Starship Jubilee gained herself a pre-paid ticket to the Breeders’ Cup by outbattling her male rivals in the 2020 Ricoh Woodbine Mile on September 19. It was her second grade one win and her first competing against colts and geldings at the top level.
Owned by Blue Heaven Farm, this ultra-determined daughter of Indy Wind was bred by William Sorren. She is Toronto-based trainer Kevin Attard’s star intern and the Canadian Horse of the Year. Ridden by Justin Stein, she bravely repelled a strong late challenge from Mark Casse’s March To The Arch to win by a length.
This CA$1 million contest attracted a field of eight and Starship Jubilee was not a top pick for bettors. As a seven-year-old she was the oldest horse in the race and the only female to take part. Most knowledgeable bettors are alert to any signals that mares of her age may have lost their enthusiasm for racing.
In her most recent run Starship Jubilee was soundly beaten in the grade one Diana Stakes for fillies and mares at Saratoga on August 23. She finished four lengths behind Chad Brown’s Rushing Fall in fourth place in a field of five.
Starship Jubilee has also spent most of her career running over slightly longer distances and her resume suggests that a mile is her minimum distance. Her only prior grade one win was gained over a mile and a quarter in the E.P. Taylor Stakes at this track in October last year. On that basis it is easy to understand why she was sent off at odds of almost 6/1 but Attard thought she had been underestimated and he was right.
The five-year-old gelding March To The Arch owned by Live Oak Plantation was sent off at half the odds of the winner. He came into the race after scoring in the grade two King Edward Stakes at this track a month ago. Casse has successfully saddled many horses in the Woodbine Mile so you cannot blame bettors for focusing on his trainees, especially when their recent performances suggest they are in good shape.
It was another Casse trainee War Of Will, the winner of the Preakness last year who had triumphed in his most recent run in the grade one Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes at Keeneland on July 10 who started as the 2/1 favorite. Owned by Gary Barber, he was drawn widest of all and given every chance by Rafael Hernandez but was beaten almost two lengths into third after getting tired when it mattered.
Yet another horse saddled by Casse, Olympic Runner, out-performed his odds of 60/1 to take fourth under Daisuke Fukumoto, beaten a head by the favorite. Like War Of Will he is a four-year-old and is also owned by Barber. Barbara Minshall trained the fifth placed long shot Armistice Day (54/1) and Admiralty Pier (12/1) who finished half a length behind him in sixth.
Starship Jubilee became the third female to take the Woodbine Mile, emulating Casse’s star mare Tepin who won in 2016 and Juddmonte’s Ventura in 2009. One reason why fillies and mares have rarely succeeded is that some races give significant weight allowances to fillies and mares but the Woodbine Mile is not one of them.
Starship Jubilee was much smaller and had less muscle mass than the majority of her rivals and she had to carry more weight than some of the younger males as she was saddled with 8st 9lb. Attard decided it was a risk worth taking.
Who is Kevin Attard?
Kevin Attard’s family emigrated from Malta in the 1950s. Training horses is in his blood and most of the male members of his family have been involved in the occupation. Kevin originally wanted to be a jockey but his love of food made that career untenable.
Attard not only has the bloodlines of a decent trainer but with Starship Jubilee has proved that he can compete at the top level with inexpensive raw materials. To do so with a seven-year-old mare is particularly impressive. Most females of the equine species have understandably thrown in the towel at a much younger age.
Undistracted by testosterone they soon realize that galloping hard and then being pushed, sometimes vigorously for an extra effort when they are already feeling rather tired is not much fun. Can you blame them? Some families are spattered with horses that either refused to enter the gates or to leave them after they are opened. They are mostly fillies and mares.
Starship Jubilee is truly extraordinary and Attard deserves huge credit for maintaining her enthusiasm for the racing game. That means he has kept her both happy and pain free. Not many trainers achieve that elusive balance with colts. It is far more difficult with fillies and often impossible with mares.
Woodbine Mile Winners and the Breeders’ Cup
The Woodbine Mile is favorably scheduled for horses looking to compete in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and the winners have automatically gained the right to run in the Breeders’ Cup since 2008. Only one horse has won both races in the same year, owner-breeder Mort Fink’s Wise Dan achieved the elusive double for the first time in 2012. He was a six-year-old gelding at the time and the heavy favorite for both contests. Super talented and tough, he won the Woodbine Mile again as a seven-year-old and is the only horse to have scored in the race twice. He followed up with another Breeders’ Cup win that year too.
Court Vision was a Woodbine Mile winner in 2010. He went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile a year later, shocking the world by beating the legendary mare Goldikova who was only third.
Looking at the Breeders’ Cup Mile odds, Starship Jubilee is not expected to repeat her victory over the boys but Attard is generally underestimated as a trainer. She is not short of stamina and could do better than expected, especially if the surface is testing.