09/16/2011 12:06PM

Woodbine: Courageous Cat geared up for Woodbine Mile

Shigeki Kikkawa
Courageous Cat (right), winning the Shoemaker at Hollywood, is using the Woodbine Mile as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Bill Mott won the inaugural Woodbine Mile in 1997 with Geri. On Sunday, he will have his best chance since in the $1 million turf race when he saddles favored Courageous Cat in the 15th running of the successful prep for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile.

WOODBINE MILE: Video previews, get PPs, watch Sunday card live »

The Grade 1 Woodbine Mile is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge program, and the winner will get a fees-paid berth in the BC Mile on turf at Churchill Downs. It heads a terrific card that includes two other stakes, the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf, and the Grade 2 Canadian.

The Woodbine Mile and Northern Dancer are part of the late pick four, which has a guaranteed pool of $200,000. Both races will be televised in Canada on The Score, from 4-6 p.m. Eastern.

Courageous Cat, runner-up to Goldikova in the 2009 BC Mile, has won both of his races this year, the Grade 3 Poker in June at Belmont and the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on July 2 at Hollywood.

Mott said he was pleased with Courageous Cat’s five-furlong turf breeze in 59.80 seconds last Sunday at Saratoga.

BREEDERS' CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners »

“He worked good,” Mott said. “He was off easy, finished up well, and seemed to come back good. He’s had two good races this year, and we’re happy with the progress that he’s made since. We’re cautiously optimistic.”

When asked if the Woodbine Mile is a springboard toward the BC Mile for Courageous Cat, Mott responded: “Absolutely, that’s why we’re doing this.”

Court Vision captured last year’s Woodbine Mile, after closing from far back. He did so following a three-month layoff and will try to duplicate that feat again for Dale Romans, who recently inherited the training duties from Richard Dutrow Jr. following a sale.

“He came to me in good shape,” Romans said.

Turallure, a son of Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando, has won two of his last three, including the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap over nine furlongs at Saratoga.

Trainer Charlie Lopresti said the turnback to a one-turn mile is a question for Turallure.

“I think he’s sharp enough, and hopefully, there’ll be some speed for him to run at,” Lopresti said. “If the front-runners slow down, he’s going to be tough. I’m really happy with him. He’s handled everything up here good.”

Right One, who was along for third in the Poker, has been idle since his wide, closing triumph July 16 in the Grade 3 Jaipur traveling seven furlongs at Belmont.

“He’s got a very good turn of foot, but usually he’s at the back of the pack and just makes one run,” said Christophe Lorieul, a longtime assistant to trainer Christophe Clement.

Only four European shippers participated in the last 10 runnings, with their best showing being a third-place finish. There are three runners from across the pond competing Sunday – Side Glance, Forte Dei Marmi, and Dance And Dance. Side Glance edged out Dance And Dance to win a Group 3 stakes at Salisbury in England on Aug. 11.

Kara’s Orientation ran a hole in the wind on the front end here Aug. 21, when he won the Grade 2 Sky Classic Stakes over 10 furlongs. Trainer Steve Chircop, who was torn between running him in the Woodbine Mile and the 12-furlong Northern Dancer Turf, said the colt doesn’t need the lead.

“He’s been able to sit off horses,” Chircop explained. “The key with him is you can’t choke him down. He needs to run at his own pace. I don’t think that last race was a fluke. He’s doing just as good as he was, if not better, going into this race. A mile might be a bit too short, and a mile and a half might be a bit too long.”

Riding the River lost the local prep for the Woodbine Mile, the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes, by a head. Grand Adventure was a deceptively good sixth in that seven-furlong sprint, after missing the break and encountering traffic. Woodbourne, third at 52-1 in last year’s Woodbine Mile, is exiting a victory in an optional claimer.

Hollinger is winless since his unbeaten championship campaign two years ago at 2.