Saturday’s Ricoh Woodbine Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race for the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile, offering the winner a fees-paid berth to the Nov. 5 race on the second day of the World Championships at Keeneland Race Course.
The $1 million Woodbine Mile annually draws some of the best middle-distance turf horses in North America as well as a few international invaders, and this year’s race will be televised on FanDuel TV. Learn more about the race with these fun facts.
What’s in a name. The Woodbine Mile had three name changes before it was called the Woodbine Mile Stakes in 1997 and 1998. It then held a different name – the Atto Mile – from 1999 through 2005, and returned to the Woodbine Mile Stakes in 2006. Since 2011, it has been called the Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
Back to 1988. The Woodbine Mile was first contested in 1988 as the Molson Export Challenge, held at 1 ¼ miles on the dirt. From 1991 to 1996, the race was held on dirt at 1 1/8 miles, and changed to a mile race on turf in 1997 – the same surface and distance as it is today.
Neil Drysdale. Racing Hall of Fame member Neil Drysdale holds the title for most wins by a trainer, having won three editions of the Woodbine Mile and once when the race was held as the Molson Export Challenge at a mile and a quarter (Charles LoPresti won three consecutive editions of the Woodbine Mile from 2011 to 2013). Drysdale holds a unique international background: He was born in England, studied in Spain, and worked in the Thoroughbred industries of Argentina and Venezuela, all before working as an assistant to trainer Charlie Whittingham in the U.S. Drysdale’s four winners of the Woodbine Mile reflect his international experiences: U.S.-bred Prized in 1989; English-bred Labeeb in 1998; French-bred Touch of the Blues (2003); and Becrux (2006) who was bred in Italy. Drysdale has Homer Screen pointed to this year’s race.
International representation. In total, the Woodbine Mile has been won by horses bred in seven different countries: U.S., Canada, Brazil, France, Ireland, England, and Italy. Brazilian-bred Leroidesanimaux holds the greatest winning margin of 7 ¾ lengths in 2005. He is the sire of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom.
Most races by an owner. Sam-Son Farm holds the most Woodbine Mile victories as an owner with four: Dance Smartly (1991), Quiet Resolve (1999), Soaring Free (2004), and El Tormenta (2019). Dance Smartly went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in 1991, and Quiet Resolve was second in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Turf. Sam-Son Farm, an Ontario-based operation with a base in Ocala, Fla., has won five Sovereign Awards and one Eclipse Award for outstanding owner. In 2021, Sam-Son was honored with a Special Soverign Award celebrating its 50 years in the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.
Consecutive winners. Hall of Fame racehorse Wise Dan is the only dual winner of the Woodbine Mile, winning in 2012 and 2013 before going on to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile both years. The fan-favorite gelding also holds the record for the fastest time, 1:31:75, set in 2013. As noted above, his trainer Charlie LoPresti holds the record for most consecutive wins by a trainer, having also won the Woodbine Mile in 2011 with Turallure.
Winningest jockey. Wise Dan was piloted in both his Woodbine Mile victories by jockey John Velazquez, who holds the most wins by a rider. His other winning mounts were Riviera (2000), Leroidesanimaux (2005), and World Approval (2017). He also happens to be a three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby. Velazquez was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2012.
Mares. Four mares have won the Woodbine Mile. The aforementioned Dance Smartly was the first in 1991 (at the time on a different surface and distance than the present-day event). Ventura, who was bred by Juddmonte Farms in the U.S., began her racing career in England before returning to North America. Runner-up in the 2008 Woodbine Mile, she was victorious in 2009. Tepin traveled to Royal Ascot in England to win the 2016 Queen Anne Stakes in June and followed that performance by winning the Woodbine Mile in September. In 2020, Starship Jubilee became the fourth female winner when she won the Woodbine Mile by a length as a 7-year-old.