TORONTO — Mark Casse will have three chances Saturday to join a very select group.
Casse — Canada's top trainer an unprecedented 11 times — will have three horses in the $1-million Ricoh Woodbine Mile turf race at Woodbine Racetrack. A victory would be Casse's third and move him into a tie with Neil Drysdale, Robert Frankel and Charles LoPresti for most in race history.
"I was impressed when I heard the list," Casse said during a videoconference following the race draw Wednesday. "Even to be mentioned with those gentlemen would be something."
Casse has the top two early favourites in the eight-horse field. War of Will, the '19 Preakness Stakes winner, is the 2-1 first choice with March to the Arch the 5-2 second pick.
War of Will drew the No. 8 post Wednesday while March to the Arch will break form the No. 1 post. Rafael Hernandez will be aboard War of Will while Patrick Husbands will ride March to the Arch.
There will be no European horses or American jockeys in Saturday's race due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And just like for last weekend's $1-million Queen's Plate, there will be no spectators allowed at Woodbine.
Olympic Runner, the final Casse horse, is listed at 15-1 odds and drew the No. 5 post. Jockey Daisuke Fukumoto, who rode 13-1 long-shot Mighty Heart to an emphatic 7 1/2-length Plate win, gets the mount.
Casse doesn't see his three horses butting heads Saturday.
"War of Will is pretty fast (and) if nobody wants to lead, he'll be on it," Casse said. "March to the Arch will definitely sit back and he comes with a run.
"Olympic Runner is going from sprints to going a little further, he's going to probably be eager and I can see him mid-pack. I don't think any of them will be getting in each other's way."
The remainder of field, with post, horse, jockey and odds, includes: 2) Armistice Day, David Moran, 20-1; 3) Shirl's Speight, Kazushi Kimura, 8-1; 4) Starship Jubilee, Justin Stein, 4-1; 6) Admiralty Pier, Steven Bahen, 10-1; and 7) Value Proposition, Luis Contreras, 6-1.
The field could be reduced to seven as Admiralty Pier was also entered in the Grade 3 $125,000 Singspeil Stakes on Sunday. No decision has been made regarding which event the horse will enter.
War of Will certainly provides the Mile with its star power. The four-year-old has finished in the money eight times in 16 career starts (five wins, second and two thirds) and is coming off a win in the Grade 1 Marker's Mark Mile turf event at Keeneland in Kentucky on July 10.
"The Woodbine Mile has been extremely good to us," said Casse. "We've won two Breeders' Cups off of it and we're going to try to do it three times.
"He's training very very well, I think he's at the top of his game. I like the post position so we're excited."
Saturday's winner secures the $600,000 top prize and a berth in the Breeders' Cup Mile in November at Keeneland.
March to the Arch, a five-year-old gelding, is also coming off a win in the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes at Woodbine on Aug. 15. The five-year-old has won two of six starts this season and been in the money 12 times (seven wins, twice second, three thirds) in 23 career races.
Olympic Runner has finished second to Pink Lloyd in his last two races, both Grade 3 events at Woodbine. Overall, the horse has eight top-three finishes (three wins, three seconds, two thirds) in 12 starts.
Starship Jubilee, Canada's 2019 horse of the year, will attempt to become just the third female winner of the Mile. The others are Ventura (2009) and the Casse-trained Tepin (2016).
"Obviously hooking the boys is a little tougher challenge but she's going to get a little bit of a weight break as well," said trainer Kevin Attard. "It's a small field and (that) is why we elected to kind of head this way.
"It really wasn't on the radar earlier but she's had success in a mile. It's in our backyard and avoids her going in a van and shipping somewhere else and gives the fans of Ontario a chance to see the reigning horse of the year."
Starship Jubilee has been a road warrior this season, having run at Gulfstream (twice) and Tampa Bay in Florida and Saratoga in New York (twice). After registering four straight wins, the seven-year-old was fourth in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga but still boasts season earnings of US$467,280.
Stein makes his first appearance aboard Starship Jubilee. He is Woodbine's leading jockey this season.
"She's a very versatile mare," Attard said. "She has speed, she can stalk, she can close.
"We'll let Justin determine where she needs to be and it will be up to him to judge how fast they're going. She's training well, she's eating well, she's coming into the race in good shape . . . she seems to still have that fire in her eye."
While Casse's horses command attention, Attard isn't looking past the lightly-raced Shirl's Speight. After not racing as a two-year-old, the Roger Attfield-trained horse has won both of his starts this year and was being pointed to the Kentucky Derby before a minor illness nixed that plan.
Shirl's Speight will also attempt to become the first three-year-old to win the Mile.
"He's been very impressive to watch so far," Attard said. "Roger talks highly of him and when Roger talks, you better listen.
"I don't discount that horse at all."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2020.
The Canadian Press