TORONTO — Daisuke Fukumoto and Town Cruise will be in tough to defend their $1-million Ricoh Woodbine Mile crown.
Fukumoto guided 8-1 pick Town Cruise to a 2 1/4-length victory in last year's race, giving trainer/owner/co-breeder Brandon Greer the biggest win of his career. But the horse has finished fifth twice and eighth in its three starts since taking the Mile in 1:35.14.
Fukumoto and Town Cruise will be among 11 starters Saturday over Woodbine Racetrack's E.P. Taylor course. And the field for the Grade 1 turf classic will include an Irish-bred Breeders' Cup champion, a two-time Canadian horse of the year, three other Irish-breds and two Brazilian-breds.
Irish-bred Modern Games will make his first North American appearance since winning the '21 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at California's Del Mar Racetrack. The three-year-old, expected to be the Mile favourite, has a 5-2-1 record from 10 starts and won four straight from last September through to May.
Jockey William Buick will ride Modern Games on Saturday.
"We feel that Modern Games will be suited to the E.P. Taylor Turf course because of his versatility," said trainer Charlie Appleby. "He has shown he can perform on tracks internationally and in Europe."
And Appleby said Modern Games is a multi-faceted horse but lists his Grade 1 victory at Longchamp in May as his most impressive victory.
"His professionalism that he has shown to date, versatility and class," Appleby said. "He's a progressive horse that every time he was set a challenge, he stepped up again."
The field with post position, horse and jockey includes: 1) Mighty Heart, Justin Stein; 2) Ivar, Joseph Talamo; 3) Wakanaka, Manuel Franco; 4) Finest Sound, Andrea Atzeni; 5) Modern Games, Buick; 6) Shirl's Speight, Emma-Jayne Wilson; 7) Homer Screen, Joe Bravo; 8) Get Smokin' Rafael Hernandez; 9) War Bomber, Sahin Civaci; 10) Town Cruise, Fukumoto; and 11) March to the Arch, Patrick Husbands.
The morning-line odds weren't immediately available.
Mighty Heart comes in having been twice named Canada's horse of the year (2020-21). The one-eyed bay, which won both the 2020 Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales titles, is trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Josie Carroll and has a 6-2-5 record from 20 starts.
Trainer Mark Casse, who won this race in 2016 (Tepin) and 2017 (World Approval) will send two horses postward Saturday.
Seven-year-old March to the Arch, fourth last year after running second in the 2020 Mile, has three stakes victories on Woodbine's turf course. He also has an 8-5-4 record from 33 starts.
Casse's other horse is Get Smokin, a 2020-2021 graded stakes winner. The five-year-old gelding will make his first start over the E.P. Taylor course.
The winner of the Mile will secure the $600,000 top prize and earn a fees-paid berth in the US$2-million Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 5 at Keeneland. In addition, the winners of the $500,000 Johnnie Walker Natalma Stakes (two-year-old fillies) and $500,000 Pattison Summer Stakes (two-year-olds) races will receive fees-paid berths for the $1-million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and $2-million Juvenile Turf events, respectively, which will be run Nov. 4.
Brazilian-bred Ivar, a two-time Breeders' Cup Mile participant, will chase a seventh win in his 13th career start Saturday. The six-year-old has run just once this year, winning the 1 1/16-mile $100,000 Jonathan Schuster Memorial Stakes at Horseshoe Indianapolis in a track-record time of 1:39.49 in July.
"When he would race in Argentina, he knows very well how to run a mile with one turn," said trainer Paulo Lobo. "It (E.P. Taylor) reminds me a little bit of the course at San Isidro in Argentina, which he used to run on.
"He's very accustomed to that, so I believe he will enjoy the course at Woodbine."
And Lobo is hoping for some early pace Saturday.
"His turn of foot is what comes to mind first for me," Lobo said. "He can really put in a powerful late run.
"Hopefully, there can be some strong early pace and it will set up nicely for him."
Irish-bred Wakanaka returns to the E.P. Taylor course after winning the Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes on July 24. The four-year-old filly has finished in the money 12 times (7-4-1) in 13 career starts.
Hall of Fame conditioner Roger Attfield will chase a third career Mile crown with Shirl's Speight. The five-year-old son of Speightstown-Perfect Shirl has three wins and a third-place effort in six starts this year and five victories in 12 career races.
Another Irish-bred horse, War Bomber, heads into the Mile following a win in the Grade 3 Seagram Cup last month at Woodbine as an 18-1 longshot. The four-year-old bay gelding was claimed by owner Bruno Schickedanz in August and has a 5-0-1 record over 11 starts. Norm McKnight is the trainer.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2022.
The Canadian Press