There is something about Woodbine that is a win-win for Desert meeting.
“It looks like he really enjoys traveling here,” said Ian Russell, tour guide for coach David Simcock, who has accompanied Desert Encounter on his previous trips. “I think when he sees a plane, he comes to life because he’s looking for the next adventure.”
This affinity for Woodbine and its EP Taylor Turf Course will be tested again on Saturday as the Desert Encounter seeks to become the first runner to capture three consecutive Grade 1, 1 1/2-mile races Canadian International, a $ 600,000 race for 3-year-olds and up.
Canadian International was not held last year on an action plan affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It leaves behind the Irish-bred gelding Desert Encounter, owned by Abdulla Al Mansoori and based in England, as the two-time defending champion by virtue of his Canadian international victories in 2018 and 2019.
Joshua Tree, based in Ireland, is the only three-time winner of Canadian International, with successes in 2010, 2012 and 2013, interrupted by a second place finish in 2011.
But at the age of 9 and without a win in 15 races since his last appearance here, the Desert Encounter still has what it takes to defeat seven rivals, ranging from two to five years his juniors, in the prestigious event with f .ex. Secretariat, All Along with Chief Bearhart, Singspiel, Youth, Snow Knight, Dahlia and George Royal among its roll of honor?
At 9 o’clock a lot of younger horses run towards him; he has some experience next to them, ”Russell said. “As much as he’s older, he enjoys it, and he shows us the signs that he still wants to do it. I think I know seeing him in his last race when he was number two in Windsor still feels like life. ”
Teona, the 3-year-old filly that defeated Desert Encounter that day, has since seen her stock hover with a sad victory in last weekend’s Group 1 Qatar Prix Vermeille at Longchamp.
The Windsor race, at 1 7/16 miles on grass, came August 28th. His previous Canadian international successes, when the race was run in mid-October, also followed good efforts in Newbury three weeks earlier.
“We could not quite keep the same pattern, but in general, everything is just the same,” Russell said.
A change comes as rider Danny Tudhope will lead Desert Encounter, whose previous Canadian international scores came under Andrea Atzeni. Tudhope makes his Canadian debut, but boasts first-class successes in the United States with permission from Mondialiste in 2016 Arlington Million and Suedois in the 2017 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.
In addition to the Desert Encounter, Simcock has been represented by a trio of 2014 effort winners here in Trade Storm (G1 Woodbine Mile), Sheikhzayedroad (Grade 1 Northern Dancer) and Caspar Netscher (G2 Nearctic). Sheikhzayedroad returned the following year to finish third in Canadian International.
Walton Street, bred and educated in England and representing the powerful Godolphin, is seven years at the closest age to the Desert Encounter and is taking his first trip across the pond for balm Charlie Appleby.
“I think the older he gets, the wiser he gets,” said traveling head man Chris Durham. “Charlie has always wanted to come here with him. He’s happy for him. ”
In its most recent excursion, the homebred ended third after driving through most of the approximately 1 1/2 miles of good grasslands in the Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1).
The August 8 race was Walton Street’s first since a Dubai campaign that started with back-to-back scores and ended with an admirable fourth place in a very tough renewal of the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1).
“He ran really well in Germany for the first time,” said Durham, noting that second place there, Torquator Tasso, has returned to win the Grosser Preis von Baden. “His form looks good.”
Walton Street will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, who will make his debut here since winning the Joshua Tree aboard in 2012. It was Dettori’s third victory at Canadian International, after Sulmani in the 2004 edition and Mutafaweq in 2000.
Appleby takes its first crack at Canadian International, but has won race 1 races here with Old Persian (2019 Northern Dancer) and La Pelosa (2018 Natalma).
Invading south of the border of Canadian International will be Corelli, Fantasioso and Bluegrass Parkway.
Corelli, who began his career in England for owner / breeder George Strawbridge, moved to New York and coach Jonathan Thomas and finished in third place at Monmouth Park’s UN (G1) over 1 3/8 miles of solid grass in his best performance. This year, the 6-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding is 2-on-4 including his first rated stakes score here for the last time out in Singspiel.
After passing from his Saratoga base to coach Jonathan Thomas, Corelli rallied heavily in the Singspiel (G3) over 1 1/4 miles of the EP Taylor pitch for an absent 1 3/4 length score during a heads-up trip by the returning Kazushi Kimura.
“He left that race in good order and had two great works out of it,” Thomas said.
“We are really happy with him,” he added, acknowledging that Saturday’s 1 1/2 mile long distance is “a small question mark.”
In his only North American distance attempt, Corelli finished a well-beaten fifth over soft going in Saratoga’s Sword Dancer (G1).
“He ran a very good race that went a mile and three, and then he ran a mile and a half on bottomless terrain,” Thomas said. “It’s a bit of a learning curve for us. He seems to be a mile and a quarter horse on the grass; these are rare distances. But he came beautifully across the track there and he starts to relax nicely in his runs and finish so we take a shot. ”
Corelli acquitted himself well when he traveled 1 1/2 miles and around in the English phase of his career, but not in group company, and will seek to give the United States a victory in this race, which was won by Europeans in all but one of The last 10 renewals. That outlier was Bullards Alley, the Kentucky sender who was a big setter in the 2017 edition over a swampy grass field.
Fantasioso was scratched from last Saturday’s Calumet Turf Cup, a 1 1/2-mile grass court at Kentucky Downs, and has adjusted his sights while seeking his first win since leaving his native Argentina.
A proven marathon runner, the 6-year-old horse’s best effort on this hemisphere was a second place finish in the Belmont Gold Cup (G2) in more than two miles.
Ignacio Correas IV coaches Fantasioso and co-owns Jeffrey Bloom’s Bloom Racing Stable LLC.
Bluegrass Parkway, supplemented by Canadian International at a cost of $ 12,000, which includes the regular admission fee, captured the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup over 1 1/4 miles of business that went on at Ellis Park, but also scratched from the main event.
A 5-year-old gelding bred in Kentucky by Mike Ryan and trained there by Mike Maker, Bluegrass Parkway recorded his first effort victory there.
Joel Rosario, who comes from an amazing Kentucky Downs meeting, has the mountain.
The local contingent for Canadian International consists of English conquerors, Belichick and Primo Touch, the first, second and fifth finishes from Singspiel.
English Conqueror, owned and bred by JWS Farms and trained by Darwin Banach, is a 4-year-old gelding who came up with the best effort of his career despite a less than ideal ride. In his only previous effort over the Canadian international track and distance, he was a well-beaten third in last year’s Breeders’ Stakes.
Belichick, who finished a length behind the English conqueror in the Singspiel, was a comfortable winner of the Breeders’, the third leg of the Triple Crown for Canadian-born 3-year-olds. Owned by NK Racing and LNJ Foxwoods and conditioned by Josie Carroll, the Lemon Drop Kid foal will be ridden by Luis Contreras.
Primo Touch has started since Singspiel, which went coast-to-coast over 1 1/4 miles of grass in reimbursement company and is expected to set the pace again here.
All Canadian international participants carry 126 pounds under the weight-for-age terms.