09/11/2014 3:53PM

Kaigun looks to step up in Woodbine Mile

Michael Burns
Kaigun, the winner of the Play the King Stakes, will take on a tough field Sunday in the Woodbine Mile at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Sunday’s $1 million Woodbine Mile lacks the star power of Wise Dan, who won the Grade 1 turf route in each of the past two years, but it’s a terrific betting race in which one could make a case for many of the 11 entrants.

Kaigun shortened up from 11 to seven furlongs when he captured the local prep, the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes, with a powerful rally. Trainer Mark Casse said he was concerned with the turnback in distance that day, when he outfinished stablemate Lockout for the win.

“How often do you go from a mile and three-eighths to seven-eighths?” Casse said. “I did breeze him out of the gate to try and sharpen him up. I was pretty impressed with his win, and I thought Lockout ran extremely well also.”

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Kaigun worked an easy five-eighths in 1:04 last Sunday after covering the same distance in a bullet 1:00 in company with Dynamic Sky on Sept. 1.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 5 Kaigun. Trainer Mark Casse is 12 for 64 with a $2.31 ROI over the past five years in turf routes at Woodbine with last-out winners. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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“He just kind of galloped along,” Casse said. “That was good because he had a pretty stiff breeze with Dynamic Sky, and I didn’t want him to have it again.”

The Woodbine Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In qualifier, with the winner getting a fees-paid trip to the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita. It heads an excellent 11-race card that also includes the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf and the Grade 2 Canadian, another Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In event.

Post time for the Woodbine Mile is 6:10 p.m. Eastern. It will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 in the United States from 5-6:30 p.m. and will be shown locally on TSN from 5:30 to 6:30.

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Key contenders

Kaigun (Last 3 Beyers: 102-97-100)

After being gelded, he has improved by leaps and bounds this year. He turned heads while finishing a close second to Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland and ran second to Real Solution in the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont.

“The reason I gelded him was he was a real hothead,” Casse said. “He’s turned out to be a really good horse.”

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Grand Arch (Last 3 Beyers: 100-100-92)

He exploded in the stretch to notch his first stakes win here June 22 in the Grade 2 King Edward.

With David Moran aboard again Aug. 9, he nearly upset Seek Again when second in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga.

“We had a great trip,” Moran said. “The winner was in all sorts of trouble on the rail, and he just got out at the last second and got me. He broke the track record to do it.”

Dorsett (Last 3 Beyers: 98-88-83)

He wasn’t far back in fourth in the Fourstardave in just his second start for trainer Brian Lynch, who also trains Grand Arch.

“He’s coming into himself now,” Lynch said. “That was only his second start of the year, and he ran his best number. He could move forward a little bit.”

Jack Milton (Last 3 Beyers: 99-101-104)

He split Grand Arch and Dorsett when third in the Fourstardave. Perhaps the race of his life was a three-length triumph in the Grade 3 Poker in May at Belmont.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: Trainer Todd Pletcher is 1 for 10 in graded stakes at Woodbine over the past three years, with an return on investment of 36 cents.

Lockout (Last 3 Beyers: 100-97-83)

Casse said Lockout got too far back in the Play the King while struggling over the softer ground on the backstretch, then kicked in nicely over the firmer footing in the lane.

“Going a mile, he won’t be quite as far back,” Casse said. “A mile is probably right in his wheelhouse.”

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Bobby’s Kitten (Last 3 Beyers: 87-69-95)

A 3-year-old never has won the Woodbine Mile. This one prefers the lead and will have the speedy Silver Freak to contend with if he employs an aggressive approach. A stalking trip seems like his best option.

Silver Freak (Last 3 Beyers: 95-89-83)

He flirted with the one-mile inner-course record in his gate-to-wire score in a second-level optional claimer Aug. 6 at Saratoga.

Jockey John Velazquez has won the Woodbine Mile a record four times. He should have him winging it up front for as far as he goes.

Trade Storm (Last Beyer: 99)

The lone European shipper was a belated third in the 2013 Woodbine Mile.

“He was a little slow out of the gates last year and had a lot to do, along with Wise Dan to beat,” said trainer David Simcock.