Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Woodbine Mile: A Closer Look at Grand Adventure

The talk around Woodbine in May of this year was that Sam-Son Farms colt Grand Adventure had matured into the next big turf star. Whispers on the backstretch were proved true when the four year-old son of Grand Slam dominated a G3 Connaught Cup field that included solid locals Field Commission and Jungle Wave.

Grand Adventure wants 'cappers to take notice in Sunday's Woodbine Mile

The Mark Frostad trainee arrived at Woodbine fresh off a second place finish to multiple graded winner Silver Timber in the G3 Shakertown. It was a solid showing of foot speed in the five and a half furlong tilt as the improving Grand Adventure kept the sharp Chamberlain Bridge at bay.

Grand Adventure finished second in the G3 Shakertown to Silver Timber

On his return to Woodbine, Grand Adventure seemed to relish the seven furlong distance of the Connaught accelerating past rivals to earn a 104 Beyer in the process.

A Blood-Horse report following that win noted:

After winning the Summer Stakes (Can-IIIT) in his second start at 2, Grand Adventure came out of a 10th-place finish in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita with a stifle injury. He suffered a further setback while recovering and ended up on the sidelines for 10 months before returning to action last August with an optional claiming allowance win at 6 1/2 furlongs on the Woodbine turf. He was unplaced in his next two races of the 2009 season, the Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) and the Nearctic Stakes (Can-IIT).

"We sort of threw him to the wolves last year," Frostad said. "He's matured. It looked today like he'd go another furlong or two."

Frostad was correct in his assessment and Grand Adventure returned one month later in the eight furlong G2 King Edward and once again earned accolades putting away pace-setter Get Stormy and then holding off Rahy's Attorney for a driving win over good turf. Even with the added distance, Grand Adventure improved his Beyer number to 105.

A Blood-Horse report following that win noted:

Grand Adventure, ninth in last year's Woodbine Mile (Can-I) after setting the pace, would seem destined for another shot at that race Sept. 19. His fifth win in 11 lifetime starts boosted his earnings to $583,093.

“We’ve always had a lot of faith in this horse," co-owner Rick Balaz said. "He just seems to be getting better every start now. We’re hoping that’s going to continue. We were a little bit worried about the turf, being soft today. But Patrick had him right up there on the lead, a fantastic ride by Mr. Husbands. He didn’t look like he was fading in the stretch and that’s a long stretch. He looked great and finished up so nicely. So, yes, that (Woodbine Mile) would be a fantastic objective for us.”

Having passed class tests at seven and eight furlongs, Grand Adventure's next race would be a tough nine furlong battle over yielding turf in the G2 Nijinsky. The Sam-Son colt started well and led the excellent Southdale through fractions of :24.75, :48.26, and 1:13.33 but a combination of distance and deep going were too much for Grand Adventure and he gave up the lead to stablemate Windward Islands. Although a second place showing as favourite was a disappointment, Grand Adventure carried out his assignment favourably keeping Southdale and Rahy's Attorney in his rear view.

Grand Adventure led to the bitter end finishing second in the G2 Nijinsky

Since that start, Grand Adventure has enjoyed a string of steady works which suggest the colt is rounding back into top form:

Woodbine 9/12/10 All Weather Track 5F 59.60 Breezing Rank 2/84
Woodbine 9/04/10 All Weather Track 5F 1:00.20 Breezing Rank 1/80
Woodbine 8/27/10 All Weather Track 5F 1:01.60 Breezing Rank 2/41
Woodbine 8/20/10 Turf training 5F 1:00.80 Handily Rank 6/18
Woodbine 8/13/10 Turf training 4F 51.60 Breezing Rank 10/11
Woodbine 8/06/10 Turf training 4F 48.80 Breezing Rank 2/4

Mark Frostad, who will saddle Grand Adventure in the Woodbine Mile and Windward Islands in the Northern Dancer, took part in an NTRA teleconference on Tuesday afternoon hosted by Eric Wing.

