To anyone doubting the quality of Canadian racing, I ask you to please turn your attention to this weekend’s race cards at Woodbine.
On September 18 and 19, Woodbine will play host to five graded stakes, headlined by the $1 million Woodbine Mile (G1).
On Saturday, the two-year-olds will take the spotlight in the $200,000 Natalma Stakes (G3) for fillies, and the $250,000 Summer Stakes (G3), open to males and females. The next day, older females will face off in the Canadian (G2); turf-routers will take the stage in the $750,000 Northern Dancer (G1), and the program will wrap up with the Woodbine Mile (G1), which has drawn some of the best milers from Canada, the U.S., and Europe.
This weekend’s stakes program is worth $2.5 million excluding state-bred and Breeders’ Cup bonuses, which tack on another $590,000. All five stakes will be contested over Woodbine’s elite E.P. Taylor turf course, which I constantly contend is the best grass course in North America.
This year’s Mile weekend program has attracted star runners from Canada, the U.S., and Europe, including Grade 1 winners Marsh Side, Victor’s Cry, and Court Vision. World-renowned trainers like Neil Drysdale, Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Eoin Harty, Rick Dutrow, and Dermot Weld, all of whom have become regular Woodbine shippers, will go for pieces of the purse pie.
While I would love to give you some tips for this weekend’s stakes, my handicapping skills are admittedly abysmal. For more on the dimensions of each of these races, I give you to my Blood-Horse buddies Jason Shandler and Jack Shinar:
Natalma and Summer Stakes
Woodbine was also the feature of this week's That Handicapping Show on Bloodhorse.com. For the picks of Blood-Horse writers Jason Shandler and Tom LaMarra as well as Tim Holland, click here.
As for personal preference, I will be most looking forward to the Northern Dancer Stakes this weekend. The Northern Dancer is part of Woodbine’s excellent summer turf route program, which each year brings back the top older runners in Canada, as well as some regular ship ins, like Marsh Side. These are the types of runners (distance on the turf) least desired at stud in North America, which is fine by the racing fan in me, because that means we get to watch them do battle year after year rather than head to the breeding shed; the true definition of competitive sport. Stalwarts of this program that will compete Sunday include Marsh Side, Windward Islands, and Spice Route.
As a quick aside, I would ask you to take a glance at the purses of the undercard races this weekend at Woodbine. We have maiden races for almost $70,000, allowances races for over $70,000, and some claiming events worth almost double their tag. Almost anyone can host a few expensive stakes, but this is the type of purse structure that keeps horsemen going day in and day out. These high purses contribute to attracting the leading runners from around the world, who come to Woodbine with their connections and inject more money into our industry. All of this creates a cyclical effect that results in high quality Canadian racing year after year.
For full entries, visit Equibase.com. For more information about Woodbine, visit WoodbineEntertainment.com