The 2023 edition of the Grade 1, $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile Stakes brings together a field of six, with the winner the race receiving an automatic berth in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF in November.
Master of The Seas will get the most attention as he won the Group 2 Fred Cowley MBE Memorial Summer Mile Stakes in England in July when last seen, and as trainer Charles Appleby won the 2022 edition of this race with Modern Games. War Bomber will also garner support as he won the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes on the Woodbine turf course last month. Lucky Score won the Grade 2 Highlander Stakes at Woodbine in July at a shorter distance and finished third in the King Edward in his most recent race. Ice Chocolat was most recently third in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap at the distance last month but has never won a graded stakes. Shirl’s Speight won the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes in April 2022 but is winless in eight races since then, including a fourth-place finish in the King Edward. My Sea Cottage finished fourth in the Fourstardave after setting the pace and appears overmatched.
Master of The Seas – The tremendous record trainer Charles Appleby has when shipping horses from Europe to run in graded stakes in North America is as important as the horses he brings over for big races. Per a Race Lens query, Appleby has raced 30 horses on this continent in the past five years, with 17 different horses winning 22 races in 56 starts. Better still, in Grade 1 races, the record of Appleby runners is 17 wins from 41 starts with another eight having finished second. If you bet every one of those 41 horses to win, even without regard for the horse’s previous form, you would have a very profitable return of $3.22 for every $2. One of those was Modern Games in the 2022 Ricoh Woodbine Mile, who finished second in a Group 1 race in July. This year, Appleby brings Master of The Seas to run in the race, like Modern Games, having just run in July. Master of The Seas won that race, the Summer Mile Stakes, and did so easily by four lengths. He earned a 119 Equibase Speed Figure for that effort, equaling the 119 earned in April 2022 when winning the Earl of Sefton Stakes. The only other horse in this year’s Woodbine Mile field who has come close to running that fast is Shirl’s Speight, who earned a 119 figure when winning the Maker’s Mark Mile in the spring of 2022. Jockey William Buick, who guided Modern Games to a 5 ¼-length win last year, has ridden Master of The Seas to four of his six lifetime wins and could add to that total if the gelding repeats his most recent effort.
Ice Chocolat may be the entrant with the second highest probability to win, although that still may be far afield from Master of The Seas. Ice Chocolat has won five times in his 18-race career, with all of his victories on grass, but his most recent win was 11 months ago in the fall of 2022. Just the same, in three of his last four races the 5-year-old gelding has run very well despite not winning. In May, Ice Chocolat finished second in the Jacques Cartier Stakes on the main track at Woodbine and earned a career-best 113 Equibase Speed Figure. After a sixth-place effort in the Jaipur Stakes in June, Ice Chocolat earned a 108 figure when fourth in a very strong field in the Kelso Stakes at this one mile turf trip. In his most recent start in the Fourstardave Handicap, he finished third with a 109 figure. Both those races were won by Casa Creed, a four-time winner in Grade 1 stakes and very likely to be one of the favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November. In the Fourstardave, My Sea Cottage, who shares the same owner and trainer as Ice Chocolat, was responsible for setting a fast pace to help his stablemate, and that should also be the case in this race. Jockey Joel Rosario rode Ice Chocolat for the first time in the Fourstardave, a race in which he was bothered by horses on the first turn and in the stretch, so perhaps his seventh-to-third closing rally may be bettered in the Woodbine Mile.
War Bomber was bred in Ireland but has done all of his running in North America. He won three races in a row at one mile on the Woodbine turf in 2021, including the Toronto Cup Stakes. Last summer, War Bomber won the Seagram Cup Stakes on the main track before finishing ninth in this race. Returning off a six-month layoff in June of this year, War Bomber ran poorly in two starts before a jockey change to Rico Walcott turned his fortune around. First, he finished second with a 103 Equibase Speed Figure in the Connaught Cup Stakes Presented by Bulleit Bourbon in July then he improved to a 108 figure effort winning the King Edward Stakes at the same mile trip as this race. Last year, War Bomber earned a 112 figure in two of his best efforts, and as he improved last month off his previous effort he could get back to that level today, so the 5-year-old gelding warrants respect as a contender.
The rest of the field (with best Equibase Speed Figure in a similar race): Lucky Score (104), My Sea Cottage (102), and Shirl’s Speight (119 but in 2022).
Win Contenders (in probability/preference order):
Master of The Seas