To read the full transcript, including discussion with H. Graham Motion (Check The Label - Garden City Stakes) and Eoin Harty (Victor's Cry - Woodbine Mile), please click here:

Mark, it's Eric Wing in New York. And tell us how the turf condition is up there at Woodbine today as we get closer to the big days this weekend.

Mark Frostad: Well it's - the turf is very good right now, Eric, you know, it's firm. And at this point we see it's going to be a pretty fair course come Sunday.

Eric Wing: Okay. Now you've got Grand Adventure in the Woodbine Mile. He didn't fair too well in the race last year as a 3 year-old but he really seems to have improved quite a bit this year especially in that King Edward when he beat Get Stormy and Rahy's Attorney among others. Get Stormy for one has gone on to do great things during the Saratoga meet.

What's made the difference for Grand Adventure as a 4 year-old?

Mark Frostad: Well he was pretty lightly raced. Last year we had one start and went to the Woodbine Mile. We've always known he's got a ton of talent. And we perhaps pushed him along a little bit before we should have last year. He ended up -- I think (Zenyatta) -- he was beaten 2-1/2 lengths and got in a ton of trouble. So he's more mature this year and he's doing very well.

(TDH Note: Grand Adventure was beaten ten and a half lengths by Ventura in the 2009 Woodbine Mile.)

Eric Wing: Mark it looks like a big field is shaping up for the Woodbine Mile. At last report 13 horses may be going for that Win and You're In Birth in the Breeders' Cup Mile and horses are going to be shipping in there to Woodbine from California, New York, I believe Europe as well.

How much of an advantage is it for horses like yours not just in the Woodbine Mile but in any of the stakes this weekend, horses that don't have to travel and also do have previous experience over the somewhat unique Woodbine grass course?

Mark Frostad: Well two good points because certainly the - sitting at home is very useful. You know it's an advantage that you don't have to do the traveling. You don't have to get exposed to new water, new feed, you know, that sort of thing.

As far as the course itself it is different. And certainly for North American horses not all horses like those big sweeping turns. I've had some that are much better on the smaller turn courses, inside courses.

But this is a big European-based course. The Europeans certainly like it as you've seen over the years. But it's different and, you know, you've got to just hope for the best when you get here and hope your horse likes that kind of course.

Will Grand Adventure clean up in the Woodbine Mile?

Ron Gierkink: That's right. Yes, Mark, the layoff leading up to the mile with Grand Adventure is that by a design?

Mark Frostad: Yes it was. He had a pretty tough race in his last race, the Nijinsky. The turf came up very soft and it was a mile and an eighth which is, you know, the outer limits of his distance capabilities. It was a tough race so we decided to give him lots of time going into the mile.

Ron Gierkink: And you're happy with the way he's come up to the race?

Mark Frostad: Oh yes. He's coming up to the race great.

Ron Gierkink: I mean work wise, are his works as impressive as they appear on paper or...?

Mark Frostad: Yes they are. I mean he's been working on his own and quite happy to do so. He's training well.

Eric Wing: Mark, have you given a look at the race with the possible or probable starters yet? It would seem that your horse might be able to be on the lead if he wants it. Is that how you see him running on Sunday or would you prefer him to sit off an early leader and have a target?

Mark Frostad: Well we'd prefer him to sit off the leader. It's going to be dictated partially by a host position I suppose. But you don't really want to send him out there blazing because it is a mile and it's a tough. And it'll be a very tough race so hopefully he can get a position and, you know, he stalks very nicely, he relaxes. And we'll see what happens from there.

Eric Wing: And with the one turn, one mile layout at Woodbine Mark, is it similar to what we see and hear in sprint dirt races where, you know, if you draw inside it kind of forces your hand even going a mile there?

Mark Frostad: Yes it does. It does a bit, yes. You don't want to get swamped from outside horses and have to work your way through. You know because it's - and I'll remind you, the rail will be down. So that makes it - that exacerbated the whole problem when the rail is up and it's out a bit.
So it's something to think about. Yes, you would - I don't think I'd want to draw the one hole. That's for sure.

