Starship Jubilee delivered trainer Kevin Attard another stunning Grade 1 turf victory.
The champion seven-year-old mare came on down the stretch to capture the $1-million Ricoh Woodbine Mile on Saturday at Woodbine Racetrack. Last year, Starship Jubilee earned Attard his first Grade 1 victory, that coming in the E.P. Taylor, a 1 1/4-mile turf race also at Woodbine.
“Who would’ve ever imagined,” a jubilant Attard said during a video conference. ‘But she’s just been a tremendous horse.
“She shows up each and every time and can go from a mile to a mile-and-a-quarter . . . I can’t say enough good things about her.”
Starship Jubilee, Canada’s reigning horse of the year, also became just the third female horse to win the Mile. The others are Ventura (2009) and Tepin (2016).
The race was also popular with bettors as the handle was just under $3.1 million, the highest ever.
Jockey Justin Stein, who rode Starship Jubilee for the first time Saturday, had her fifth at the half-mile mark. Stein moved Starship Jubilee to second behind Admiralty Pier in the stretch before taking off for the one-length victory ahead of March to the Arch.
War of Will, the ‘19 Preakness winner and 2-1 race favourite, was third.
“Around the 5/16ths pole I had tons,” Stein said. “I waited for a chance to tip her out and ask her to run.
“She’s so honest and wants to win more than anybody else out there. I watched her replays, she’s just gritty. She just waited for her cue and took off like a scalded cat. She was gone.”
Attard said he noticed Starship Jubilee become a little rank early in the race but commended Stein for calming her down.
“At the top of the stretch I saw Justin angle her out and usually when she does that she does her best running,” Attard said. “I wasn’t sure how the rest of the field was going to kick on with her but I knew at that point we were in the race and had a good chance.
“It was a perfect trip. He gave her a great ride.”
Starship Jubilee won in 1:32.06 on a firm turf, the third-fastest time in event history.
Trainer Mark Casse was chasing a record-tying third Mile victory but had to settle for second and third with March to the Arch and War of Will, respectively.
The remainder of the field, in order of finish, included: Olympic Runner (another Casse trainee); Armistice Day; Admiralty Pier; Shirl’s Speight; and Value Proposition.
Despite coming in with 18 wins from 37 career starts, Starship went off as the 5-1 fourth pick. She was behind War of Will, March to the Arch (5-2) and Canadian-bred Shirl’s Speight (7/2).
“Obviously War of Will is a very nice horse but I thought if my filly ran one of her better races that she’d be competitive and could win,” Attard said. “There were other horses taking considerable action above her that I thought wasn’t justified when you look at her record and what she’s done at this point in her career.
“We’re at 38 starts and 19 wins after today and any time you see a horse that’s run that many times and won that many races . . . that’s a pretty special feat and that horse has to be respected. Unfortunately she doesn’t get it. I’m not sure why, but she just keeps proving the doubters wrong.”
The win was the fifth in six starts this year for Starship Jubilee. Her first five races were in the U.S. at Gulfstream (twice) and Tampa Bay, both in Florida, and Saratoga (twice) in New York.
Following four straight victories, Starship Jubilee was fourth in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga.
“I definitely wanted to find a local race where I didn’t have to ship her,” Attard said. “She’s a filly that around this time of year seems to thrive and get good.
“Everything just kind of fell the way we needed it to fall. I think it (racing at Woodbine, her home track) was huge.”
The $600,000 winner’s share boosted Starship Jubilee’s lifetime earnings over $2 million. The victory also secured her a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November at Keeneland.
“It’s a little early to tell but there’s likely going to be two options,” Attard said. “Obviously the E.P. Taylor would be under consideration or go directly to the Breeders’ Cup.
“We’re going to let her come out of this race and see how she does. The Breeders’ Cup has been a target since the start of the year and I think this just kind of cemented it.”
Last weekend, the Attard-trained Clayton, the Plate Trial winner, was third in the $1-million Queen’s Plate. While Attard ranks the Mile as his crowning achievement to date, he still has his sights firmly set on the opening leg of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown.
“I still want to win the Queen’s Plate,” he said. “I think there’s more sentimental value in it just because it’s a real prestigious Canadian race and obviously I’m Canadian born and Woodbine is my home.
“For me to win the Queen’s Plate would just kind of mean everything. But obviously winning this race is pretty special and ranks as likely my No. 1 feat.”