TORONTO - It was Pattison Canadian International day at Woodbine Racetrack and Joshua Tree ($10.70) won his second International in the last three years with world class jockey Frankie Dettori aboard for trainer Marco Botti. Dettori is lifelong friends with Botti’s father and won his first ever race for the trainer on Sunday afternoon on an unseasonably warm day at the suburban Toronto track.
Dettori and Joshua Tree got loose on the front end and he held off a fast closing Dandino at the wire, finishing the 1 ½-mile race in 2:30.89. The 5-year-old Monjeu eclipsed the $3 million mark in career earnings with the $900,000 first place purse. Dettori completed his famous “flying dismount” (see picture) in the winner’s circle and was elated with the effort of his horse.
“They were coming at the end. I could hear the wind. I have been here before (at Woodbine); I know what it’s like. I was the hare and the hounds were coming,” said the smiling Dettori in the post race press conference.
Dandino finished second and paid $20.80 to place and $11.30 to show and Forte Dei Marmi completed the trifecta and paid $5.80 to show. Lucie Botti, the assistant trainer and wife of the trainer, said that Joshua Tree would most likely be pointed at the Japan Cup.
Botti said Dettori followed the plan to a tee. “There was not pace in the race and Frankie was basically told to go forward and to go. The main thing was to sit on the rail. That’s the first race he ever won for us, so I was glad it was this one.” She also mentioned the long-term plan for Joshua Tree would be to run in the Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup day next March.
The first Grade 1 race of the day was the $500,000 Nearctic Stakes, a turf sprint where the winner would automatically qualify for the BC Turf Sprint. In a race that came down to a duel between two New York-based jockeys, Ramon Dominguez and Next Question ($34.10) prevailed over Hall of Famer John Velazquez and Night Carnation (GB) at long odds of 16-1.
Dominguez let his horse lead the way based on the homework he did prior to the race. “I knew judging by the paper that he would be forwardly placed. He is a horse with a lot of natural speed and when we left the gate and saw the one trying to make the lead, I was excited about that. I kind of wanted to rate and stalk the one, but my horse was really pulling me and taking me forward so I decided to just keep him together,” said the winning jockey.
The second big Grade 1 race of the day was the $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes was won by foreign invader Siyouma ($7.70). She was running back after only two weeks rest, winning a Group 1 stake at Newmarket in Great Britain. Trainer Francois Doumen rolled the dice and it worked out perfectly.
“I must say she was a little bit worried to run so soon. She won so easily in Newmarket,” said Doumen. “She won so easily in Newmarket. She came back so fresh at home that I said, ‘Well, I better attempt it. After all, it’s the last females Group 1 race of the season.’ She’s so good and she’s so calm. She has got such a wonderful temperament that it allows her to travel beautifully well and takes all the effort away,” said the winning conditioner.
Overall, it was a great day of racing up the Queen Elizabeth Way, with some of the top riders in the world descending on a racetrack that happens to boast one of the premier turf courses around. It's a gem of a facility and never disappoints on the biggest race days. Sunday afternoon some of the racing world's best showed up at Woodbine, and they did not disappoint.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.