Eric Wing: And Mark, if Grand Adventure runs to your hopes and dreams and actually wins the Woodbine Mile would you - or even runs well in it for that matter, would you strongly consider the Breeders' Cup Mile?

Mark Frostad: Well I would think we would - I'd get together with the owners and make a plan. Yes, I would think that would be the obvious next step if he were to run very well. Sure.

Grand Adventure on his way to the winners circle

Eric Wing: And looking at the Northern Dancer Windward Islands was off for over a year when he beat Grand Adventure, your own horse, at a mile and an eighth in that Nijinsky Stakes back in July.

Why was Windward Islands away from the races for so long?

Mark Frostad: Well he's had lots of nagging problems. I mean he hasn't been the soundest of horses. But he loves to compete. And, you know, he's been sound this year and he's good right now, so we'd entered him in the allowance race for that day and unfortunately it didn't go so we inched him into the stakes because we needed to get a race into him and then the conditions became, you know, heavy rain came along and certainly helped him. And he was carrying light weight and persevered much to our surprise that day.

Eric Wing: Yes, that didn't work out too badly for you. Are you confident he can get a mile and a half or and it sounds like...?

Mark Frostad: Yes, I think that's going to be, you know, mile and three-eighths would be better but a mile and a half, I think he'll get the mile and a half. He'll relax and he'll (start to) pace. Yes, I don't see a problem with a mile and a half.

* * *

Grand Adventure led to the top of the stretch in the 2009 Woodbine Mile

If there is a knock on Grand Adventure's excellent past performance lines, it is only that a trio of his beaten competition (Jungle Wave, Field Commission and Rahy's Attorney) have not yet demonstrated their peak form in 2010 and it leaves a question mark as to whether or not the colt will have the class to match Court Vision and The Usual Q.T, not least to mention the European shippers.

One thing for certain is that the colt loves the Woodbine course and the distance is well within his range. While it would be a surprise to see Grand Adventure win this event, it is not outside the realm of possibility. Sam-Son and Frostad combined to win the Woodbine Mile twice previously with Quiet Resolve, who won in 1999 through disqualification, and with Soaring Free in 2004.

* * *
Auteur/Bruce Lunsford/Barbara Minshall/Mike Smith
Court Vision/IEAH Stables & Resolute Group/Rick Dutrow/Robby Albarado
Crowded House/Burrell, Harvey & Reddam/Ben Cecil/Joel Rosario
Famous Name/Juddmonte Farms/Dermot Weld/Pat Smullen
Grand Adventure/Sam-Son Farm/Mark Frostad/Patrick Husbands
Riviera Cocktail/Allen, Cheng & Drysdale/Neil Drysdale/Edgar Prado
Signature Red/Norseman Racing Stable/Sid Attard/Eurico Rosa da Silva
Smokey Fire/Jim Dandy Stable/Sid Attard/Jono Jones
Straight Story/Richard Santulli/Alan Goldberg/Rajiv Maragh
The Usual Q.T./Don Van Racing, Nentwig, Saadeh, Byer/Jim Cassidy/Victor Espinoza
Victor's Cry/Equilete Stable/Eoin Harty/Corey Nakatani
Woodbourne/The Very Dry Stable/Robert Tiller/Chantal Sutherland
Zifzaf/AJ Suited Racing Stable/James Toner/Julien Leparoux

* * *

Trainer Roger Attfield sends out No Explaining in the G1 Garden City at Belmont Park this Saturday and will have to face the tough Check the Label who is on a three-race win streak. John Velazquez gets the call.

No Explaining is pointed towards Belmont Park

The field for the Grade 1 Garden City:








Check the Label (KY)

R A Dominguez


H G Motion



Gitchee Goomie (NY)

E Coa


R A Violette, Jr.



Persuading (KY)

A O Solis


D L Romans



Queen of the Creek (KY)

J R Leparoux


T F Proctor



No Explaining (IRE)

J R Velazquez


R L Attfield



Negligee (KY)

R Maragh


J P Terranova, II



Snow Top Mountain (KY)

E S Prado


T F Proctor



Triple Cream (KY)

A Garcia


J J Toner


* * *

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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