2019 Canadian International Cheat Sheet

Desert Encounter will look for a repeat victory in Saturday's Pattison Canadian International.
Desert Encounter will look for a repeat victory in Saturday's Pattison Canadian International. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Saturday’s $800,000, Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International Stakes at Woodbine is annually one of the marquee turf races in North America. Along with the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf and the Arlington Million, the Canadian International appeals to both horseplayers and fans of international racing because it's one of the few turf races in North America that typically attracts several top-class horses to ship in from overseas and compete against local runners. First held in 1938 on dirt, and switched to turf in 1958, since the 1970s the Canadian International has been won by legendary racehorses such as Secretariat, Exceller, All Along, Sky Classic, and Singspiel.

This year’s 82nd running of the Canadian International drew a field of six, including 2018 winner Desert Encounter. The 1 ½-mile race anchors a card at Woodbine on Saturday that also includes two other graded stakes races, and it will be televised on TVG.

Whether you are interested in making a couple of bucks on the race or just want to know a little bit about this year’s runners, we’ve got you covered with our 2019 Canadian International Cheat Sheet.

Michael Burns/Woodbine Photo

1. Ziyad (1-1)

Jockey: Maxime Guyon

Trainer: Carlos Laffon-Parias

Owners: Wertheimer et Frere

Career record: 16 starts – 5 wins – 6 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $419,429

Earnings per start: $26,214

Top Equibase Speed Figure: N/A

Pedigree: Rock of Gibraltar – Arme Ancienne, by Sillery

Color: Dark bay or brown

Age: 4

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This English-bred, France-based gelding has developed nicely during his 4-year-old campaign for owners the Wertheimer brothers and trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias, and looms as the strongest threat among the European shippers to win Saturday’s Canadian International. In his most recent start, Ziyad won the Aug. 25 Group 2 Lucien Barriere Grand Prix de Deauville on the front end, having enough in reserve to post a half-length victory. Prior to that, he nearly won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on June 30, a Group 1 race, controlling the pace once again and responding gamely to stretch challenges on the outside and inside before yielding to Coronet by a half-length (that opponent subsequently won another Group 1 stakes in France in August). Jockey Maxime Guyon, who was aboard Ziyad in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, is tabbed to ride on Saturday, and it will be interesting to see where he positions his mount early on in a field that is lacking early speed. Both of his recent good performances came in races held at about the mile-and-a-half distance of the Canadian International, so stamina should not be a problem for this gelding, who is from the family of 1993 upset Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arcangues.

Coady Photography

2. Pivoine (10-1)

Jockey: Rob Hornby

Trainer: Andrew Balding

Owner: King Power Racing

Career record: 22 starts – 6 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $311,330

Earnings per start: $14,151

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 113

Pedigree: Redoute’s Choice – Fleur de Cactus, by Montjeu

Color: Bay

Age: 5

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Pivoine makes his second trip this year to North America for the Canadian International, following a decent fifth-place effort in the Aug. 10 Arlington Million behind superstar Bricks and Mortar at 46.10-1 odds. After the Million, he returned to England for two races, finishing ninth in a Group 3 on an artificial surface course at Kempton Park and then second behind 2018 Canadian International winner Desert Encounter in the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup, a 1 3/8-mile turf race at Newbury on Sept. 2. In that race, Pivoine lacked clear running room in mid-stretch as Desert Encounter came in a bit during his bid for the lead and closed a gap between himself and two other runners, but Pivoine did re-rally late and manage to get up for second, a length behind his foe in Saturday’s race. This gelding is in good form and is an interesting longshot for the Canadian International, but he has spent most of his time in the handicap ranks in England and will need to run the race of his life to have a shot at scoring an upset. British trainer Andrew Balding won this race in 2003 with Phoenix Reach at the outset of his career.

BENOIT photo

3. Nessy (8-1)

Jockey: Chris Landeros

Trainer: Ian Wilkes

Owner: Sierra Farm

Career record: 32 starts – 4 wins – 7 seconds – 8 thirds

Career earnings: $440,975

Earnings per start: $13,780

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 121

Pedigree: Flower Alley – Flower Forest, by Kris S

Color: Dark bay or brown

Age: 6

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This hard-knocking gelding has been a regular participant in long-distance turf races all across North America over the past couple of years, usually competing at the Grade 3 or Grade 2 level and more often than not giving a good account of himself but not winning. He did capture a Grade 3 stakes at Santa Anita back in April 2018 going about 1 3/8 miles, and more recently he’s put together some of the best performances of his career. Nessy rallied late in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs on May 18 to finish third, three-quarters of a length behind Tiz a Slam, and in his most recent start, he closed through the stretch to check in second behind impressive winner Old Persian in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes on Sept. 14 at Woodbine, the local prep for the Canadian International. That was his very first Grade 1 start and also his first start over Woodbine’s unique course. If Nessy can back up his effort in the Northern Dancer, he’ll have a good shot at hitting the board Saturday – but given his 4-for-32 career record, reaching the Canadian International winner’s circle is a distant prospect. Nessy is a full brother (same sire [father], same dam [mother]) to the late Bullards Alley, winner of the 2017 Canadian International.

