July 16, 2024

Breeders’ Cup berths up for grabs in Woodbine Mile, Summer, and Natalma

Shirl's Speight wins the Maker's Mark Mile (Photo by Coady Photography)

Early in the season Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby might have expected Modern Games to use Saturday’s C$1 million Woodbine Mile (G1) as a springboard toward a title defense in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). But with that champion retired over the summer, connections will instead rely on Master of the Seas to give the team a second consecutive win in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep.

Although Master of the Seas has yet to win at top level, the five-year-old has gotten awful close. Before he was gelded, Master of the Seas finished a head second in the 2021 edition of the classic 2000 Guineas (G1). And earlier this year, in Dubai, Master of the Seas was only a half-length adrift at the finish of the Jebel Hatta (G1).

Despite those setbacks, Master of the Seas has proven highly useful. He has five Group wins to his credit, including a dominating four-length romp in the Summer Mile (G2) at Ascot in mid-July.

“Both Master of the Seas and Modern Games are strong travelers and milers with a will to win,” Appleby said.

The Woodbine Mile attracted only six horses, one of the smaller fields assembled in recent years. The lone Grade 1 winner in the field is Shirl’s Speight, who ran second to Modern Games in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile as a 55-1 outsider. He should come on from his fourth-place finish in the Aug. 19 King Edward (G2), his first outing in nearly five months.

Also returning from the King Edward was race winner War Bomber and third-placed Lucky Score, who landed the six-furlong Highlander (G2) in July. Ice Chocolat was most recently third to Casa Creed in the Fourstardave H. (G1) at Saratoga, while My Sea Cottage finished one spot behind after setting the pace.

The Summer (G1) and Natalma (G1), each valued at C$500,000, are the other Breeders’ Cup Challenge preps on the Woodbine card, both over one mile.

Although a prep for the Juvenile Turf (G1), the Summer betting market might include the Mark Casse-trained fillies Golden Canary and Go With Gusto, both of whom have beaten males recently. In the case of Golden Canary, she prevailed by a neck in the Soaring Free S. over 6 1/2 furlongs at Woodbine.

Golden Canary lost on debut to Airosa, who might step out of restricted company to take on the boys following a win in the Catch a Glimpse S., a race that was run nearly a second faster than the Soaring Free on the Aug. 20 card.

My Boy Prince has sparkled on Woodbine’s synthetic main track of late, winning his last two by a combined margin of 20 lengths. His latest was a 14-length procession in the Simcoe S.

The Casse-trained colt King of the Track easily won on debut over the main track last month, while Saratoga graduate Carson’s Run was a close second in the With Anticipation (G3) last out.

Golden Canary, Airosa, and Go With Gusto were also cross-entered in the Natalma, a Challenge prep for the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) which has also attracted Soaring Free two-three Dancing Duchess and Rhapsody, as well as Catch a Glimpse runner-up Ready to Jam.

Notable ship-ins include Ozara, a Saratoga debut winner for Christophe Clement; Dea Matrona, a winner in one of two starts in France and now with Chad Brown; and Newmarket graduate Dazzling Star, fourth in the Princess Margaret (G3) for Godolphin and Appleby.