him in off a mile-and-an-eighth, so he might not have been as sharp that day,” noted Casse. “But he’s a great horse, very consistent, and he’s doing very well ahead of the race.”
Olympic Runner, owned by Gary Barber, arrives at Saturday’s $1 million classic off a sensational score in the King Edward. With Rafael Hernandez in the irons, the five-year-old son of Gio Ponti found daylight down the lane and went on to notch a 1 ½-length victory.
Sporting a record of 3-5-2 from 13 Woodbine engagements, the gelding, bred by Eutrophia Farm LTD, just missed winning his previous start, the Grade 2 Connaught Cup, finishing a nose behind Avie’s Flatter, who is also set to contest the Mile.
Olympic Runner has a 5-7-2 mark from 23 starts, including a 2-2-0 line from seven appearances this year.
“I thought Raffi (jockey, Hernandez) did a great job,” said Casse, of the King Edward. “The pace was moderate, I guess, so he was able to position him a little closer to the pace. That horse has been so close to having a breakout performance. I kept waiting and waiting for it, and it finally came in that race. It was an excellent effort.”
Multiple graded stakes winner Ride a Comet will seek to keep his perfect record at Woodbine intact.
A six-year-old son of Candy Ride (ARG) co-owned by John Oxley and breeder My Meadowview LLC, Ride a Comet is undefeated in his four Woodbine starts.
The Kentucky-bred bay’s most recent triumph at the Toronto oval came in the 2020 Grade 2 Kennedy Road.
Ride a Comet, 8-1-2 from 17 starts, comes into the Mile off a third-place effort in the Grade 2 Wise Dan at Churchill Downs on June 26.
“We felt he wasn’t training that well, so we gave him a bit of a break. And that seems to have really helped. He’s training much better coming into this race. He’ll be ready. He’s a nice horse and he obviously like running at Woodbine.”
Casse is grateful to have three shots at winning the Mile.
“I am. Everybody is coming into the race in good order. I think each one has a legitimate chance to win the race.”
Ian Dalos’ consistent graded stakes-winning homebred Avie’s Flatter will chase his seventh win in what will be his 17thcareer start.
The five-year-old son of Flatter has two wins from three races this year, and goes into the Mile off a fourth in the King Edward.
Trained by Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee Josie Carroll, Avie’s Flatter contested all three jewels of the 2019 Canadian Triple Crown, finishing second in both the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales, and third in the Breeders’ Stakes.
Change of Control, trained by Michelle Lovell for Perry Harrison, finished third in her first start at Woodbine, the Grade 2 Royal North Stakes, on August 1.
The five-year-old daughter of Fed Biz, who has compiled a 7-6-6 mark from 28 lifetime starts, will be testing out the Grade 1 ranks for the first time.
She notched her first graded title with a win in the Grade 3 Intercontinental Stakes at Belmont this June.
Raging Bull (FR) will get his second shot at Mile glory after finishing fourth, placed third, in the 2019 running.
A multiple Grade 1 winner trained by Chad Brown for Peter Brant, the son of Dark Angel is 7-4-3 from 20 starts, his victories including last year’s Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile and this year’s Grade 1 Makers Mark Mile.
The six-year-old bay, bred by Dayton Investments Limited, was recently sixth as the even-money choice in the Grade 1 Fourstardave on August 14 at Saratoga.
Juddmonte Farms homebred Set Piece (GB) has been the model of consistency over 17 career races, sporting a 9-2-1 stat line. The five-year-old son of Dansili (GB) has three wins and a pair of seconds in his last five appearances, including a victory in the Grade 2 Wise Dan.
Trained by Brad Cox, the dark bay was off a step slowly in the Grade 1 Fourstardave, but regrouped to finish second.