December 11, 2018

European invaders prominent in Canadian International, E.P. Taylor

Thundering Blue is the morning-line favorite for the Canadian International (c) WEG/Michael Burns Photography

A trio of European invaders are among a field of 11 in Saturday’s C$800,000 Canadian International (G1), the annual 1 1/2-mile turf highlight at Woodbine.

Thundering Blue has won two of his last three, including the York S. (G2) and the Stockholm Cup (G3) in Sweden. In between, the gray finished a solid third in the Juddmonte International (G1) behind top-level stars Roaring Lion and Poet’s Word.

Khan was a longshot winner of the Preis von Europa (G1) at Cologne three weeks ago after going unplaced in five previous starts on the season. The German invader handled the testing conditions well that day, but might encounter dryer ground in Toronto. The third overseas raider is Desert Encounter, a minor stakes winner at Windsor two back who finished third in his title defense of a Group 3 at Newbury last month

The most accomplished of the North American-based runners is Manhattan (G1) winner Spring Quality, who seemingly struggled over soggy ground in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont two weeks ago and could rebound to better form. Locally-based Johnny Bear has upset the last two runnings of the Northern Dancer Turf (G1), but didn’t care for soft footing in this race last year when trailing the field of 10 by 44 lengths.

Trainer Chad Brown has entered the speedy Funtastic, upset winner of the United Nations (G1) in June, and Focus Group, who captured his stakes debut in the restricted $100,000 John’s Call at Saratoga last out. Another with early foot is Tiz a Slam, winner of the Nijinsky (G2) and Dominion Day (G3) earlier in the year.

Brown also has several live contenders in the C$500,000 E.P. Taylor (G1) for fillies and mares in Santa Monica, Elysea’s World, and Pollara. Santa Monica came north to win the Dance Smartly (G2) in June before a last-out second in the Glens Falls (G3). Elysea’s World, second in her lone previous try at Woodbine, enters off back-to-back scores in the Matchmaker (G3) and Violet (G3) at Monmouth, while three-year-old Pollara makes her North American debut following a four-month spell, which followed a Group 3 win at Chantilly to push her record to two wins in three starts.

The 1 1/4-mile heat has also attracted Starship Jubilee, runaway winner of the Canadian (G2) last time, and multiple graded stakes winner Proctor’s Ledge. The European contingent includes Sky Full of Stars, a Group 2 winner at Baden-Baden most recently, and multiple French Group 3 winner Golden Legend.

The graded turf action begins Saturday with the C$250,000 Nearctic for older horses over six furlongs. The filly Lady Alexandra, who narrowly missed in the Highlander (G1) in late June, will look to rebound from a disappointing run in the Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2). Hemp Hemp Hooray, Yorkton, Holding Gold, and Conquest Panthera are other logical contenders.