It was anything but a walk in the park, but by the end of the $1 million Woodbine Mile, it was splendor in the grass for the connections of Mondialiste.
The Irish-bred son of Galileo had come into the Grade 1 Canadian turf classic off two star performances in England, a pair of game scores that certainly boosted his chances at a good showing in what would be his first test outside of Europe.
Prior to his introduction to Woodbine’s world-renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course, Mondialiste had gutted out a neck victory at York in the Grade 3 Strensall Stakes. One race earlier, he made a trip to the winner’s circle after taking the one-mile Pomfret Stakes at Pontefract.
‘He’d been impressive in those two starts,” said jockey-turned-trainer David O’Meara. “At Pontefract, he traveled extremely well and quickened away nicely showing a good turn of foot. At, York his toughness was what we were most pleased with.”
At Woodbine on Sept. 13, he was even better.
Obviously and jockey Joe Talamo, who set fractions of :23.21, :46.63 and 1:11.52, found themselves in front in deep stretch, but their rivals were rallying stoutly — Lea on the outside, who appeared to briefly put his head in front before Mondialiste stormed between them to secure the half-length score. Obviously held on for the show award, another length and one-quarter further back, with Kaigun only a neck behind in fourth. The final time was 1:36.66.
“Once Mondialiste and (jockey) Fergal (Lynch) got rolling in the straight, it looked like they would make up the ground in time,” O’Meara told Canadian Thoroughbred.
The result was another win and another head-turning late burst by Mondialiste.
“The most impressive part of his performance was his turn of foot in the straight,” said O’Meara. “He quickened past almost the whole field in the run to the line, which was very impressive in such a high-class race.”
It was also a day of firsts at the Toronto oval.
Mondialiste became the first Irish-bred to win the Woodbine Mile in its 19 editions. Co-owners Geoff and Sandra Turnbull, O’Meara and Lynch, aboard the bay five-year-old for the first time, all made their first Mile appearance a triumphant one.
“I got a little bit far back early,” said Lynch. “I was a little bit concerned as how far back we were. We saved a lot of ground. We stuck to the plan to come late. It was going to be a long run down the stretch. We just took our time and the horse had an awesome turn of foot. He just really galloped over top of them. It made my job easy.
“I was expecting (the turn of foot). I knew the leaders would come back. It’s the longest stretch in Canada. We have the turf horses in England that have got a turn of foot and can actually see out these trips really well.”
Geoff Turnbull was ecstatic in victory.
“A fantastic day,” he raved. “A fantastic event. We’ve had a wonderful time here. People have been great. The horse has been great. The trainer has been great. It finished off a great day with a wonderful win.”
Mondialiste earned $600,000 for the triumph and a possible spot in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Mile, Oct. 31 at Keeneland, since the victory earned the horse an all-expenses paid trip (traveling expenses and entry fee) to the big day.
At this moment, however, his connections were content to revel in their charge’s first-class performance at Woodbine.
“It was nervy for a second as the gap Mondialiste needed began to close, but the horse had enough speed at that crucial point to get through,” said O’Meara.
A most appropriate event for his starter to go that extra mile.
“He is very tough,” O’Meara said. “You can ride him whatever way you want really. He’s always sort of there for you when you go for it. He always finishes well. Everything sort of looked good with him, but it is always a concern when you fly him that far from home, like eight hours or whatever we’ve come. But fantastic, a great run.”