Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hockey star Dion Phaneuf oversees the draw for the 2010 Woodbine Mile

The post position draw for Sunday's Woodbine Mile was held this afternoon just steps from the famous E.P Taylor turf course which was being drenched by an almighty cloudburst. As the rain poured, the connections of contenders for both the Northern Dancer and the Woodbine Mile enjoyed a few beverages while awaiting their fate in the draw which was lorded over by Toronto Maple Leafs captain, Dion Phaneuf.

Blame It On The Rain

Phaneuf made his NHL debut for Calgary in 2005 and set a Flames record for most goals by a first year defenseman, and was also named the finalist for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. In 2007, Phaneuf was a finalist for the James Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman. Phaneuf is a two time NHL All Star and has represented Canada internationally on three different occasions, winning silver and gold medals at the World Juniors in 2004 and 2005, and the gold medal at the 2007 Men's World Hockey Championships.

Dion Phaneuf...da da da da da...Dion do do do

Woodbine track announcer Dan Loiselle was the emcee and conducted an informative interview with the Leaf's captain who revealed that he is a fan of the Sport of Kings and has even owned a horse, albeit one that didn't make it to the track.

DANNY LOISELLE: Great to have you here, Dion. We were talking before. I understand you owned a harness horse at one time.

DION PHANEUF: Yes. Thanks so much for having me. I did own a horse a few years ago with my grandfather. He's been in the horse racing business for a long time, 30 some years, down in the States. He's raced here before. My experience wasn't that good. My horse never raced. It got hurt training. But I've been involved and been around horses for a long time, so it's exciting to be here.

DANNY LOISELLE: You spend your summers in Prince Edward Island. The Kentucky Derby of Prince Edward Island, the Gold Cup and Saucer, have you ever attended that?

DION PHANEUF: Yeah. I go to the races quite a bit actually there with my grandfather when he's back on the island.
It's a fun night out to see them race. I go to both tracks there, Summerside and Charlottetown. I've been to the big races there, too. They do a great job down there. They have a good track in Charlottetown. There's good racing down there.

DANNY LOISELLE: Since the season has been over, what have you done with your summer?

DION PHANEUF: I spent it down at Prince Edward Island, traveled a little bit. Training down there, just excited to get things going. It's been a long summer and everyone is looking forward to getting back at it.

Phaneuf also chimed in with some words of encouragement for a Leafs squad that has not won a Stanley Cup since 1967. One - nine - six - seven. More than forty years. Four decades. It's been a long time.

DANNY LOISELLE: As soon as you came to Toronto, you made an instant impact on the dressing room. Now you're wearing a 'C' this year. Does that affect how you handle yourself in the dressing room any differently? Of course it must affect it on the ice because you're the team representative to the officials now. Will that affect you at all?

DION PHANEUF: To be completely honest, no, I'm not going to change the way that I play, the way I've been, the way I carry myself. I'm going to stay the exact same person, same player that I've always been to get me to this point.
It's a huge honor for me to be a captain of this team.

Will Dion Phaneuf be the next Leafs captain to raise the Stanley Cup?

DANNY LOISELLE: What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the team this year? I know you haven't started training camp, but what are your thoughts on that?

DION PHANEUF: Actually I'm very excited about the moves that we made this summer, bringing in Versteeg, Armstrong, Brown, McArthur, Lebda. We made some really good moves. The guys have been back for a couple weeks, skating together. Everyone is really excited about our team. We're a young team, we're a fast team. It's going to be an exciting fall.

With the interview out of the way, Phaneuf pulled the names while racing director Steve Lym pulled the post positions. Crowded House drew an inside post that shouldn't trouble the late rallying four year-old son of Rainbow Quest. A trio of horses that like to be near the front, Woodbourne, The Usual Q.T and Grand Adventure, drew posts ten, eleven and thirteen respectively. This congregation of speedsters on the far outside will make for a bit of race riding as Chantal Sutherland, Patrick Husbands and Victor Espinoza will have to jockey for positioning in the first hundred yards.

Here's the full field:

$1,000,000 Woodbine Mile (gr. IT, Race 10, 5:42 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Crowded House (GB), J Rosario, 117, B D Cecil
2. Victor's Cry (VA), C S Nakatani, 124, E G Harty
3. Zifzaf (KY), J R Leparoux, 117, J J Toner
4. Court Vision (KY), R Albarado, 124, R E Dutrow, Jr.
5. Straight Story (NY), R Maragh, 117, A E Goldberg
6. Smokey Fire (ON), J C Jones ,121, S C Attard
7. Signature Red (KY), E R Da Silva, 121, S C Attard
8. Auteur (KY), M E Smith, 117, B J Minshall
9. Riviera Cocktail (KY), E S Prado, 117, N D Drysdale
10. Woodbourne (ON), C Sutherland, 117, R P Tiller
11. The Usual Q. T. (CA), V Espinoza, 124 ,J M Cassidy
12. Famous Name (GB), P J Smullen, 119, D K Weld
13. Grand Adventure (KY), P Husbands, 121, M R Frostad

Are you ready for a Grand Adventure?

