December 1, 2022

Breeders’ Cup berth on line in Woodbine Mile; Desert Encounter seeks International hat trick

Set Piece, with Florent Geroux up, wins the 2021 Wise Dan Stakes (Photo by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

Woodbine Mile (G1)

Set Piece and Raging Bull are the leading U.S. invaders entered for Saturday’s C$1 million Woodbine Mile (G1), which will confer on its winner an automatic bid to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Del Mar in November.

Both Set Piece and Raging Bull arrive following a loss to the mare Got Stormy in the Aug. 14 Fourstardave H. (G1) at Saratoga. Set Piece, who won three stakes at Churchill Downs in the spring, rallied for second in that one-mile test, while even-money favorite Raging Bull never factored in a sixth-place effort.

An infrequent winner’s circle visitor since rallying for fourth in the 2019 Woodbine Mile following a rough trip, Raging Bull has notched Grade 1 wins in the 2020 Shoemaker Mile and in the Maker’s Mark Mile on April 9.

The top four finishers from the Aug. 15 King Edward (G2) reappear in the Mile. Olympic Runner rallied from midpack to defeat pacesetter Town Cruise by 1 1/4 lengths in that course-and-distance prep, while March to the Arch settled for third as the favorite after encountering traffic in the stretch. The latter finished second in the Woodbine Mile last year to the mare Starship Jubilee.

Fourth in the King Edward following a photo-finish win in the Connaught Cup (G2) was Avie’s Flatter, who placed in all three Canadian Triple Crown events two seasons ago.

Mark Casse trains Olympic Runner, March to the Arch, and Ride a Comet, the multiple Grade 2 winner who placed in both the Maker’s Mark Mile and the Wise Dan (G2) earlier this season, the latter behind Set Piece. A dual stakes winner this term, Change of Control is the only mare in the Woodbine Mile field and exits a third in the six-furlong Royal North (G3) as the heavy favorite.

The Mile field is rounded out by European invaders Space Traveller, most recently fourth in the Mister D. (G1) over 1 1/4 miles at Arlington, and Duke of Hazzard, whose last win occurred in the Celebration Mile (G2) in August 2019.

Canadian International (G1)

Cancelled in 2020 due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, the C$600,000 Canadian International (G1) over 1 1/2 miles on the turf returns to the schedule Saturday for one of its earliest runnings ever.

The nine-year-old gelding Desert Encounter, who won the International in 2018 and 2019, seeks to become only the second horse to win Canada’s leading open event three times, but the first to do so consecutively. Joshua Tree, also European-based, won the International in 2010, 2012, and 2013.

Desert Encounter is winless in 15 starts dating back to the last International held in October 2019. He’s finished second in three of five starts this season, including to Teona in the August S. at Windsor. That three-year-old filly rival upset the heavily favored Snowfall in the Prix Vermeille (G1) at Longchamp last weekend.

Also invading from Europe is Walton Street, a Group 2 winner in Dubai last March who finish third in the Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1) in early August following a layoff of more than four months. Owner-breeder Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby have enjoyed remarkable success throughout Europe and North America this season.

The top three finishers from the 1 1/4-mile Singspiel (G3) — Corelli, English Conqueror, and Belichick — stretch out in distance here, as does Singspiel also-ran Primo Touch. Bluegrass Parkway enters off a minor stakes win at Ellis Park, while Fantasioso placed in the Belmont Gold Cup (G2) and John’s Call S. in New York over the summer.