A four-year-old gelding of Rock of Gibraltar, Ziyad, the morning line favourite for Saturday’s Grade 1 $800,000 Pattison Canadian International, rolls into the turf classic full of feistiness, and in fine form.

Trained by Carlos Laffon-Parias for owner Wertheimer et Frere, Ziyad has reeled off back-to-back outstanding performances, one that left him just short of top prize, and one that sent him to the winner’s circle.

On June 30, in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint Cloud, the British-bred was passed late by Coronet in the 1 ½-mile turf event, losing by a scant neck to his rival.

One race later, on August 25 at Deauville, Ziyad prevailed by a half-length in the Group 2 Lucien Barriere Grand Prix de Deauville, a 1 9/16-mile turf event that was contested over ‘firm’ going.

Now, the gelding will look to add his glowing record of 5-6-2 (from 16 starts) in his first venture outside of France.

“The horse is getting better,” started Laffon-Parias, a lifetime winner of 958 races. “We gelded him, and he keeps on improving with each of his races. We gave him the time after the Grand Prix in Deauville because there were not many races for him. The target was the Canadian International. After that race, we started to think about the International. Then we gave him a nice break. He looks quite fit for Saturday.”

Laffon-Parias, who will arrive in Toronto on Friday, is eager to see his rising star race over 1 ½-miles on the world-renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course.

“He’s run everywhere – right-hand, left-hand – and he doesn’t mind what the track is. I don’t think this will be a problem for him.”

Ziyad’s competitive side on the turf is matched by an equally strong personality away from the races.

The temperament has served the consistent dark bay well over a career that began with a forgettable 11th-place finish at Saint-Cloud on September 21, 2017.

“He can definitely be like that (feisty),” said Laffon-Parias. “But he is a very good horse, and he is always improving.”

Laffon-Parias, Wertheimer et Frere, and Maxime Guyon could make Saturday even more memorable. The trio is represented by Platane in the Grade 1 $600,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes.

Tiz a Slam Skips Pattison Canadian International

The prospect of a Canadian-bred winning the Canadian International at Woodbine for the first time since Thornfield in 1999 was dashed when Tiz a Slam could not make his scheduled appearance on Saturday.

The son of Tiznow was being pointed to the $800,000 Grade 1 turf test but was not entered in the race on Wednesday.

“He was indicating that he’s got a bacterial infection,” said Roger Attfield, who trains the homebred five-year-old for Bob and Mark Krembil’s Chiefswood Stables Ltd. “To me, it’s not the right thing to do to run a horse like that in the first place, and you certainly don’t want to run a horse like him in a race like this, where he’s not going to be able to run his race properly and it’s maybe going to set him back a long way. He was going to have to run one of the better races of his life to be competitive. So, we had to walk away, unfortunately.

“It’s not going to be a very long thing, for sure. Probably in another four or five days he’s going to be perfect. But that doesn’t help us in this situation.”

Attfield said that a probable target for Tiz a Slam would be Aqueduct’s November 23 Red Smith Handicap, a 1 3/8-mile turf race, which offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $200,000.