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Pletcher Duo Meets Master of The Seas in Turf Mile

Master of The Seas , one of the most underrated milers on the European circuit and a head away from calling himself a Two Thousand Guineas (G1) winner, will attempt to become a dual grade 1 winner in North America in the Oct. 7 $1 million Turf Mile Stakes (G1T) at Keeneland. The Godolphin homebred follows in the footsteps of his brilliant former stablemate, Modern Games , who also wowed his rivals in Canada’s Woodbine Mile (G1T) last year before achieving Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T) success.

Modern Games’ retirement in August left the opening wide and clear for a potential star to drive through, and Master of The Seas responded to the challenge with a dominating 3 3/4-length win at Woodbine. Like Modern Games, a fellow son of top European stallion Dubawi , Master of The Seas is also a tactical contender with a powerful closing kick.  

“He’s got a great turn of foot and he really showed what he was capable of there,” jockey William Buick said of Master of The Seas’ performance in the Woodbine Mile. “He’s not always the easiest horse (to handle), he’s quite hot. The team at home have done a great job with him. Barring a bit of bad luck in Dubai he’s had a pretty good summer and autumn. Let’s hope he can show that again. He’s got all the talent in the world.”

James Doyle, pilot of 2022 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1T) victor Rebel Romance over the Keeneland turf course last year, has the call on Master of The Seas while Buick rides in New York that afternoon. The Charlie Appleby-trained gelding breaks from the inside 1 post.

Defeating the American home team won’t be an easy task however, as grade 1 winners Annapolis —last year’s Turf Mile winner—Up to the Mark , Set Piece , and Atone  line up in the field of nine. The winner of the Turf Mile will receive an automatic berth to the starting gate for the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita Park as part of the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In.”

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Leading the domestic forefront is the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Annapolis and Up to the Mark. Bass Racing’s Annapolis has yet to return to the form that saw him defeat his elders as a 3-year-old in last year’s Turf Mile. The son of War Front  , a disappointing eleventh in the Breeders’ Cup Mile after a troubled start, opened his 4-year-old campaign with a victory in the Opening Verse Stakes at Churchill Downs. He was then twice second to multiple grade 1 winner Casa Creed , who is noticeably absent from this year’s Turf Mile field after his impressive win over Annapolis in Saratoga Race Course‘s Fourstardave Stakes (G1T) Aug. 12.

Annapolis was fifth in the Mint Millions Stakes (G3T) at Kentucky Downs Sept. 2 in his most recent outing. Flavien Prat has the call.

The other half of the Pletcher entry, and the 5-2 second choice on the morning line, is Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Up to the Mark. The strapping Not This Time   colt has enjoyed a stellar 2023 campaign thus far, racking up top-level wins in the Turf Classic (G1T) and Manhattan Stakes (G1T) to stamp himself as one of the leading horses in the turf division.

Those wins, however, have both come at two turns. The big bay, accompanied once more by jockey Jose Ortiz on Saturday, will need to ensure he can close kick quick enough in the cutback to the mile distance. His late rally fell short when he tried the mile distance this past spring in Keeneland’s Maker’s Mark Mile, where he was third, beaten 3 3/4 lengths to Chez Pierre and Modern Games.

Things to Know

•    Annapolis set the current stakes record of 1:33.29 in last year’s Turf Mile.

•    Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1T) hero Atone, eighth in last year’s Turf Mile, has failed to hit the board in four starts since his big win at Gulfstream.

•    No horse has ever completed the Turf Mile/Breeders’ Cup Mile double in the same year.

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