09/17/2010 2:29PM

Californians known to shine in Woodbine Mile

Michael Burns
The Usual Q.T exercises Friday over the Polytrack at Woodbine with Joe Vacca riding.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – California shippers have been deadly in the $1 million Woodbine Mile over the years, and they could rule the roost again Sunday when The Usual Q.T. and Victor’s Cry take part in the one-mile turf race.

The 14th running of the Woodbine Mile heads a bettor-friendly 11-race card that also includes two other turf stakes, the Grade 1 Northern Dancer and the Grade 2 Canadian.

The Woodbine Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series Win and You’re In event, meaning the winner gains inclusion into the BC Mile at Churchill Nov. 6. The two Mile participants who went on to land that coveted contest were Kip Deville and Silic.

The Usual Q.T. put together a six-race win streak last year, which included a victory in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. He also took the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes over nine furlongs in his next-to-last outing at Del Mar.

Most recently Aug. 28, The Usual Q.T. was a flat fifth as the favorite over Del Mar’s Polytrack in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic.

“I was a little hesitant about doing [this trip], because it was so close to his last race,” said trainer Jim Cassidy. “But he seems to have come out of that race really well. He doesn’t seem to be knocked out at all.”

Victor’s Cry rallied for a narrow score in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood May 31, and has been idle since ending up second in the July 24 Eddie Read.

Trainer Eoin Harty believes that Victor’s Cry could give The Usual Q.T. all that he can handle at a mile.

“I would have beaten him at a mile at Del Mar,” said Harty. “Of course, he had a very wide trip that day. I don’t want to take anything away from him, because he’s one of the very best turf horses in America, possibly at a distance of ground, more so than at a mile. The distance plays to my advantage.”

Both The Usual Q.T. and Victor’s Cry are used to the extra-firm California courses. There was significant rainfall at Woodbine Thursday, and they could be vulnerable if there’s some give in the ground.

The 13-horse field also has the accomplished millionaire Court Vision, who ships in from New York for Rick Dutrow, the trainer of Kip Deville. Court Vision is shortening up off a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont June 5.

“I’m hoping that he likes that grass, and I’m hoping that he’ll like the one turn,” said Dutrow.

Grand Adventure was freshened after his runner-up placing in the nine-furlong Nijinsky Stakes July 24, but should be a factor off his excellent spring form. He earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in his two tallies in graded stakes at the meet, in the seven-furlong Connaught Cup and the one-mile King Edward.

Grand Adventure is owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad, the same connections who won the Mile with Quiet Resolve by disqualification in 1999, and with Soaring Free in 2004. Frostad said the layoff leading up to the Mile was by design.

“He had a pretty tough race in the Nijinsky,” Frostad explained. “The turf came up soft, and a mile and an eighth is at the outer limits of his distance capability. We decided to give him lots of time going into the Mile. He’s come up to it great.”

Smokey Fire won the local prep for the Mile, the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes. This will be his first start beyond seven furlongs, but trainer Sid Attard is confident that the gelding will stay the trip.

“I really think he’ll get the mile, if you hold him back,” said Attard, who captured the 2001 Mile with Numerous Times.

Famous Name will try to become the first European shipper to win the Mile, in his first start with Lasix. A 5-year-old trained by Dermot Weld, he trailed the field Sept. 4 in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes, but was only 1 3/4 lengths behind runner-up Rip Van Winkle in that 10-furlong fixture. He can handle any type of ground, and his 5-for-7 record at a mile includes four triumphs in Group 3 company.

Also in from Southern California are Riviera Cocktail and Crowded House, who was supplemented at a cost of $20,000.