If not as straightforward a customer as his recently-retired Godolphin colleague Modern Games, Master of the Seas nevertheless resembled his undisputed authority in Saturday’s $755,528 Woodbine Mile (G1). The Charlie Appleby shipper was bet down to 2-5 favoritism to succeed Modern Games on the Woodbine honor roll, and he outclassed the opposition to secure a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
Master of the Seas has ventured to the Breeders’ Cup Mile before, in what proved to be a fruitless voyage to Del Mar in 2021. The Irish homebred unfortunately lost his composure in the starting gate and wound up being a vet scratch. Unceremoniously trotted off the course, he watched his better-fancied stablemate, Space Blues, take care of business for the team.
That vignette offers some insight into the character of Master of the Seas, but the current five-year-old version could be a different proposition at Santa Anita. Gelded in the aftermath of his Del Mar boilover, the son of Dubawi has won four of his six ensuing starts.
A four-length winner of the July 15 Summer Mile (G2) when last seen at Ascot, Master of the Seas employed similar tactics – closing from the rear – here. Hence it was no issue that he wasn’t quick into stride from his rail post, and Godolphin rider William Buick wisely let him gather himself. His natural rhythm helped him draw nearer at every call, until he was on the premises in the lane.
Longshot My Sea Cottage went forward through splits of :23.68 and :47.32 on the good course, but War Bomber tackled him passing six furlongs in 1:10.87. Lucky Score played his hand entering the stretch, and Shirl’s Speight was likewise emerging.
Yet none could match the imposing presence of Master of the Seas, who was gently cajoled into the picture by Buick. Taking time to lengthen, he soon delivered a broadside that blew the rest away. Master of the Seas stormed to a 3 3/4-length decision in a final time of 1:33.79.
Shirl’s Speight, who was a troubled fourth to Modern Games in last year’s edition, prevailed in his scrimmaging with Lucky Score to grab second by a neck. War Bomber, a full brother to 2017 Woodbine Mile runner-up Lancaster Bomber, checked in another 4 1/2 lengths astern in fourth. Ice Chocolat was the disappointment of the race in a tame fifth, beating only the tailed-off My Sea Cottage.
Master of the Seas was earning an overdue first Grade/Group 1 laurel after going close twice. Missing by a desperate head to Poetic Flare in the 2000 Guineas (G1) in 2021, the bay came up a half-length shy in the March 4 Jebel Hatta (G1) at the Dubai Carnival. For his age, he’s still lightly raced with a mark of 14-7-2-2, and he’s hovering on millionaire status with approximately $984,333 in earnings.
As his record implies, Master of the Seas has had some spells on the sidelines. He was a promising juvenile of 2020 with a score in the Superlative (G2) and a fourth in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1). After a second in the Meydan Classic to kick off his sophomore season, Master of the Seas turned in two bold efforts at Newmarket, a Craven (G3) victory followed by his Guineas heartbreak. Then he wasn’t seen again until an anticlimactic fall campaign.
Master of the Seas hinted of big things to come in 2022 when landing the Earl of Sefton (G3) as a first-time gelding, but he didn’t race again that year. He returned triumphant in the Jan. 20 Zabeel Mile (G2) back at Meydan, setting a course record of 1:34.28. His closing third in the Jebel Hatta appeared to set him up for the Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night, only for him to trudge home 13th of 14. Responding to a freshening, he was back with a bang in Ascot’s Summer Mile, and made it two straight at Woodbine.
“He usually breaks pretty fast,” Buick said, “For one reason or another he didn’t today. But there weren’t many runners and the pace was even. It’s a big, fair track and he’s a horse with a turn of foot, so it was kind of my job to navigate a trouble-free passage.
“He is pretty high-maintenance, but everyone at home has done a great job with him. I thought today he was much more the finished article. When he won at Ascot last time, you sort of sensed he was showing his best and getting back to his best form. He had some really good two-year-old form. I thought what he did earlier, he really showed how good he is.”
Out of French classic-placed stakes winner Firth of Lorne, by Danehill, Master of the Seas is closely related to another of Appleby’s Woodbine heroes, 2021 Summer (G1) scorer Albahr. Both are by Dubawi, and Master of the Seas is a half-brother to Albahr’s dam, Falls of Lora. Herself a Group 3 victress, Falls of Lora is also responsible for multiple Australian Group 1 winner Cascadian.
Master of the Seas could try to complete the Woodbine/Breeders’ Cup Mile double achieved by Modern Games in 2022.
“He’s a horse that is pretty lightly raced, and he’s not the most straightforward, but the team over here has done a great job with him,” assistant trainer Alex Merriam said. “He has been very relaxed over here and settled in well. We see the result of that. He is professional and he’s done it nicely. He will ship home. Then see how he comes out of the race and see how he is at the end of October. Hopefully if he is well, maybe go back to the Breeders’ Cup.”