Toronto – A well-matched field of 10, headed by the morning line 5-2 choice, Go Deputy, will contest the $2-million Pattison Canadian International, Canada’s richest horse race, Sunday at Woodbine Racetrack.
This year’s renewal of the Pattison, the 69th edition of the Grade 1, one and one-half mile battle over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, is slated for 4:05 pm ET. The Score will televise a special two-hour live presentation across Canada from 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm ET.
This is the fourth year that Pattison Outdoor, Canada’s largest outdoor advertising company, has sponsored Woodbine’s turf classic, which will provide the winner with $1.2 million. Bryan Colangelo, Toronto Raptors’ President and General Manager, was the special guest when the post positions were drawn on Thursday.
Post Order is as follows:
- Sky Conqueror
- Blue Monday
- Last Answer
- Meteor Storm
- Go Deputy
- Collier Hill
- Last Drop
- Relaxed Gesture
Also on Sunday’s sparkling Woodbine card is the Grade 1, $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes (3:00 pm post time) for fillies and mares, at one and one-quarter miles on the grass, which has drawn a field of 11 headed by England’s Red Bloom and Canada’s Arravale, and the $500,000 Nearctic Stakes (5:08 pm post time), also on the lawn, at six furlongs, with a full field of 13, topped by Atticus Kristy, Moss Vale and Around the Cape.
Go Deputy (PP7, 5-2), trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, enters the Pattison off a solid second-place finish to Breeders’ Cup Turf-bound Cacique in the Man O’ War Stakes, September 9 at Belmont Park. Owned and bred by Wertheimer et Frere, the ultra consistent Kentucky-bred six-year-old chestnut son of Deputy Minister, the 1981 Canadian Horse of the Year, has won three of eight starts this year, including the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, August 12 at Saratoga and hasn’t been worse than third in his last nine outings.
“I think he ran a huge race (in the Man O’ War),” said Pletcher. “Cacique got through on the inside and we had to go around a few horses, but he just got beat. Showing Up (who finished third, a nose behind Go Deputy) is a really nice horse, too.”
For Pletcher, North America’s leading conditioner, who last Saturday established a seasonal record with his 93rd stakes win of the year, Go Deputy, with career earnings of $763,120, will be his first International starter.
There are three local hopefuls going postward in the Pattison – Sky Conqueror, pegged as the 4-1 second choice in the morning line, Jambalaya and Last Answer – each seeking to become the first Canadian-bred to win the turf race since Thornfield in 1999. The others were Chief Bearhart (1997), Sky Classic (1991), He’s A Smoothie (1967) and George Royal (1965 and 1966).
Sky Conqueror (PP1, 4-1), owned and bred by Bill Sorokolit and trained by Darwin Banach, has won three of his five starts this year, including the Northern Dancer Stakes, July 23, at the same distance as the Pattison. The four-year-old chestnut son of 1991 International winner Sky Classic tuned up for Sunday’s race by winning a one mile allowance tilt on October 8. The career earner of $791,295 will be ridden by six-time Sovereign Award winner, Todd Kabel, who has won virtually every major stakes race at Woodbine during his career, except the International.
“Sky Conqueror just seems to rise to the occasion and does whatever is necessary to get the job done,” said Banach. “He wants to win. He overcomes things. He went through a lot when he was sick last year (with strangles, a contagious bacterial infection). Forget about that he’s become a great racehorse – that just comes along with it. I’m very proud of how he’s changed. The racing end of it just fell into place.”
Kastoria (PP2, 9-2), another Irish-bred, will try to become just the sixth filly or mare to win the International since 1958. Trained by John Oxx, who last visited Woodbine in 1995 when he won the E.P. Taylor Stakes with Timarida for owner H.H. Aga Khan, the five-year-old daughter of Selkirk arrives from Ireland after defeating heavily-favoured Yeats in the Group 1, Irish St. Leger Stakes, September 16 at The Curragh, over one and three-quarter miles.
To be ridden by Mick Kinane, who scored with Ballingarry in the 2002 International, Kastoria, the 9-2 third choice has won six of 11 career starts, with four seconds, after not racing as a two or three-year-old.
“She’s in great form,” said Jimmy O’Neill, assistant to Oxx. “She’s picking herself up every day, every day she’s getting a little bit brighter. The going won’t make any difference, firm or soft. She’s run a mile and a half very well before. We’re hoping for a big run. Where she fits in, we’re not really sure.”
Mountgrange Stud’s Blue Monday (PP3, 6-1), a five-year-old British-bred, has won two Group 3 events this year, including the Arc Trial at Newbury on September 15. He also finished third in two Group 1’s, to Breeders Cup Classic-bound David Junior in the Eclipse Stakes, July 8 at Sandown and to Notnowcato in the Juddmonte International, August 22 at York. Trained by Roger Charlton, Blue Monday, whose sire, Darshaan also sired 2001 International winner Mutamam, the last British-bred to win the race, will be ridden by Steve Drowne.
