Worthadd, Dance and Dance renew rivalry in Woodbine Mile
Worthadd, a well-travelled son of Dubawi, will make his first appearance in North America in Sunday's Grade 1, C$1 million Woodbine Mile.
The Sir Mark Prescott trainee, previously trained by Vittorio Caruso, is one of the top horses to emerge out of Italy in recent years. The Diego Romeo-owned five-year-old captured the Group 3 Italian Two Thousand Guineas and Group 2 Italian Derby in 2010 and finished third behind Rio De La Plata in the Group 1 Premio Vittorio di Capua.
Worthadd made his British debut in the Group 1 Lockinge at Newbury in May of 2011, losing by 1 1./4 lengths to the excellent Canford Cliffs.
The bay joined Prescott's barn following Caruso's retirement and the horse has continued to face top competition. Two starts back, Worthadd went to post at odds of 20-1 in the Group 1 Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, finishing 11th in an event taken by Frankel.
'My jockey (Frankie Dettori) said he just got smaller and smaller as he went further and further away," joked Prescott of racing against the mighty Frankel.
However, a recent fourth-place finish in the Group 3 Diomed at Epsom, is a far better benchmark to the worthiness of the Prescott trainee. In that event, a front-running Worthadd made most of the running only to be defeated two lengths by last year's Mile fourth-place finisher, Side Glance, and a little more than a length behind the Diomed second-place finisher, and fellow Mile competitor, Dance and Dance.
"The ground was very firm down the hill at Espom," Prescott recalled. “We looked to be going to win and then Mr. (Ed) Vaughan's horse (Dance and Dance) caught us. I think there's reason to hope we can turn that around this time."
With nine wins, two seconds and two thirds from 17 lifetime starts, Prescott believes Worthadd, who will be piloted by top local rider Luis Contreras, has earned a chance at Grade 1 status in North America and has arrived in Canada in peak form.
"I think he's in very good form at the moment and he's perfectly entitled to go in with a chance to win," Prescott said. "He's an old timer and a professional. As long as he stays healthy he won't be upset (about the voyage to Canada). In fact, he'll probably prefer the change."
Dance and Dance endured a troubled trip in last year's Woodbine Mile when sixth, defeated less than two lengths by Turallure.
"It was very frustrating," said Vaughan, who conditions Dance and Dance for owner Mohammed Rashid. "He's always been a slow breaker, and a late finisher, and he just had nowhere to run. Every time he switched left he was blocked. Considering they went a good pace, he ended up being a bit of a muddle at the end. Had he got out, we might have been lucky enough to win."
Since that effort, Vaughan has had this year's Woodbine Mile inked on his dance card.
"He's had a very good preparation this year," Vaughan revealed. "This race has been the plan all year. We've trained him specifically for the race. From last year it was always going to be the goal. The two targets were the Diomed at Epsom…with the Mile being the end of the year target."
Through six starts in 2012, Dance And Dance has compiled one win, one second and two thirds, that second-place effort coming in the Diomed on June 1.
In his most recent effort, on August 4 at Newmarket, Dance and Dance was up for show money in a conditions event.
Vaughan says that Dance and Dance did not travel as well as he usually does last year upon arriving at Woodbine.
"He was a bit quiet when he came over and hardly ate the first few days here, but he's been brilliant this time," Vaughan noted. "He ate on the flight and he's been drinking well. He's traveled so much better this year and we're delighted on that front."
Dance And Dance will be partnered by top U.S rider Garrett Gomez, a two-time winner of the Mile with Shakespeare (2007) and Ventura (2009), for the first time on Sunday.
"He's very good on that type of horse, late finishers," Vaughan said. “We decided to go with a domestic jockey this year. He's very experienced at the track and I think he's the right man for the horse."
In other Woodbine Mile news:
Stronach Stables' homebred Hunters Bay will look to make history on Sunday when he competes on the lawn for the first time in the Woodbine Mile. No previous winner has made his or her debut on the turf in one of Canada's most prestigious races.
A five-year-old son of Stronach's champion Ghostzapper, Hunters Bay has been a terror on Woodbine's Polytrack, undefeated in four starts, including the Grade 3 Eclipse and Grade 3 Dominion Day earlier this year, but enters the Mile off a disappointing seventh-place finish to Fort Larned in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga August 4.
"I don't know what happened in the Whitney," Baker admitted. "I was going to blame it on the track, but instead I'm going to blame it on the heat. It was 102 degrees that day."
On Hunters Bay seeing turf for the first time, Baker added, "The surface thing doesn't mean anything. Zippo. I'm going to gallop him on the turf course, leading up to the race. I'm not going to breeze him over it. He came back great from Saratoga and he's in great shape. He's a really, really nice horse, one of the nicest horses I've ever trained."
Emma-Jayne Wilson has the mount.
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