One of the biggest races on the Woodbine racing calendar is the $1 million Woodbine Mile Presented by Bell (G1). Celebrating just its eleventh running in 2007, this 1 mile trip around 1 turn of the E.P. Taylor Turf Course for older horses under allowance weights generally has had large fields and exciting finishes, with such past winners as Leroidesanimaux, Labeeb, Geri, and defending champion Becrux adding to the race's short but already colorful history.
Guest drawmaster Jerry Bailey (right) and fellow hall of fame jockey Sandy Hawley. Bailey is holding the silks for Shakespeare who he used to ride before he retired.
This year, Woodbine Entertainment Group invited retired Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey as its special guest for the weekend. Bailey will attend several events while in Toronto including numerous autograph signings. He also assisted at the post position draw, randomly selecting the entry forms while racing secretary Steve Lym drew the numbered pills in the traditional "double blind" draw format. Before drawing the posts, Bailey was interviewed by track announcer Dan Loiselle.
Asked which race was the highlight of his career, he said, "I'd like to say the Kentucky Derby (winning aboard Sea Hero in 1993 and Grindstone in 1996) since it's our special race in the United States, but to be honest with you it would have to be the (1996) Dubai World Cup, because I won it for America. It's the closest I'll ever be to an Olympian, and I was wearing the Paulson silks which are red, white, and blue. I felt like an Olympian that day."
Shakespeare with Jerry Bailey up after winning the 2005 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational
A field of fourteen will enter the starting gate on Sunday afternoon, with Shakespeare breaking from post 3 as the 3-1 favorite on the morning line. He won his last start, an allowance at Saratoga, after being away from the races for 21 months due to a tendon problem, and has only suffered one career defeat, in the 2005 Breeders' Cup Turf (G1). Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who took over training duties from original trainer Bill Mott, said, "That's why he went back to the farm, they caught it early enough and gave him some time. It was the left front. He's come back great. He does things effortlessly, he's a big, beautiful horse. You hate to just go on and on about him, but he's just a wonderful horse to be around. He's a very, very talented horse, and he has a lot of ability. He's a pretty special horse."
Woodbine track announcer Dan Loiselle interviews Jerry Bailey before the draw.
The horse Shakespeare defeated in that allowance race, Art Master, drew post 11 and is the 4-1 second choice on track handicapper Jennifer Morrison's morning line. Before that loss, the Bobby Frankel trainee won the Poker (G3) at Belmont, his first win since shipping over from France in 2006, where he won the Prix du Palais-Royal (G3) at Longchamp. Frankel said of the Juddmonte Farms homebred, "He showed good turn-of-foot when he got him out in the clear (in the Poker). He ran by those horses really easily." Discussing the loss to Shakespeare, he added, "I thought he ran a really good race. He didn't have the best of trips. He didn't break really good. He got rushed into the first turn and was pulling hard and banging into horses. He ran a good race. He only got beat a half-length. Hopefully, we can get a good trip this time. He'll like the big turns at Woodbine. (New jockey Julien Leparoux) is a good sit-still rider. He rides the grass really well. He's an excellent young rider who is going to be a champion one day."
Becrux after winning the 2006 Woodbine Mile
Last year, Becrux stalked the pace, took over inside the 1/8 pole and held off Rebel Rebel to win by a neck. On Sunday he will break from post 2 attempting to be the first repeat winner of the Woodbine Mile and has morning line odds set at 5-1. He comes into the Mile off a close second place finish in the Del Mar Mile (G2) after winning the Wickerr also at Del Mar. Trainer Neil Drysdale said of the Wickerr win, "He did that well. That was a nice performance because he had to do it quite wide. In the previous two races this year, (David) Flores has been boxed in and couldn't get out. He decided to hell with being boxed in, he'd just go wide."
Drysdale is attempting to become the only 4-time Woodbine Mile winner, having won in 1998 with Labeeb, 2003 with Touch of the Blues, and last year with Becrux.
Post time for the Woodbine Mile will be 5:06 pm ET on Sunday. There are two other stakes races on the undercard, both also around 1 turn of the turf course. The $300,000 Canadian Stakes (G2) features a field of nine older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles, while the $250,000 Summer Stakes (G3) is a one-mile event for 2-year-olds, also with nine drawn. The Woodbine Mile will be broadcast in Canada on The Score network on a special telecast from 4:00 - 5:30 PM ET, and is also available via simulcast across North America.
Here are the entries with post positions and morning line odds followed by a brief description and photograph of each. Free past performances are available from BRISnet.