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Handicapping the Woodbine Mile

by Brian Nadeau

September 15, 2017

What do you know; without Wise Dan and Tepin a great betting race has broken out. And while seeing those two surefire Hall of Famers do their thing in the last three of the last five runnings of the Woodbine Mile, pardon me if I don’t Saturday’s wide-open renewal is a lot more compelling to us gamblers. With that being said, let’s take a look at it.

While he may not be the favorite on the morning line, the race clearly goes through World Approval, who is probably the best turf miler we have in America (or at the very least he’s in the discussion) and enters this off a breakthrough win in the GI Fourstardave at Saratoga. But a few things to note; first, he got a yielding course that he relishes, and therefore was able to deliver a lifetime best. Second, he sat a dream outside stalking trip over the filly Sassy Lil Lila, who clearly struggled over the boggy ground, and now he’s down inside Saturday. Third, he beat Time Test, who is 2/5 to win the “Best Hanger of the Year” award at January’s Eclipse Awards dinner. So, point being, you need to view World Approval with caution. Can he win? Of course. Do you want him at around 5/2? I sure don’t. But again, that doesn’t mean he’s not the horse to beat.

Next, you need to obviously sift through the Europeans, and, as a guy who covers at the GI races over there on a weekly basis for the Breeders’ Cup Newsletter, I’d like to think I have a decent feel on how they stack up. And this year, with Deauville, Lancaster Bomber, Mondialiste and Dutch Connection, the Euros are solid, if unspectacular. Arod is here too, and he was a decent 5th in this last year, but his 2017 form says he’s about 40-1 Saturday.

If Deauville couldn’t win the Arlington Million off that dream trip, when the seas parted on the inside, then I have a hard time believing he’s winning the Woodbine Mile. The field really isn’t better (or worse), but it just left such a bad taste in my mouth, as he had every right to pass Beach Patrol and win for fun, yet he checked in a bad 3rd. If he runs back to his 3rd in the GI Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, when he was close to Ribchester, the best miler in Europe, then he wins this for fun, but I just don’t see it.

Stablemate Lancaster Bomber is the definition of second-tier, as he’s always blinked when facing group I foes. Of course, those group I foes have names like Barney Roy, Churchill and Ribchester, but, with the exception of the 2nd in the GI St. James’s Palace, he’s never really been close. And, don’t forget, Barney Roy is just a 3yo and so is Churchill, and he hasn’t exactly made a lot of friends since winning his two guineas in May. 

Mondialiste is the wildcard, which is odd because he won this race in 2015, then was 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Mile that year, and returned to the states to win the Million last year. But his 2017 form hasn’t been pretty, and he’s 0-for-6 this year, and has only hit the board once, when 2nd in the GII York. The horse that beat him that day, Success Days, may not rate among the top 40 horses in Europe, so it’s tough to take this version of Mondialiste seriously. Maybe the return to America, and left-handed racing, helps him, but to win? I can’t see it.

Dutch Connection is well below the rest, and at 6-1 he would be a huge underlay. He beat no one in the GIII Supreme at Goodwood and his other runs of late have been abysmal. If he wins, it would be a major shock, even with the addition of Lasix potentially moving up his form. You need every bit of 20-1 to look his way.

So, back to the home team, or at least the US-based runners. It’s a laughable 15-1 ML on Long On Value, but even 6-1 seems like a fair price on a horse who obviously needed his comeback last time, has run fast enough on several occasions to win this and goes for Bill Mott, one of the best horseman we’ve ever seen, and one who doesn’t run his horses where they don’t belong. 

There’s a lot of reason to like Long On Value, especially since he should relish a one-turn mile. At fair odds, he’s the no-brainer play to me and I’ll be aggressive with him in all the slots.

There’s not much else to really look over, unless you think now is (finally) the time for Conquest Panthera to win something big. I guess being a GII winner over the course is never a bad thing, but he’s looking up at a lot of them in here, so I’d be hesitant to think he can do anything but run 3rd or 4th.

If you’re looking for a bomber that fits the “horse for the course” angle, then it’s probably Glenville Gardens, who is 6-for-10 here and was closing last time behind Conquest Panthera going 7Fs in the Play the King. Yes, Tower of Texas just missed to Tepin in this last year, but she was dull in her return from Royal Ascot, and his form this year doesn’t look as hot.

So there you have it. A good renewal, a great betting race. Have at it!