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Woodbine Mile Handicapping with Ellis Starr

September 16, 2022

Woodbine – Saturday September 17, 2022 

Race 7 – Pattison Summer Stakes – Grade 1 – Post Time 4:22 

Top contenders with minimum odds for considering win bets: 

#3 Appraise – 2 to 1 

#1 Mysterious Night – 2 to 1 

#6 Philip My Dear – 2 to 1 

How I would wager $20: 

$5 exactas: Box 3, 1 and Box 3, 6 

These bets maximize our potential profit because the key horse, the one we want to finish first or second with the other two, is Appraise, who starts at 5 to 1 odds which are the highest starting odds of the trio. 

Appraise ships up from New York for North American leading trainer Chad Brown, who won the 2018 Summer Stakes with Fog of War, who also shipped in from New York. Appraise won in his career debut in July very gamely after stalking the pacesetters in third then finished fourth in the Skidmore Stakes last month, a race in which he did not start as alertly in as compared to his debut, as he was bumped on the turn. Still, he was just a half-length behind the third place finisher, who improved to win next time out. With jockey Manny Franco taking off a whole day of racing in New York to ride, this colt who earned 87 then 82 Equibase Speed Figures in his two starts, which are among the top in the field, need only take the slightest step forward to win this race. 

Mysterious Night will likely be heavily favoured because he ships in from Europe for trainer Appleby off a win. Appleby has an amazingly good 15-for-38 record when coming to North America over the last five years, even better with William Buick riding as they are seven for 13 combined in North America. The colt just won a Group 3 stakes in France so has been facing tougher as compared to the other six entrants, and he should run every competitively once again to add to his 2-1-2 record in five starts.  

Philip My Dear was impressive in both his races to date, first rallying from eighth of 10 to draw off then even more impressively rallying from eight of 10 last month to win the Soaring Free Stakes, having to negotiate his way through traffic and surging in the last 100 yards. His 85 and 87 Equibase Speed Figures are right there with the figures Appraise has earned and Kimura has ridden the colt in both starts so really knows how to get him to relax early and close strongly.  

Race 9 – Ricoh Woodbine Mile – Grade 1 – Post Time 5:35 

Top contenders with minimum odds for considering win bets: 

#2 Ivar – 2 to 1 

#5 Modern Games – 2 to 1 

#6 Shirl’s Speight – 5 to 1 

#4 Finest Sound – 5 to 1 

How I’d wager $20: 

$8 to win on #2 Ivar 

$1 exacta box: 2, 5, 6 

$1 exacta box: 2, 4, 5 

(If #4 or #6 should withdraw, substitute #7 Homer Screen) 

Additional optional bet: Exacta 2, 5 over 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (#3 is Wakanaka, #7 is Homer Screen)  

Modern Games will likely be the prohibitive favourite, so we need to find a horse (or horses) comparable to him, and Ivar fits the bill. Ivar ran as fast winning the 2020 Shadwell Turf Mile as Modern Games has run in all his races this year, earning a 122 Equibase figure. He nearly ran that fast in top company last November when third with a 117 figure in the Breeders’ Cup Mile before taking eight months off. As if he has run just a month or two earlier and not eight months earlier, Ivar won his comeback in July when victorious in the Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial Stakes. Likely to improve significantly in his second start of 2022, Ivar can be expected to be putting in a strong late run and if Modern Games isn’t up to the task, he can earn the second Grade 1 win of his career. 

There’s no doubt the handicapping process starts with the horse and its chances of success. Still, in some cases the trainer is just as important, provided the horse fits the conditions of the race and is in form. With that in mind I must call attention to the amazing record of trainer Charles Appleby, the top European based trainer, when he ships horses to North America. Per a Race Lens query, when Appleby comes to North America, his horses perform incredibly well to the tune of 15 wins, 10 second place finishes and two thirds in 38 starts going back five years. With jockey William Buick in the saddle, as is the case with Modern Games, Appleby has won seven of 13 races over the same period. One of those wins came in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, where Modern Games went to post as the two to one favorite in a field of 14 and won pretty easily after breaking slowly. Making his debut as a three year old this past May, Modern Games won the Group 2 Poule d’Essai des Poulains stakes at a mile then finished third and fifth before a facing older foes for the first time and finishing second in the Group 2 Sussex Stakes. With his four Equibase Speed Figures this year being 125, 120, 119 and 119 and with only two other horses in the field (Shirl’s Speight and Finest Sound) having exceeded or tied the 110 figure threshold this year, Modern Games seems very likely to add another win to Charles Appleby’s record in North America.  

Shirl’s Speight won the Maker’s Mark Mile this past April, which was his third win and second stakes win in a row. He earned a 110 figure for that effort and although going off form a bit since then, has a chance to redeem himself here. One of those three races since was on dirt, a surface he has no fondness for, and the other was a seven-furlong prep for this race over the course in July when fifth of 10 in the Connaught Cup Stakes. Since then Shirl’s Speight put in an exceptional five furlong workout (:59.4, best of 46 on the day) which signals he’s coming back to top form. Although his top form appears to be a bit short of the best form of Ivar and Modern Games, I wouldn’t rule Shirl’s Speight out as a contender in this race based on his tremendous Maker’s Mark Mile effort earlier this year.  

Finest Sound has more second-place finishes (five) than wins (four) in his career but like Modern Games he has been running with some of the best in Europe this year. He finished second in the Celebration Mile Stakes in his most recent race, earning a 116 figure, just shy of the 120 career-best earned in March when second in the Jebel Hatta Stakes and his regular rider, Andrea Atzeni, comes over from England to ride.   

Race 10 – Johnnie Walker Natalma Stakes – Grade 1 – Post Time 6:10 

Top contenders with minimum odds for considering win bets: 

#5 Adora – 2 to 1 

#1 Cairo Consort – 2 to 1 

How I’d wager $20: 

$12 to win on #5 Adora 

$1 exacta: 1, 5 over 1, 2, 5, 6 (#2 is Collecting Flatter, #6 is Wickenheiser  

Adora won powerfully in her career debut in May at four and one-half furlongs, drawing off in “ridden out” (gas in the tank) fashion. She tried dirt in the Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga in July, which is totally irrelevant as today’s race in on turf. Moving to this E.P. Taylor Turf Course for the Catch a Glimpse Stakes last month, Adora was four paths wide going into the far turn, then was seven paths wide entering the stretch and closed strongly for second while winner Cairo Consort saved a lot more ground going no more than three paths wide in the final quarter mile. Her breeding is excellent for this mile trip as her dam has produced a turf route winner and she’s likely to improve off that last effort in the second turf start of her career. That bit of upside gives her a decent shot to turn the tables on Cairo Consort this time around. 

Cairo Consort draws the ground-saving rail and goes for her third win in a row. Both previous victories came over this E.P. Taylor Turf Course, the most recent in the Catch a Glimpse Stakes under Gallardo, who was in the saddle for the first time and rides back. She moved quickly from seventh on the turn to lead into the stretch and widened from there and certainly if Adora does not improve this Cairo Consort is by far the one to beat.  

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Ellis Starr
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