Equibase Analysis: Appleby-Trained Modern Games Deserves Top Billing In Woodbine Mile - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Equibase Analysis: Appleby-Trained Modern Games Deserves Top Billing In Woodbine Mile

Modern Games won the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

This Saturday's 2022 edition of the Grade 1, $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile features a field of 11 vying for the $600,000 winner's share of the purse as well as an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Mile in November.

  • Modern Games (IRE) brings a $1.4 million career bankroll into the race as well as a five-for-10 record including the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last fall and appears to be the one to beat.
  • Still, Ivar (BRZ) has won six of 12 races including the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile in 2021 and enters the race off a win.
  • Shirl's Speight is another proven at the level, having won the G1 Maker's Mark Mile this past April and also has a strong career record consisting of five wins in 10 starts on turf or all-weather.
  • The only filly in the race, Wakanaka (IRE) has won seven of 13 races including the G2 Dance Smartly Stakes in her most recent race and deserves consideration as well in this top notch field.
  • March to the Arch has banked over $1 million in a 33 race career and won the G2 King Edward Stakes over this course in 2020 but hasn't won since July, 2021.
  • Last year's Ricoh Woodbine Mile winner, Town Cruise, is back to defend his title but he has finished fifth, eighth and fifth in his three starts since then.
  • War Bomber (IRE) enters the race off a win in the G3 Seagram Cup on the main track and although he has won three of six turf tries he's facing the toughest field in his career.
  • Get Smokin won the G3 Tampa Bay Stakes in February of 2021 and a minor stakes last May but is winless in seven races since. It should also be noted Get Smokin has a tremendous amount of early speed, as does Town Cruise and Mighty Heart, who won the Queen's Plate Stakes on the main track in 2021 and the G2 Autumn Stakes last November but is winless in five races since then.
  • Finest Sound (IRE) is another like Modern Games (IRE) who comes over from Great Britain. He was just beaten a neck in the G2 Celebration Mile Stakes near the end of August and enters the race in the best form of his life.
  • Homer Screen (BRZ) rounds out the field. He was a Group 2 winner in his native Brazil and his best effort to date in North America came when second in the G3 American Stakes in June.

Main Contenders:

There's no doubt the handicapping process starts with the horse and its chances of success. Still, in some cases the trainer is just as important, provided the horse fits the conditions of the race and is in form. With that in mind I must call attention to the amazing record of trainer Charles Appleby, the top European based trainer, when he ships horses to North America. Per a Race Lens query, when Appleby comes to North America, his horses perform incredibly well to the tune of 15 wins, 10 second place finishes and two thirds in 38 starts going back five years. With jockey William Buick in the saddle, as is the case with Modern Games (IRE), Appleby has won seven of 13 races over the same period. One of those wins came in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, where Modern Games (IRE) went to post as the two to one favorite in a field of 14 and won pretty easily after breaking slowly. Making his debut as a 3-year-old this May, Modern Games (IRE) won the G2 Poule d'Essai des Poulains stakes at a mile then finished third and fifth before a facing older foes for the first time and finishing second in the G2 Sussex Stakes. With his four ™ Equibase Speed Figures this year being 125, 120, 119 and 119 and with only two other horses in the field (Shirl's Speight and Finest Sound (IRE)) having exceeded or tied the 110 figure threshold this year, Modern Games (IRE) seems very likely to add another win to Charles Appleby's record in North America.

Ivar (BRZ) ran as fast winning the 2020 Shadwell Turf Mile as Modern Games (IRE) has run in all his races this year, earning a 122 ™ figure. He nearly ran that fast in top company last November when third with a 117 figure in the Breeders' Cup Mile before taking eight months off. As if he has run just a month or two earlier and not eight months earlier, Ivar (BRZ) won his comeback in July when victorious in the Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial Stakes. Likely to improve significantly in his second start of 2022, Ivar (BRZ) can be expected to be putting in a strong later run and if Modern Games (IRE) isn't up to the task, he can earn the second Grade 1 win of his career.

Shirl's Speight won the Maker's Mark Mile this April, which was his third win and second stakes win in a row. He earned a 110 figure for that effort and although going off form a bit since then, has a chance to redeem himself here. One of those three races since was on dirt, a surface he has no fondness for, and the other was a seven furlong prep for this race over the course in July when fifth of 10 in the Connaught Cup Stakes. Since then Shirl's Speight put in an exceptional five furlong workout (:59.4, best of 46 on the day) which signals he's coming back to top form. Although his top form appears to be a bit short of the best form of Ivar (BRZ) and Modern Games (IRE), I wouldn't rule Shirl's Speight out as a contender in this race based on his tremendous Maker's Mark Mile effort earlier this year.

Finest Sound (IRE) has more second place finishes (five) than wins (four) in his career, but like Modern Games (IRE) he has been running with some of the best in Europe this year. He finished second in the Celebration Mile Stakes in his most recent race, earning a 116 figure, just shy of the 120 career-best earned in March when second in the Jebel Hatta Stakes and his regular rider, Andrea Atzeni, comes over from England to ride.

The rest of the field, with their best ™ Equibase Speed Figures, is Get Smokin (110), Homer Screen (BRZ) (107), March to the Arch (113), Mighty Heart (105), Town Cruise (112), Wakanaka (IRE) (108) and War Bomber (IRE) (109).

Win Contenders (in probability/preference order):
Modern Games (IRE)
Ivar (BRZ)
Shirl's Speight
Finest Sound (IRE)

Ricoh Woodbine Mile – Grade 1
Race 9 at Woodbine
Saturday, September 17 – Post Time 5:35 PM E.T.
One Mile on Turf
Three Years Olds and Upward
Purse: $1 Million

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