09/14/2012 12:26PM

Woodbine: Wise Dan a heavy favorite in Woodbine Mile

Barbara D. Livingston
Wise Dan wins the Fourstardave on a yielding turf course in his last start at Saratoga. Wise Dan is the 6-5 morning-line favorite in Sunday's Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Wise Dan, one of the most talented and versatile horses on the continent, stands out in the 16th running of the $1 million Woodbine Mile, and should be the prohibitive favorite in the Grade 1 turf event.

The Woodbine Mile heads an outstanding Sunday card that also includes three other stakes: the Grade 1, $500,000 Northern Dancer Turf, which is the prep for the Canadian International; the Grade 2, $300,000 Canadian; and the $150,000 Ontario Derby, a newly minted Grade 3.

The Woodbine Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In event, where the winner earns a fees-paid trip to the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November at Santa Anita. The Woodbine Mile has evolved into a successful prep for the BC Mile. Last year’s winner, Turallure went on to lose that event by a nose to the 2010 Woodbine Mile winner, Court Vision.

Turallure and Wise Dan share the same trainer, Charlie Lopresti, who has managed Wise Dan shrewdly while winning 10 of 17 starts and nearly $1.4 million.

Wise Dan earned a huge 117 Beyer Speed Figure while romping in the Grade 3 Ben Ali over Keeneland’s Polytrack in April and then lost a nail-biter to Ron the Greek in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster on the dirt at Churchill. He took Saratoga by storm most recently, winning the Grade 2 Fourstardave by five lengths over yielding turf.

“He’s doing good,” Lopresti said. “He’s fit enough for this race. It just depends on if he gets a good trip, stays out of trouble, and if he likes this turf. So far on the turf, he’s been very good at a mile.”

John Velazquez, who rides the sprawling Woodbine course as good as anybody, seeks a record-breaking third triumph in the race on Wise Dan.

The Woodbine Mile has been light on European runners in recent years, but there are three of them in the nine-horse field: Cityscape, Dance And Dance, and Worthadd.

Cityscape should be well bet off his blowout triumph in the Grade 1, $5 million Dubai Duty Free in March. He wasn’t a factor in two subsequent Group 1’s, but was recently second in a Group 1 fixture in France.

“A lot of [European] tracks are up and down and undulating, and that doesn’t suit him,” trainer Roger Charlton said. “He needs a good level flat track, which Woodbine is.”

Dance And Dance had a terrible trip when a close sixth in last year’s Woodbine Mile. Garrett Gomez, who also has won the Mile twice, will ride him for trainer Ed Vaughan.

“This race was always the target,” Vaughan said. “He’s traveled much better this year. He lets you know when he’s feeling well, and he’s certainly doing that at the moment.”

Worthadd has had a break since ending up second in a Group 2 stakes in Germany on July 15. He was previously far behind the mighty Frankel in the Group 1 Queen Anne at Ascot.

“I think he’s in very good form at the moment, and he’s perfectly entitled to go in with a chance to win,” trainer Mark Prescott said.

Big Band Sound is the top local hope. He was second in four straight stakes in the spring before getting a summer vacation and then captured the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes, the prep for the Mile, convincingly.

“He had four very tough races this spring,” trainer Danny Vella said. “We decided after those that our goal was this race. We thought the best way to do it was to freshen him a little bit and have one prep. It worked out well. He’s where he should be. He’s as good as he can be.”

Riding the River rallied for second in the seven-furlong Play the King, after landing back-to-back Grade 2 stakes. He was a close fifth in last year’s Mile, after making a bid for the lead in midstretch.

Hunters Bay, a son of the good turf sire Ghostzapper, has never tried the surface. He was a well-beaten seventh Aug. 4 in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga, after landing a pair of Grade 3 stakes here on the Polytrack.

Artic Fern was a flat fourth in the Play the King, after notching the shorter allowance prep for that race.

Rounding out the field is Hollinger, who wound up fourth behind Riding the River in the Grade 2 Nijinsky on July 22.

The Woodbine Mile is scheduled for 5:42 p.m. Eastern and will be part of a two-hour broadcast on The Score network, beginning at 4 p.m. TVG will offer expanded coverage of the day’s races, and the entire card will be streamed live on DRF.com.