A baker's dozen of contenders

Who will win the dance?

Hold me closer, Tony Danza

All of the top local media were at the draw: TSN, Sportsnet and TripleDeadHeat.Ca

A few interesting quotes came out of the proceedings and a Woodbine press release revealed the following nugget regarding five year-old Famous Name.

Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Famous Name (PP12, 6-1), a five-year-old son of Dansili, is the only Mile contestant from overseas, arriving from Ireland under the care of trainer Dermot Weld. A winner in nine of 19 career starts who has earned over $1.3 million, the British-bred most recently finished sixth to Cape Blanco in the mile and one-quarter, Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on September 4, but was less than two lengths behind the highly-regarded runner-up, Rip Van Winkle.

“We’d like it if we can get a few showers. He does run well (in the soft going),” said Weld.

To be ridden by Pat Smullen, Famous Name, a five-time Group 3 winner, will be trying to give Juddmonte a second consecutive Woodbine Mile triumph, following on the heels of Ventura last year. The only other British-bred to win the Mile was Labeeb in 1998.

While Famous Name might enjoy a bit of give in the ground (and weather reports advise there's a chance of showers on Sunday), the connections of Victor's Cry are going to enjoy the shorter distance of the Woodbine Mile.

In addition to The Usual Q.T., three other Mile hopefuls are coming from California. Third choice Victor’s Cry (PP2, 4-1), trained by Eoin Harty for Equilete Stable, won the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park on May 31, notching a career best 105 Beyer, before finishing second to The Usual Q.T. in the Eddie Read. The five-year-old son of Street Cry will be ridden by Corey Nakatani.

“If not the best, he (The Usual Q.T.) is certainly one of the very best turf horses in America, possibly at a distance of ground more than a mile,” said Harty. “I think the (Mile) distance plays to my advantage. I think I can beat him at a mile. I would have beaten him at a mile at Del Mar.”

Strong words from Harty but I do believe that The Usual Q.T would have won the Eddie Read even at a mile on that day. Click into the video below to watch the race and take good note of Q.T's wide move into the lane followed by a devastating turn of foot to run away from the field.

The Usual Q.T wins the nine furlong Eddie Read. Would Victor's Cry have won at a mile?

However, let's not be too quick to dismiss Victor's Cry who captured the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on May 31 at Hollywood Park. The five year-old son of Street Cry watched the field sprint through fast fractions of 23, 46 and 1:09.20 and then inhaled the field in the late going in a time of 1:32.88 which was the fastest clocking in the Shoemaker since Designed For Luck won in 1:32.81 in 2004.

Victor's Cry has developed into a true miler and a repeat of the 105 Beyer number earned in the Shoemaker would do the business at Woodbine on Sunday.

Victor's Cry wins the Shoemaker Mile

* * *

Also featured on Sunday is the $750K Northern Dancer. Seven year-old Marsh Side returns to defend his crown against a field of nine horses which includes three Ontario-breds: Fifty Proof, Perfect Shower and Guipago.

Last out, Marsh Side romped to a five-length win over a soft Woodbine turf in the Sky Classic Stakes on August 22nd. Windward Islands, who finished second in the Sky Classic, will offer strong opposition along with G2 winner Spice Route and shipper Redwood who has won a Group III overseas.

$750,000 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes - Presented by Vtech (Can-IT, Race 8, 4:34 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Marsh Side (KY), E S Prado, 121, N D Drysdale
2. Windward Islands (KY), C Sutherland, 121, M R Frostad
3. Expansion (KY), G K Gomez, 119, S M Asmussen
4. Memorial Maniac (KY), J Graham, 119, L W Demeritte
5. Redwood (GB), M P Hills, 119, B W Hills
6. Fifty Proof (ON), J Stein, 117, I Black
7. Perfect Shower (ON), J Castellano, 117, R L Attfield
8. Spice Route (GB), M E Smith, 119, R L Attfield
9. Guipago (ON), J Rosario, 117, A M Delmas

* * *

For a little bit on handicapping insight on the Woodbine Mile, check out the video below featuring selections by Jason Shandler, Tom Lamarra and Tim Holland.

That Handicapping Show... breaks down the Woodbine Mile

* * *

As always, keep track of the latest goings on in the world of horse racing by clicking into TripleDeadHeat's Woodbine News page or join in on the conversation by following TripleDeadHeat on Twitter.

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