Master of The Seas came charging down the Woodbine stretch to win the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile Sept. 16 by 3 3/4 lengths, earning a "Win and You're In" spot in the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile presented by PDJF Nov. 4 at Santa Anita.
It looked almost like a replay from a year earlier when Modern Games won the 2022 Woodbine Mile for the same connections toting William Buick and the blue Godolphin silks to victory by 5 1/4 lengths. Modern Games, now retired, went on to victory two months later in the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland. All indications are that Master of The Seas will attempt to sail the same course as Modern Games.
Master of The Seas came into the race after an impressive victory in the Group 2 Summer Mile at Ascot July 15, an effort that trainer Charlie Appleby identified as the best of his career. That represented high praise and confidence in a horse who was runner-up, beaten just a nose, in the Group 1 2021 English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Things did not get off to the best of starts at Woodbine as Master of The Seas was last out of the gate and trailed all five rivals through the early going. Buick, Godolphin's top jockey, calmly allowed him to find his stride and pushed the button at the top of the late with gratifying results.
Shirl's Speight, who finished second to Modern Games in the 2022 Breeders' Cup at Keeneland, edged Lucky Score for second after the two exchanged a solid bump approaching the finish line. Master of The Seas stopped the timer at 1:33.79 over turf rated "good".
Buick said the slow start was a bit of a surprise but not concerning for him.
"He usually breaks pretty fast," Buick said. "For one reason or another, he really didn't today but, look, there wasn't that many runners and the pace was even throughout without being crazy and it's a big, fair track and he's a horse with a turn of foot. So, it was my job to kind of navigate a trouble-free passage for him."
Buick said Master of The Seas seems to be getting back to the form that he displayed in the Guineas.
He's pretty high maintenance but the boys at home have done a great job," Buick said. "When he won at Ascot the last time, you sort of sensed he was showing his best and was back to his best form. He had some real good 2-year-old form, and I thought what he did there, he really showed how good he is."
Appleby assistant Alex Merriam echoed his rider's sentiments about the race and added Master of The Seas, who spent parts of the past two winters running in Dubai, seems to do well on the road.
"He's a horse that needs to settle in his races. They went nice even fractions all the way around and I thought he had a pretty smooth trip," Merriam said. "He's very lightly raced and he's not the most straightforward but he's come over here and done a great job. He's been very relaxed over here and he's traveled well, and I think you've seen the result of that."
Although not in a position to confirm any plans, Merriam obviously had the Breeders' Cup on top of mind.
"He'll ship home (to England), then see how he comes out of the race," Merriam said. "When we get home and I'm sure Charlie will make a call about the Breeders' Cup when the time comes."
War Bomber, a 5-year-old War Front gelding, won the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes impressively but finished a fading fourth in the Woodbine Mile. Ice Chocolat and My Sea Cottage completed the order of finish.
Carson's Run, She Feels Pretty Earn Breeders' Cup Entries with Grade 1 Wins
With a wide rally in the stretch under jockey Dylan Davis, Carson's Run surged past front-running favorite My Boy Prince to post a 2 1/4-length victory in the $500,000 Grade 1 Bet365 Summer Stakes Sept. 16 at Woodbine.
Both the Summer Stakes and the Natalma Stakes were Breeders' Cup Challenge series Win & You're In races. Carson's Run will receive a fees-paid spot into the starting gate for the Prevagen Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, while She Feels Pretty earned a qualifying spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park.
In the Summer Stakes, a one-mile turf race for 2-year-olds, Carson's Run, a son of Cupid, landed the first stakes win of his career and paid $8.60 to win. Coming off a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes Aug. 31 on the inner turf at Saratoga Race Course for Christophe Clement, Carson's Run completed the mile in 1:35.70 on good turf. Go With Gusto followed home for third.
In the Natalma, Lael Stables' She's Feels Pretty improved position while racing four or five wide in the turn before unleashing a powerful kick in the stretch to score the decisive win. She completed the mile on good turf in 1:35.34 — a slightly faster time than Carson's Run in the Summer Stakes. She was followed home by longshot Simply in Front in second and 7-5 favorite Dazzling Star in third.
DeVaux told Woodbine media that the milestone win was special as is her filly, who entered off a narrow maiden special weight race win July 16 on the Ellis Park turf. DeVaux said the way the daughter of Karakontie matures more every day convinced her to try the Grade 1 level in her second career start. -- Frank Angst