A big weekend of racing at Woodbine in Canada saw three more horses qualify for the 2012 Breeders' Cup and one horse stamp itself the likely favorite for this year's Breeders' Cup Mile.
Grade 1 - Woodbine Mile (Result Chart)
Wise Dan continued his fantastic run of form with a sizzling and dominating win in the $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sunday. A winner of graded stakes races on dirt, turf and synthetics this year, Wise Dan defeated a strong field at Woodbine by an easy 3 1/4 lengths over Hunters Bay and Cityscape (GB). The strong performance in Canada validated his win in the G2-Froustardave at Saratoga this summer, clearly marking Wise Dan as the best turf miler in North America.
The Breeders' Cup Mile is traditionally a race where European runners are quite successful but, if Wise Dan's performance in the Woodbine Mile is any indication, this could be a very good year for the North American horses. Third-place finisher Cityscape (GB), while not the best miler in Europe, is a very good horse and a good measuring stick for the North American runners. And while Cityscape didn't get the best of trips at Woodbine, it's unlikely that a clean run around the track would have made any difference in the final outcome, as Wise Dan was much the best.
If Wise Dan can maintain his current form at Santa Anita, he would be a deserving favorite to win the 2012 Breeders' Cup Mile.
Grade 2 Natalma Stakes (Result Chart)
Spring Venture used a powerful late kick to defeat a field of 14 in the Grade 2 Natalma Stakes, securing a spot in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Filly Turf. After an awkward start that saw her break toward the rail, Spring Venture settled into a good spot just a few lengths behind the early leaders and impressively split rivals in the stretch before clearing the field by 1 3/4 lengths at the wire. Spring in the Air finished second, giving trainer Mark Casse the Natalma exacta.
Both Nancy O (IRE) and Kitten's Dumplings ran well in defeat but had troubled and/or wide trips during the race.
Grade 2 Summer Stakes (Result Chart)
I'm Boundtoscore, left alone on the lead from the second the gate opened, took the field all the way around the Woodbine turf course to score a front-running victory in the G2-Natalma Stakes. After setting a legitimate pace through the first half mile (23.85, 47.66), jockey Sarah Rook was able to slow I'm Boundtoscore down to a 25.13 split in the third quarter, preserving just enough energy to withhold the onslaught of closers in the final furlongs.
The key question regarding I'm Boundtoscore going forward is whether his performance in the Summer Stakes was a result of a marked improvement in form or the result of a preference for the yielding ground at Woodbine. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita will most likely be contested over much firmer ground, which may compromise I'm Boundtoscore's chances.
Favorite Archer Hill, a colt that came into the Summer off a strong debut performance at Saratoga, was never in the race at any point and finished an extremely disappointing seventh of eight. It's possible that Archer Hill didn't care for the yielding ground at Woodbine and should be expected to run better if he's able to find firmer footing in his next start.
Horses qualified for 2012 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita:
Juvenile: Rolling Fog, Shanghai Bobby
Juvenile Filies: n/a
Juvenile Turf: I'm Boundtoscore
Juvenile Fillies Turf: Sky Lantern (IRE), Spring Venture
Juvenile Sprint: n/a
Marathon: Calidoscopio (ARG), Redeemed
Filly & Mare Sprint: Switch, Turbulent Descent
Turf Sprint: Ben's Cat, Master Of Design (AUS), Ortensia (AUS)
Dirt Mile: Rail Trip, Shackleford
Mile: Excelebration (IRE), Gimmethegreenllight (AUS), Jeranimo, Wise Dan
Filly & Mare Turf: I'm A Dreamer (IRE), Izzi Top (GB)
Turf: Al Qasr, Casino Host, Danedream (GER), Little Mike, Meandre (FR), Orfevre (JPN), Snow Fairy (IRE), Turbo Compressor
Ladies' Classic: Include Me Out, Love and Pride, Royal Delta
Classic: Dullahan, Fort Larned, Game On Dude, Ron the Greek
For a complete list of Breeders' Cup Challenge races, and a summary of the contenders for each Breeders' Cup Division, check out the 2012 Breeders' Cup Challenge spreadsheet via Google Docs.
For more coverage of the 2012 Breeders' Cup and horse racing, check out SB Nation's horse racing blog And Down The Stretch They Come.