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Owners face decision on BC Mile
ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sunday's Woodbine Mile had been billed as a showdown between New York shippers Kip Deville and Ventura, an opinion that was not disputed even by the connections of the six local contestants.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the finish line of the $1,078,200 Woodbine Mile, which was run over a yielding turf course.
Kip Deville came up empty at crunch time, while Rahy's Attorney, an Ontario-sired 4-year-old trained here by Ian Black, darted to the lead around the final turn and kept right on trucking to score by 1 1/4 lengths under jockey Slade Callaghan.
"He obviously relished the little give in the ground and got a very good ride," said Ian Black, who trains Rahy's Attorney for the Elle Boje Farm of Joe and Ellen MacLellan and some of their family and friends. "He's a genuinely nice horse."
As of Monday morning, trainer Rick Dutrow had no definitive explanation for the performance of Kip Deville, who wound up fifth.
"I saw him after the race, and he looked fine," Dutrow said. "I'm just kind of disappointed. I think he didn't like what was going on out there. I can only imagine that the course was the only factor."
All of that was of little concern to Callaghan and Black as they relived Rahy's Attorney's success here Monday morning.
Black, 64, had spent 30 years as racing manager for Kinghaven Farm before taking out his trainer's license in 2005.
The Woodbine Mile was his second seven-figure win, following last year's Queen's Plate success with Mike Fox.
Callaghan, 38, has been riding here for 15 years, and his biggest previous score came aboard Portcullis in the $500,000 Breeders'.
"It's a great feeling to win such a prestigious race," said Callaghan, acknowledging what seemed to be a never-ending stream of congratulations here Monday morning. "I thought of all the local horses, they would have my horse to beat there. When he exploded like that, which I knew he would, I expected Kip Deville or the filly to keep up with me or pass me.
"When he won the Connaught Cup, he showed the same sort of foot and kept going."
Rahy's Attorney, a 4-year-old gelding, won the Grade 3 Connaught Cup at 1 1/16 miles on turf here May 25, with Callaghan in the irons for the first time.
Although he performed creditably enough in subsequent routes on turf and Polytrack, Black was becoming more and more convinced that a mile was Rahy's Attorney's preferred distance.
"With the Northern Dancer and the Woodbine Mile on the same day, we were going to go in one or the other," Black said. "Joe really wanted to go in the Mile, and in the end, we only nominated him to the one race."
The Woodbine Mile was by far the biggest career score for the MacLellans, working people based in eastern Ontario who have maintained a small breeding operation.
And while Rahy's Attorney picked up an extra $60,000 in Ontario-bred bonus money to bring his Woodbine Mile prize to $660,000, the owners now face a difficult decision.
The Woodbine Mile was a Breeders' Cup Win and You're In race, guaranteeing Rahy's Attorney a starting berth in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.
The bad news is that the Win and You're In tag has nothing to do with the entry fee, which would total $180,000 since Rahy's Attorney is not Breeders' Cup eligible. And that's to say nothing of the considerable costs associated with a venture to Santa Anita.
"With the Breeders' Cup Mile being run on an inside turf course, the draw can be such a huge factor," said Black, introducing more food for thought. "Horses can get eliminated almost immediately.
"But if the owners look at it as maybe a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I'd love to do it."
If Rahy's Attorney does not take the Breeders' Cup bait, he may run next in the $125,000 Bunty Lawless, a one-mile turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward here Oct. 12.
Rahy's Attorney won the Bunty Lawless last year.
Dutrow hopes to regroup with Kip Deville, and the Breeders' Cup Mile remains his ultimate goal. Bobby Frankel is unsure of his next move with Ventura, however.
"There are so many races she can run in," Frankel said. "She runs well on turf and Polytrack."
Just Rushing eyes Mt. Sassafras
Just Rushing, a 7-year-old gelding trained by Sid Attard, was beaten a total of just three lengths after setting the early pace but then dropping back to fifth midway through the turn in the Woodbine Mile.
"I didn't think he'd like the soft grass, but maybe some of the other horses didn't like it either," Attard said. "I was pleased with the way he ran. When he started to go backwards, I thought we were going to be last. But he dug in again; he never gives up."
Just Rushing, who had won the Play the King at seven furlongs on turf just two weeks prior to the Woodbine Mile, now will get a bit of a breather.
The seven-furlong Mt. Sassafras, a $100,000 overnight stakes for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds and upward here Oct. 5, is his next target.
Mulmur and Wollemi Pine, who finished sixth and last, respectively, in the Woodbine Mile, also had raced in the Play the King.
"He ran all right," said Mulmur's trainer, Mark Frostad. "I think too weeks back took a little too much out of him."
Black, who also trains Wollemi Pine, cited the two-week turnaround and the course condition.
"He didn't like the give in the ground," Black said.
Ice Bear, a 4-year-old gelding trained by Mac Benson, ran well to finish three-quarters of a length behind Just Rushing in fourth.
"I was very pleased with the way he ran," Benson said. "He just didn't have the smoothest of trips; Kip Deville carried us wide on the turn."
Ice Bear also has been effective on Polytrack, and Benson mentioned the Grade 3, $150,000 Durham Cup, a 1 1/8-mile race here Oct. 11, as a potential target.
"He handles racing well," said Benson, who could be looking out of town for an interim spot.
Palladio, who ran seventh as the Woodbine Mile's longest shot at 55-1, also would be a Durham Cup candidate but could be going on the road.
"I still don't think I was wrong running him there," Attfield said. "I think the going bothered him."
* Handle was up for Woodbine's 11-race program, with a total of $4,645,014 from all sources, compared to $4,072,155 last year.
The amount wagered on the Woodbine Mile was $932,022, compared to $1,263,680 in 2007.