“I’m hopeful he’ll get a mile and a half, but until you try, you don’t know,” said Charlton. “It’s wide open. I walked the turf this morning. I thought it was in good condition. Any cut in the ground, any softness in the ground, is going to be in his favour. I’d rather have it this way than too firm.”
Moyglare Stud Farm’s Relaxed Gesture (PP10, 10-1), who won last year’s Pattison over a yielding turf course as an 11-1 outsider, returns to defend his title, seeking to become just the second horse to win back-t0-back Internationals since it became a turf race in 1958. George Royal accomplished the feat in 1965-66. The only other horse to win consecutive Internationals was Shepperton, in 1942-43, when the race was conducted at one and one-sixteenth miles on the dirt.
Trained by Christophe Clement and to be ridden by Garrett Gomez, the Irish-bred five-year-old, while winless in five starts since his International triumph last October, will also be trying to keep a streak alive. The last four International winners were also bred in Ireland. The second-leading money winner in the field, with over $1.7 million, Relaxed Gesture’s best race this year was a second-place finish to Cacique in the June 10 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park, again over a yielding turf.
“The horse is doing great,” said assistant trainer Christophe Lorieul. “He’s always doing better in the cold weather. He’s a chestnut horse. They don’t like the heat too much, but his coat looks really shiny. We’ll try to take another shot and see what happens. ”
The venerable Collier Hill (PP8, 12-1), trained by Alan Swinbank, is the field’s leading money winner, with over $1.9 million. The eight-year-old son of Dr. Devious has raced in five countries during his career, winning 13 of 43 starts, including the Group 1 Irish St. Leger last year. He’ll be ridden, as usual, by Dean McKeown and arrives in Canada fresh from a Group 3 Stockholm Cup triumph in Sweden.
Owned by Russell Hall, David Abell and Richard Crowe, British-bred Collier Hill will also be trying to become the oldest horse to win the International. Currently, that honour is held by Mutamam, who won the 2001 renewal as a six-year-old.
Another Grade 1 winner is The Horizon Stable’s Meteor Storm (PP6, 12-1), trained by Wally Dollase. The seven-year-old British-bred son of Bigstone finished a surprising second to Relaxed Gesture in the 2005 International, after taking over the lead coming into the stretch. He subsequently won the W. L. McKnight Handicap at Calder in December, his first win since the 2004 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park.
This year, Meteor Storm has raced only once, a charging fourth to Ashkal Way in the September 30, one-mile Kelso at Belmont Park. The field’s third-leading money earner, with over $1.4 million, will be ridden for the seventh consecutive time by Javier Castellano.
Owner-trainer Catherine Day Phillips will once again send out Jambalaya (PP4, 10-1) under the Kingfield Racing Stable banner. Last year, the son of Langfuhr won four of seven outings, including the Breeders’ Stakes, but was seventh to Relaxed Gesture in the International, when he was the only three-year-old in the race.
This year, the consistent Jambalaya has one win in six starts, that being the Singspiel Stakes in June, but hasn’t been worse than fourth and enters the International off a gutsy second-place finish to 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Better Talk Now in the mile and three-eighths Sky Classic Stakes, September 24 at Woodbine. Jono Jones, who has ridden the bay gelding in all but one of his 14 lifetime starts, retains the mount.
Gus Schickedanz’s homebred Last Answer (PP5, 15-1), although winless in five outings this year, has finished second three times, twice by a neck and once by a half-length, and has been third once, only a head behind the winner, all in stakes races. The latter came in his latest, the Sky Classic, when the six-year-old gelded son of Langfuhr finished just behind Better Talk Now and Jambalaya. Trained by Mike Keogh, Last Answer will be ridden by Emile Ramsammy, who has been aboard for all of his 2006 starts.
Completing the field is The Last Drop (PP9, 20-1), trained by Barry Hills and ridden by his son, Richard Hills, who was aboard Mutamam in 2001. The Last Drop, an Irish-bred son of champion Galileo, is the only three-year-old in the field, and as such, will carry just 119 pounds, compared to 123 for Kastoria and 126 for his other rivals. Twelve three-year-olds have won the International since 1958, the last being Phoenix Reach in 2003.
Owned by Jack Hanson, Cavendish Investing (Dick Bonnycastle) and Sandy Patrick, The Last Drop comes into the International off a solid second-place finish to Sixties Icon in the Group 1 English St. Leger Stakes, September 9 at York. Sixties Icon went on to contest the Prix d’Arc de Triomphe on October 1, finishing seventh to Rail Link, while the third-place finisher in the St. Leger, Red Rocks, is being pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
The stakes record for the mile and one-half over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course is 2:25 3/5 seconds, set by Juddmonte Farms’ Raintrap in 1994. The largest winning margin still belongs to the incomparable Secretariat, when ‘Big Red’ coasted home by six and one-half lengths in his farewell appearance in 1973. He is also the shortest-priced winner in history, paying $2.40.
Favourites have won the International 41.66% of the time since 1958, with the last to do so being Sulamani, the 4-5 choice in 2004 and before him, Chief Bearhart in 1997.