Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from a major weekend of racing highlighted by action at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack. Three Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races were contested there on Saturday: the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile, the $500,000 Johnnie Walker Natalma Stakes and the $500,000 bet365 Summer Stakes. Each offered an automatic, fees-paid berth in a corresponding race at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 3-4 at Santa Anita Park. Pedulla also looks at the start of the Road to the Kentucky Derby and the close of another successful meet at Kentucky Downs.
TERRIFIC COMBINATION: Owner-breeder Godolphin, trainer Charlie Appleby, and jockey William Buick proved to be an unbeatable combination for the Ricoh Woodbine Mile for the second consecutive year. They clicked with Modern Games last season and were unbeatable again when Irish-bred Master of The Seas rolled by 3 ¾ lengths. Master of The Seas secured a spot in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile presented by PDJF, won by the now-retired Modern Games in 2022. Master of The Seas registered his seventh victory in 14 career starts while completing the distance in 1:33.79. According to assistant trainer Alex Merriam, no decision has been made concerning whether the 5-year-old Dubawi gelding will go on to the Breeders’ Cup.
GRADE 1 BREAKTHROUGH: She Feels Pretty, making only her second start, turned that into something special when she provided up-and-coming trainer Cherie DeVaux with her first Grade 1 triumph with a dominant 4 ¼-length score in the Johnnie Walker Natalma Stakes. John Velazquez was aboard for the one-mile contest as She Feels Pretty locked up a spot in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on Nov. 3. DeVaux had anticipated a strong performance. “I have been very confident with her, especially with her training at Saratoga,” she said. “Every single day she has trained, she physically matured, she mentally matured. She goes out there and you can’t tell that she is a 2-year-old filly. She looks like she is one of the older fillies.”
INSPIRING TALE: Fans have been inspired for several seasons now by Cody’s Wish and by Cody Dorman, his biggest fan, who has struggled to cope with Wolf-Hirschorn syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. Now, along comes rising 2-year-old star Carson’s Run. The colt is named for Carson Yost, another young Wolf-Hirschorn patient and the son of Wade Yost, a former classmate of West Point Thoroughbreds founder Terry Finley at the United States Military Academy. Carson’s Run displayed tremendous heart when he rallied from last of nine in the one-mile bet365 Summer Stakes for trainer Christophe Clement and jockey Dylan Davis. The Summer Stakes was a “Win and You’re In” race for the Prevagen Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. “It’s very special to have a horse named for Carson and what he has going on,” Davis said. “It makes it more meaningful and special. Hopefully, I can meet him at the Breeders’ Cup and maybe get it done there.”
ROAD TO DERBY 150: West Saratoga was overlooked before he sold to Harry Veruchi for $12,000 at the 2022 Keeneland September yearling sale. The Exaggerator colt will have plenty of eyes on him now. He took the early lead on the road to the 150th Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve when he topped favored Risk It by 1 ¾ lengths in the one-mile Iroquois Stakes on Saturday at Churchill Downs. He is trained by Larry Demeritte and was ridden by Rafael Bejarano as he won his second consecutive race following an 0-for-4 beginning to his career. “It’s very special to get started on the Road to the Kentucky Derby,” Veruchi said. “We ran a couple of times here in the spring and so we knew he’d like the track. After he broke his maiden last time at a mile, we were confident he would like stretching out in distance as he got more experienced. He’s a very nice horse.”
WINNING FORMULA: Kentucky Downs concluded another successful meet that was robust in the critical areas of purses, wagering, and field size. Purse structure increased for the 12th consecutive season. All-sources wagering jumped 4.3% from $80,175,928 last year to $83,640,261, a reflection of substantial field size. Races averaged 10.42 starters. Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs vice president for racing, was quick to note that British-based Ancient Rome shipped overseas to capture the $2 million Mint Millions, North America’s richest turf race outside of the Breeders’ Cup. “We are committed to a world-class race meet,” Nicholson said. “We hope we’re seeing the start of a trend of overseas horses coming to run at Kentucky Downs.”