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Post Time: Woodbine's richest race attracts Euro invaders

By Gene Kershner

TORONTO -- A critical “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup (BC) Challenge race will be run today north of the border at Woodbine Racetrack where the 75th running of the $1.5 million Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International will guarantee a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. A field of 11 will go to post late this afternoon in Canada’s richest race and run a mile and a half on the famous Woodbine turf course.

In addition to the International, today's Woodbine’s card includes two other Grade 1 races.  The $1 million E.P. Taylor, a one mile and a quarter race for 3-year old fillies and mares and the $500,0000 Nearctic, a six furlong sprint race for open company will round out the graded stakes on the card. All three races are “Win and You’re In” qualifying races for the BC at Santa Anita in early November.

The International field is super amped with the 2010 winner Joshua Tree, Grade 1 Northern Dancer winner Wigmore Hall and a quartet of European graded stakes winners Dandino, 3-year-old Imperial Monarch, Reliable Man and Lay Time, all serious contenders for the top prize.

Noted American trainers Shug McGaughey and Bill Mott will send out Air Support and Al Khali, respectively. Canadian and U.S. Hall of Famer Roger Attfield conditions Grade 2 Sky Classic winner Forte Dei Marmi, who finished just over a length behind Wigmore Hall in the Northern Dancer last month at Woodbine, finishing third.

An eye should be squarely maintained on the weather situation as light rain is in the current forecast in the Toronto metropolitan area this afternoon. The Europeans would have the advantage should the course come up yielding or soft.

Imperial Monarch (3-1), the only 3-year old in the field, won his last at Longchamp in France in a Group 1 race on soft turf at the distance. The lightly raced Galileo colt has won three of four career races and has improved in each one.

Joshua Tree (9-2), last year’s runner-up to upset winner Sarah Lynx, will enlist top Euro rider Frankie Dettori and comes off a tough loss to Arc runner-up Orfevre, Japan’s Triple Crown winner, finishing a mere length and a quarter behind one of the best horses in the world. He’ll be attempting to become the third horse to win two Internationals in his 10th appearance of the year. Trainer Marco Botti thinks he’s still in great form despite the long schedule. “He seems to be coming into his best form recently and seems to enjoy racing.  I haven’t trained many horses as tough as he is.   Every time he comes back after a race, he’s full of life.”

Speaking of last weekend’s thrilling Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the winning jockey, Olivier Peslier, who defeated Orfevre on Solemia will fly in to ride the talented and dangerous 4-year-old Reliable Man (4-1). It will be Peslier’s first appearance at Woodbine in five years when he won the 1997 E.P. Taylor on the International undercard. The four-year-old grey son of Dalakhani has four wins, including last year’s Grade 1 French Derby, one second and two thirds from 11 lifetime starts, for trainer Alain De Royer-Dupre.

Wigmore Hall (6-1) is certainly a horse for the course, based on his back-to-back wins in the Northern Dancer, but faces a severe uptick in class in facing the talent that is lining up in the International. “I think the environment there really suits him,” said trainer Michael Bell. “He's also been given two really blinding rides by Jamie Spencer. We'll see how he gets on when upped in class.” Bell shipped him back to England after last month’s win, but doesn’t seem to be concerned with the frequent flier miles. “He looks in very good form,” said Bell. “He loves to travel and he's in very good shape.”

The top American hopeful is McGaughey’s Air Support (10-1), who will likely be closing late with master turf rider Javier Castellano aboard for the first time since he broke his maiden at Saratoga in 2010. Castellano pulled a major upset in the 2008 International, winning on 29-1 long shot Marsh Side, so he knows what it takes to win this race.

McGaughey is bullish on his chances and is not worried about his first try at a mile and a half. “He seems to be doing well.  I think he's probably a true mile and a half horse.  He's a nice little package, not a great big horse, but he's put together right.   He's pretty push button.  He's been very sound, so we're looking forward to the opportunity of running him (at Woodbine).”

Post Time Outlook: 1 – Reliable Man; 2 – Joshua Tree; 3 – Imperial Monarch; 4 – Air Support

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.

PP

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

Odds

1

Lay Time (GB)

Balding

Fortune

20-1

2

Dandino (GB)

Fanshawe

Crowley

8-1

3

Forte Dei Marmi (GB)

Attfield

Velazquez

15-1

4

Scalo (GB)

Woehler

Starke

12-1

5

Prince Will I Am

Nihei

Dominguez

20-1

6

Wigmore Hall (IRE)

Bell

Spencer

6-1

7

Reliable Man (GB)

De Royer-Dupre

Peslier

4-1

8

Joshua Tree (IRE)

Botti

Dettori

5-1

9

Al Khali

Mott

Gomez

10-1

10

Imperial Monarch (IRE)

O'Brien

Moore

3-1

11

Air Support

McGaughey

Castellano

10-1

tagged

Horse Racing
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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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