Desert Encounter
Michael Burns/Woodbine photo

4. Desert Encounter (2-1)

Jockey: Andrea Atzeni

Trainer: David Simcock

Owner: Abulla Al Mansoori

Career record: 30 starts – 11 wins – 4 seconds – 7 thirds

Career earnings: $953,553

Earnings per start: $31,785

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 119

Pedigree: Halling – La Chicana, by Invincible Spirit

Color: Bay

Age: 7

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Last year’s Canadian International winner ships back to Toronto in top form, on the heels of three consecutive Group 3 wins in England. That bodes well for his chances at repeating on Saturday, as he also came into the race last year after finishing a close third and first in his two prior races. Overall, Desert Encounter fits the profile of many European horses that come over to North America and win big Grade 1 stakes races – he’s a solid performer on his home circuit, but one that’s a cut below superstar status. Desert Encounter’s three recent wins were all visually impressive (he defeated Canadian International foe Pivoine by a length in his latest) and also came over three different turf courses. Notably, his jockey on those three wins, Jamie Spencer, won’t be riding him on Saturday, and Andrea Atzeni, who was aboard him for last year’s Canadian International win, is back for 2019. This veteran gelding will need a solid pace to run at Saturday to set up a rally like he had last year, but looms as a major win candidate based on his current form and his proven affinity for Woodbine’s turf course.

Michael Burns/Woodbine Photo

5. Alounak (6-1)

Jockey: Clement Lecoeuvre

Trainer: Waldemar Hickst

Owner: Darius Racing

Career record: 12 starts – 4 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $149,038

Earnings per start: $12,420

Top Equibase Speed Figure: N/A

Pedigree: Camelot – Awe Struck, by Rail Link

Color: Bay

Age: 4

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This French-bred, Germany-based son of English and Irish Derby winner Camelot ships in off of the first group stakes win of his career, coming in the Group 3 Preis der Sparkassen Finanzgruppe on Aug. 24 at the Baden Baden racecourse. In that race, he rallied through the stretch to nip pacesetter Be My Sheriff by a nose (called a short head in European racing). Prior to that win, Alounak competed in two consecutive Group 1 races over last summer and finished a non-threatening fifth and fourth, so he’ll have to step up his game against Saturday’s international cast to have a chance at the win. He does have plenty of long-distance racing experience as his last nine starts have all come at a mile and a quarter or longer. He also retains jockey Clement Lecoeuvre, who was in the irons at Baden Baden, to ride on Saturday. Lecoeuvre made the trip to Woodbine for last year’s Canadian International and gained experience on Woodbine’s E.P. Taylor turf course aboard Khan, who finished 10th.

Pumpkin Rumble
EQUI-PHOTO/Parx Racing

6. Pumpkin Rumble (15-1)

Jockey: Eurico Rosa da Silva

Trainer: Kevin Attard

Owners: Al and Bill Ulwelling

Career record: 45 starts – 10 wins – 8 seconds – 10 thirds

Career earnings: $633,777

Earnings per start: $14,084

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 116

Pedigree: English Channel – Clarins, by Storm Cat

Color: Chestnut

Age: 8

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This gelding ended a streak of 19 consecutive starts at Woodbine with a successful venture to Pennsylvania, the state where he was born, on Sept. 2. At Parx Racing, he rallied late to win the Alphabet Soup Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile turf race, by a half-length. He’s been a constant presence on both Woodbine’s turf course and its Tapeta Footings main track since being transferred by his owners to trainer Kevin Attard in May 2017, winning a Grade 3 stakes on the main track late last year and placing in five graded stakes on turf, including a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes in his start before shipping to Parx. This hard-trying type prefers long distance races and has thrived when paired with Woodbine’s leading jockey, the soon-to-retire Eurico Rosa da Silva, winning three of eight starts with two seconds and two thirds over the course of his career. Pumpkin Rumble’s therefore a good bet to show up and run his race on Saturday, and a logical candidate to build exotic tickets around to spice up potential payoffs. Da Silva rode 2017 Canadian International winner Bullards Alley.

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