The Usual Q.T. will break from the 11 post on Sunday and serve as the morning line favourite as the Woodbine Mile returns to Toronto.
A Grade 1 stakes race that also serves as a qualifier for the Breeder’s Cup, the annual turf battle offers a purse of $1 million CDN.
According to James Cassidy, trainer of the four-year-old Q.T., the favourite has a good chance to win the race.
“The Mile is certainly right up his alley,” Cassidy said in a National Thoroughbred Racing Association release. “He can attend the pace regardless of what the pace is. He has a pretty good move.”
On Thursday, Toronto Maple Leafs’ captain Dion Phaneuf picked Court Vision in post 4, and Victor’s Cry drew the difficult post 2, as the defenceman was honoured with the task of draw-master for the race.
Those two will go to Sunday as the second and third favourites.
For many jockeys, one of the biggest reasons to compete in this race is the guaranteed starting place for the Breeders’ Cup mile at Churchill Downs in November, and it will definitely be an opportunity for them to show their skills.
Here’s a look at the 13 turf specialists for this Sunday:
|1. Crowded House||Joel Rosario, MLO: 12-1|
|2. Victor’s Cry||Corey Nakatani, MLO: 4-1|
|3. Zifzaf||Julien Leparoux, MLO: 30-1|
|4. Court Vision||Robby Albarado, MLO: 7-2|
|5. Straight Story||Rajiv Maragh, MLO: 12-1)|
|6. Smokey Fire||Jono Jones, MLO: 15-1)|
|7. Signature Red||Eurico Rosa da Silva, MLO: 20-1|
|8. Auteur||Mike Smith, MLO: 50-1|
|9. Riviera Cocktail||Edgar Prado, MLO: 20-1|
|10. Woodbourne||Chantal Sutherland, MLO: 30-1|
|11. The Usual Q.T.||Victor Espinoza, MLO: 3-1|
|12. Famous Name||Pat Smullen, MLO: 6-1|
|13. Grand Adventure||Patrick Husbands, MLO: 8-1|
Meet the top contender
The Usual Q.T., winner of the Hollywood Derby from last year, is a four-year-old double Grade 1 stakes winner.
This California shipper is owned by Don Van Kampen, principal in Don Van Racing, Inc., a southern California racing and breeding operation.
Cassidy, the trainer, began working with horses at a very young age at a Long Island riding academy, moving to California in 1981, the same year of the inaugural Woodbine Mile.
He is well known for conditioning Grade 1 winners Ticker Tape, Singhalese and current star The Usual Q.T.
Mexico’s Victor Espinoza is the jockey and has won several riding titles at all of the tracks on the Southern California circuit.
Growing up in a family with a strong riding tradition, he was encouraged to follow in his brother Jose’s footsteps, who is also a jockey.
Espinoza won a record seven races at Del Mar on Labour Day, 2006.
Northern Dancer and Canadian an add-on this Sunday
Two other big stakes races go on Sunday, the Grade 1 Northern Dancer, and the Grade 2 Canadian.
The Dancer is a $750,000 1 ½-mile turf race for three-year-olds and upward and features Marsh Side, giving 5-2 on the morning line for the nine- horse field.
Canadian Stakes is a $300,000 1 1/8- mile turf race for fillies and mares and it will feature Miss Keller, first choice at 3-2, and five other entrants.