Saturday’s turf stakes at Woodbine have an international flair. Four of the six entrants in the $800,000 Canadian International (G1) are overseas raiders, including last year’s winner Desert Encounter and recent French Group 2 scorer Ziyad. The $600,000 E.P. Taylor (G1) has attracted Irish Group 2 winner Red Tea, one four European shippers among a cast of 10. Even the $250,000 Nearctic (G2), a six-furlong turf sprint, features Irish-based Woody Creek.
The Canadian International Stakes
Desert Encounter returns for the 82nd running of the Canadian International in good form, reeling off three consecutive Group 3 wins in England. The seven-year-old gelded son of Halling wheels back off a three-week rest for David Simcock after taking the September 21 Legacy Cup (G3) at Newbury by an easy length. Atzeni Andrea, who was last up for the 2018 Canadian International, retakes the mount.
French-based Ziyad merits serious respect in the 1 ½-mile race following a victory in the Grand Prix de Deauville (G2) on August 25. Trained by Carlos Laffon-Parais, the four-year-old gelding finished a neck second in the Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1) two back and will be accompanied by Maxime Guyon.
Completing the European contingent are last-out German Group 3 victor Alounak; and Legacy Cup runner-up Pivoine, fifth when making his North American debut in the Arlington Million (G1) three starts back.
Nessy, second in the September 14 Northern Dancer (G1) at Woodbine, and last-out Parx stakes winner Pumpin Rumble will try to upend the Europeans.
E.P. Taylor Stakes
In the E.P. Taylor, Red Sea will try to become the third straight overseas shipper to win the 1 ¼-mile event following the success of Blond Me and Sheikha Reika. The six-year-old mare has come to hand of late for Joseph O’Brien, posting a two-length tally in the Kilboy Estate (G2) at The Curragh before a third in the Prix Jean Romanet (G1) at Deauville last out, and Woodbine’s leading jockey Eurico Da Silva jumps aboard the win contender.
Starship Jubilee will receive plenty of backing after rolling to a 4 ¼-length triumph in the September 14 Canadian (G2) at Woodbine. Luis Contreras has the call for Sid Attard. Holy Helena also likes the local turf, defeating Starship Jubilee in the Dance Smartly (G2) two back, and will try to rebound from a fifth in the Canadian. Luis Contreras rides for Jimmy Jerkens. Argentinean import Si Que Es Buena, last seen winning the La Prevoyante (G3) at Gulfstream in late January, returns off the layoff for Graham Motion.
Other runners include German Group 3 heroine Durance; French Group 1-placed Imperial Charm; French Group 3 winner Platane; and Secret Message, winner of the Nassau (G2) at Woodbine three back.
Woody Creek, a three-year-old filly based in Ireland, gets in light with a 110-pound impost in the Nearctic. The James Stack trainee posted a commendable neck second in the Phoenix Sprint (G3) at The Curragh two back and Kazushi Kimura will be up.
Nine sprinters will square off including Yorkton, winner of the September 14 Bold Venture (G3) on the Tapeta and a neck second in the 2018 Nearctic; stakes veterans and last-out allowance winners Blind Ambition and Boreal Spirit; and Woodbine stakes victors Admiralty Pier and Lookin to Strike.