Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Grade 1)
LAST weekend in North America offered one of its feature meetings as ‘Belmont at the Big A’, but in fact the ‘Big A’ was for Appleby and the Godolphin trainer sent three horses in three of the feature races at Woodbine and Aqueduct and picked up two Grade 1s and the feature race at Aqueduct.
Modern Games’ success in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile was the highlight and if you thought the winner of the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, third in a good running of the Prix du Jockey Club and second to Baaeed in the Sussex Stakes, should have too much class for a field of older US and Canadian turf horses, you were proved right.
The five-and-a-quarter-length success was even more impressive because William Buick and the Irish-bred son of Dubawi did not get the run of the race but came thorough wide in the straight to race away from second favourite Ivar, with the Simon & Ed Crisford-trained outsider Finest Sound running well in third.
Modern Games was sent off as the heavy favourite. He had raced prominently in his two races in the French classics but didn’t break well here and was in the back half of the field for much of the early race.
Town Cruise, who stole the race last year, was again prominent early with fast fractions of 23.08secs and 45.79secs.
Making ground before the bend, Modern Games had to be switched wide and encountered some trouble before in the clear.
Then he powered into the lead and raced away impressively and gaining a figure of 112, the highest Beyer Speed figure on turf in the US this season. He finished the Woodbine Mile in 1m 32.77secs over firm going, a bit more than a second outside the course record.
Back in November, Modern Games won the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf but US backers settled for refunds as he ran for purse money only after he had been let out of the front of the gates and was removed in error from betting pools.
The colt earned his way back to the Breeders’ Cup on November 4th with this dominating victory, his sixth in an 11-race career.
“He was very comfortable throughout. He travelled nice, and the pace was good. I just had to figure out a route, really. But I had plenty of horse, and he was brave when he had to be,” Willian Buick said.
Ivar also found late speed to get up for second, with Finest Sound third. Shirl’s Speight was fourth and Town Cruise fifth.
Buick expects the colt to make a bold bid come November, and said. “He’s got bigger. He’s filled out. He’s very strong, a very strong horse. He retains all the ability in the world.
“He’s a real fast horse. The faster, the better for him. As you saw there, when he changes gears, he’s got a lot of speed. He’s a real fast miler.”
The victory capped a perfect afternoon at the Toronto track for Godolphin, Buick, and Charlie Appleby. Earlier on the card the Irish-bred Mysterious Night ran out an even easier winner of the Grade 1 Pattison Summer Stakes for two-year-old colts.
It was the second Summer Stakes triumph for Appleby and Godolphin, and great placing in what might be a weak race on European ratings, they had taken last year’s running with Albahr.
Mysterious Night, a Dark Angel colt, was sent off at odds-on in a seven-horse field after a Group 3 Prix François Boutin at Deauville.
Buick allowed Mysterious Night to race along the inside and gave him the cue to go turning for home.
He moved wider take aim at the leader and quickly widened his advantage down the straight with Appraise running on from fifth to finish second, a length and a quarter ahead of Philip My Dear.
“We knew the horse was going to like it, fast ground. He travelled through the race beautifully.
“He was giving me plenty of confidence throughout the race, and he was happy travelling away, so it was perfect for him and hopefully he can go on from here,” William Buick said afterwards.
The winner is a full brother to Althiqa, winner of the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game Stakes and Diana Stakes for the same connections last year.
The other Grade 1 on the card, the Johnnie Walker Natalma Stakes, went to the Kevin Attard-trained daughter of English Channel, Last Call.
The long-shot beat the favourite Cairo Consort by a length.