Big-Race Showdown: Kentucky Derby Championship Series Visits Fair Grounds, Turfway
The Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile trophy will stay local this year after Ontario-bred Town Cruise rolled to a front-running score with a comfortable lead throughout Woodbine's CA$1,120,800 (US$877,517) feature Sept. 18.
The 6-year-old son of Town Prize is owned and trained by Brandon Greer, who bred the gelding in partnership with his father Terrence Greer.
"It feels a little surreal at the moment, but I'm absolutely thrilled with him," said Brandon Greer. "This horse is amazing. I absolutely love him.
"I could see him digging in; that's something that he's been able to do very well this year," he continued. "Dig in the late stages, even though he's been in the front. I found it a little difficult to believe right until the final sixteenth and then I can see the other horses just didn't have enough to catch up there."
Town Cruise had won two of his three starts this season heading into the Woodbine Mile. His two victories came at the allowance level, and he finished second in the Aug. 15 Grade 2 King Edward Stakes, his stakes debut, when caught by fellow Woodbine Mile rival Olympic Runner racing over the same course and distance.
With Daisuke Fukumoto, the only jockey to have ridden him this year, back aboard, Town Cruise broke on top from the rail and enjoyed an unpressured lead. He was a length in front as he set an opening quarter-mile in :24.08, then had a two-length lead when he ran a half-mile in :47.10.
The chestnut gelding was still two lengths ahead as he put up three-quarters in 1:10.41. He held sway under a hand ride to cross the wire 2 1/4 lengths in front, paying $19.30 on a $2 win ticket after being sent off at 8-1 odds.
The final time on the turf course rated good was 1:35.14.
The Woodbine Mile was the biggest career win for both Brandon Greer, who saddled his first runner in 2004, and Fukumoto, who began riding in North America in 2017 and won the Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes aboard Canadian Horse of the Year Mighty Heart in 2020.
"This is fantastic," said Fukumoto. "I am still in awe; it's an unbelievable feeling. Winning a grade 1 is my dream, and I got a good horse this year so far. He's been good all year so far. For me, I am just crazy happy. I had pretty good confidence. I just knew for a shot I had to take (the) front. He went good, I took the lead, and wait and wait and he finished well."
Space Traveller rallied from mid-pack to finish second three-quarters of a length over multiple grade 1 winner Raging Bull in third. March to the Arch was fourth, followed by Ride a Comet, Duke of Hazzard, 8-5 favorite Set Piece, Olympic Runner, Avie's Flatter, and Change of Control.
Town Cruise improved his record to 6-2-1 from 14 starts. He has earned $789,642.
Along with the Woodbine Mile victory, Town Cruise picked up an automatic berth in the Grade 1 FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile Presented by PDJF Nov. 6 at Del Mar. Town Cruise would have to be supplemented to the Breeders' Cup World Championships to compete, but his connections have not made a decision yet on whether they will go.
"Well, I'm going to have to ask someone very important first—the horse," Brandon Greer said. "We're going to take a couple of days and just take it slow, take it easy, see how everything is after the race, and then I'll ask the horse and see what he wants to do."
Town Cruise is out of the Candy Ride mare Candy Cruise, whom the Greers purchased for US$4,267 from Box Arrow Farm's consignment to the 2007 Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society (Ontario Division) Canadian-Bred Yearling Sale. -Christine Oser
Walton Street Roars to Canadian International Victory
Jockey Frankie Dettori on a short-priced favorite is a combination difficult to beat anywhere in the world. The 50-year-old superstar jockey proved that yet again by giving odds-on favorite Walton Street a perfect ride to demolish the field in the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International at Woodbine Sept. 18.
The sentimental choice, Desert Encounter, trying to become only the second horse to win the International three times, finished valiantly in second. But neither he nor the other six rivals could come close to Walton Street's performance.
Walton Street, bred by Darley, raced by Godolphin, and trained by Charles Appleby, was making his North American debut in the International, a 1 1/2-mile turf event with a purse of CA$608,400 (US$476,341). The 7-year-old gelded son of Cape Cross —Brom Felinity, by Encosta de Lago, has spent his career racing in Europe and Dubai.
Earlier this year Walton Street put together a three-stakes winning streak of the Eqtidaar Godolphin Stakes at Newmarket last December, the Dubai Racing Club Classic Sponsored by Aliyah By Azizi, and Group 2 Dubai City of Gold Sponsored by Emirates Holidays at Meydan Racecourse this year. None of his International competition had that kind of winning streak, leading to bettors making Walton Street the 4-5 favorite.
When the gate opened, 41-1 Primo Touch, who was coming off a five-length allowance optional claimer win at Woodbine, galloped to the lead. Dettori positioned Walton Street in second, well behind the early pacesetter, but well ahead of the rest of the field.
Dettori appeared unconcerned with Primo Touch, even when that leader increased his advantage to 3 1/2 lengths around the large first turn and onto the backstretch.
As they began to approach the second turn, Dettori closed the gap, but only by a couple of lengths. He appeared confident that Walton Street would have the necessary kick once they turned for home, and that's exactly what happened. Walton Street pulled even with Primo Touch at the top of the stretch and then began to draw away from the field.
Desert Encounter, with Emma-Jayne Wilson a late jockey substitution after Daniel Tudhope reportedly had problems with immigration paperwork, closed ground from seventh early. While the 9-year-old gelding had the measure of the others, it was obvious he would not be able to catch Walton Street.
At the wire, Dettori had Walton Street in hand to easily defeat Desert Encounter by 5 3/4 lengths, stopping the clock in 2:29.07. Primo Touch held on for third, another 4 3/4 lengths back. -Tracy Gantz