By Gene Kershner
Your chance to see the 2012 U.S. Horse of the Year on one of racing's premier turf course is within traveling distance of Buffalo this weekend. Wise Dan, winner of his last eight races back to last year's Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga, will be at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack on Sunday racing in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
He will attempt to defend his 2012 Woodbine Mile title as the 2-5 favorite for owner Morton Fink. Woodbine is full of stakes races this weekend, with the $300,000 Northern Dancer to be on the Woodbine Mile undercard to be run at a mile and a half. On Saturday, two Breeders' Cup Win and You're In races are scheduled - the $200,000 Natalma Stakes for fillies and the $200,000 Summer Stakes, both to be contested at one mile on the grass.
The stakes record time for the Woodbine Mile is 1:32.04, set by Ventura in 2009 when she became the first and only filly or mare to win the race. Quiet Resolve ($91.10 in 1999) is the longest-priced winner while Wise Dan is the shortest-priced winner ($3.10 in 2012). Leroidesanimaux established the largest margin of victory, seven and three-quarter lengths, in 2005. He is the sire of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom.
Only four favorites have won the Mile in its first 16 editions - Soaring Free in 2004, Leroidesanimaux in 2005, Shakespeare in 2007 and Wise Dan last year.
Four horses which raced in the Woodbine Mile have won the Breeders’ Cup Mile. However, Wise Dan is the only one to win both Grade 1 races in the same year. The others are 2007 Woodbine runner-up Kip Deville and 1999 fifth place finisher Silic, who both went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile the same year. 2010 Woodbine Mile winner Court Vision captured the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Here are this week's racing notes as we wait patiently for Super Saturday at Belmont Park in two weeks…
- Fort Erie Racetrack has scheduled a press conference for 9 a.m. this morning to discuss the status of the 2013 race season at Fort Erie and the outlook for 2014.
- Sad news being reported out of Belmont Park on Thursday. Mentor Cane, second in the Grade 1 King's Bishop on August 24 at Saratoga Race Course, was euthanized yesterday following an injury he incurred during a workout earlier in the day. The 3-year-old suffered a right-hind lateral condylar fracture and a comminuted right-hind P1 fracture, according to NYRA's Chief Examining Veterinarian.
- One customer on Wednesday had the sole winning ticket on Belmont Park's Pick 6, which paid $423,424. The Pick 6 had carried over to a third day before being hit. Not a bad day at the office.
- Discreet Marq (7-2) and Emollient (3-1), a pair of New York-based horses exiting Grade 1 wins in California, will face each other for the first time on Saturday in Belmont Park's Grade 1, $500,000 Garden City for 3-year-old fillies. Both horses will attract west coast riders to fly in for the big race. Garret Gomez will ride Discreet Marq and Hall of Famer Mike Smith will be aboard Emollient.
- In the admit you were wrong department, it looks like Verrazano will be pointed towards the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. Projections of his retirement have been greatly exaggerated.
- How impressive was Groupie Doll on Monday night, rolling late to win the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters? She won her second straight Masters as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, a race she won last year at Santa Anita. The Masters has proved to be a key race for the F&M Sprint the past few years, so keep an eye on place and show horses, Purely Hot and Judy the Beauty, respectively.
- A recently formed Buffalo-based horse racing partnership called Buffalo Thoroughbred Company announced that the trainer for the group is Jasmine (Jazz) Napravnik, sister of top flight jockey Rosie Napravnik. Their approach reminds me of the Joe Mesi - Third Franchise marketing drive, looking to jump into the horse racing game with Buffalo roots. We'll be watching closely as the group matures and they add more horses to its current stable.