The Woodbine Mile field defines the term “eclectic.” You’ve got a Preakness winner, a 7-year-old mare with multiple graded stakes victories, and one of Canada’s most promising 3-year-olds. And all three of them could lose to one of the best closers in Canadian racing.

Shirl's Speight-Woodbine Mile
At 8/1 on the Woodbine Mile morning line, Marine Stakes winner Shirl’s Speight offers high-flying value in his first Grade 1 race. (Image: Michael Burns Photography)

The eclectic field of eight tangles on the turf in the Grade 1 race Saturday at Woodbine, outside Toronto. The Woodbine Mile headlines a Saturday card of four stakes races. Sunday’s Woodbine card picks up where that left off with two Grade 1 stakes, the Summer Stakes and the Natalama Stakes.

Along the way, the Woodbine Mile doubles as a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile Nov. 7 at Keeneland. Speaking of the Breeders’ Cup, this race tends to breed Breeders’ Cup champions. Six of the last 20 Woodbine Mile winners took a Breeders’ Cup race somewhere during their careers. That includes two-time champion Wise Dan (2012, 2013), a recent Hall-of-Fame inductee.

Woodbine Mile

Morning Line (Jockey)

  1. March to the Arch, 5/2 (Patrick Husbands)
  2. Armistice Day, 20/1 (David Moran)
  3. Shirl’s Speight, 8/1 (Kazushi Kimura)
  4. Starship Jubilee, 20/1 (Justin Stein)
  5. Olympic Runner, 15/1 (Daisuke Fukumoto)
  6. Admiralty Pier, 10/1 (Steven Bahen)
  7. Value Proposition, 6/1 (Luis Contreras)
  8. War of Will, 2/1 (Rafael Hernandez)

Wise Dan entered the Hall in the same class as one Mark Casse, who trains three of the field’s eight entrants, including two of our aforementioned horses to watch, War of Will and March to the Arch.

What Will War of Will Do After His Career-Best Race?

Making his third Woodbine start, War of Will, the aforementioned Preakness champion, enters as a deserving 2/1 favorite. You’re looking at the rare horse who owns an American Classic victory – the 2019 Preakness Stakes – and a Grade 1 win on turf. The latter came in July at Keeneland when War of Will captured the Maker’s Mark Mile in what was probably his best career effort. Casse took off the blinkers for that race, and War of Will took off to a career-best 115 Equibase Speed Figure.

The Maker’s Mark gave War of Will his fourth graded stakes victory and fifth win in 16 starts.

“He’s coming off that nice win in the Maker’s Mark Mile and he’s trained as good as I’ve ever seen him train since that race,” Casse told Woodbine. “We’re expecting him to run well.”

There sits the Good War of Will. One race earlier, at Santa Anita Park’s Shoemaker Mile, we saw the Not Good War of Will, who finished a dismal fifth, demoted to sixth via a DQ. Prior to that, we saw plenty of the Not Good War of Will. He came out of his 2019 Preakness win finishing no better than third in his next five races.

Starship Jubilee Seeking Second Grade 1 Win

If you’re interested in taking a stand against the favorite, take a close look at the elder stateswoman in the field, Starship Jubilee (4/1). The 7-year-old mare makes her 38th career start Saturday, seeking to join Tepin (2016) as a distaff winner of this event. The winner of 18 races in 37 starts, to go with more than $1.6 million in earnings, Starship Jubilee is 4-for-5 in 2020, with two Grade 2 wins, a Grade 3, and a black-type stakes win.

Starship Jubilee’s lone miss came last time out in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga where she finished a well-beaten fourth. Even with a Grade 1 win at Woodbine on the resume, last years’ E.P. Taylor Stakes, questions arise on whether Starship Jubilee is a Grade 1-caliber mare.

“I don’t think people realize how hard it is to keep a horse consistent,” said Starship Jubilee’s trainer, Kevin Attard. “When you see that consistency – there are always so many things that can go wrong: bad trips, bad luck, horses waking up on race day and not feeling well – (it’s hard) bringing their A-game each and every time. It shows you how special it is and how special this horse is.”

Taking a Vault Up the Class Pyramid

The horse everyone expects special things from is Shirl’s Speight (8/1). The 3-year-old Canadian product of noted sprinter Speightstown was a late Kentucky Derby scratch after contracting a cough Derby Week. His connections opted for the Woodbine Mile for his third and next race, instead of the Preakness Stakes.

Either race represents a class leap for Shirl’s Speight, who won his Independence Day debut by eight lengths. He followed that with a 2 ¾-length win in the Grade 3 Marine Stakes in late July. This indicates the talent is there, but how it translates atop the class pyramid is the overriding question. Especially with a career-best 97 Equibase Speed Figure, among the lowest in the field.

Standout closer March to the Arch (5/2) has no speed issues. He illustrated this while winning the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes with a 112 Equibase last time out. En route to his seventh win in 23 starts, March to the Arch benefited from a wicked speed pace. Should War of Will, Admiralty Pier, and Shirl’s Speight accommodate him here, March to the Arch’s rail position and Woodbine’s long stretch make him a good candidate for the upset.

The pick: March to the Arch. This shapes up as a closer’s race, and you’ve got a good one here. He rallied from last in the King Edward to win by 2 ¼ lengths. He can easily do this again against this field. That said, Shirl’s Speight at 8/1 offers value you probably won’t see again from him. He’s definitely worth a flier if you don’t think the pace melts down.