The great SECRETARIAT completed his racing career at Woodbine in the iconic CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL (G1) and on October 8, the 50th anniversary of Big Red’s victory will be celebrated with the 84th running of the race.
The International has had a start-and-stop history in recent years; it was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was again canceled last year due to lingering pandemic protocols which made it difficult for overseas horses to travel to Ontario.
The race is back, albeit it has been shortened to 1 1/4 miles from 1 1/2 miles, the distance the race was run at since 1987.
That is good news for Group 1 winner NATIONS PRIDE (Ire), a Godolphin/Charlie Appleby four-year-old colt who is five-for-six at the 10 furlong distance. Nations Pride, a son of Teofilo, is on the list of horses aiming for the International, which was won by Godolphin and Appleby in 2021 with Walton Street. The same team just won the Woodbine Mile (G1) with Master of the Seas (Ire).
Nations Pride was 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Keeneland last fall after winning a pair of graded stakes in New York, the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby and Grade 3 Jockey Club Invitational.
Nations Pride’s last race was in July when he won the Group 1 Bayerisches Zuchtrennen in Germany. The colt has eight wins in 15 races and $2.8 million in earnings.
Godolphin and Appleby have also nominated the three-year-old BOLD ACT (IRE), a listed winning son of New Approach.
Another interesting European starter would be ROYAL CHAMPION (Ire), a five-year-old gelding who is improving for owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum and trainer Roger Varian. Varian sent the owner’s Sheikha Reika to Woodbine in 2018 to win the E.P. Taylor Stakes (G1), also held on International day.
American trainer MIKE MAKER has nominated 9 horses to the International and some of them are also nominated to the Joe Hirsch Turf (G1) at Belmont at Aqueduct next weekend.
The one-two finishers in Woodbine’s Singspiel Stakes (G3), PALAZZI and ROCKEMPEROR (IRE) are players in the International. The former, owned by Gary Barber and trained by Mark Casse, has been a vastly improved runner in 2023 with three straight wins since losing for $50,000 claiming in Florida in March. The latter, a Chad Brown trainee, is a millionaire seeking his first win since last year and he had a good run at Woodbine, his first trip to Ontario.
Horse of the Year MOIRA, a big winner of the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes (G2) in her last race, is nominated and is also on the list for the E.P. Taylor.