Saturday, October 26, 2013

Christmas in October! It's International Day at Woodbine...

International day is, by far, my favourite racing day of the year at Woodbine.  It brings back so many memories of coming to the races with my dad, an Irishman, who likely backed every Irish jockey to ever leave the gate in a race I still sometimes mistakenly call the Rothmans International.

Remember the Rothmans?

I was just a kid in 1983 when I watched Englishman Walter Swinburn guide All Along to victory in the International, but I knew I was seeing something special.

This wasn’t just a filly beating the boys, this was an Arc de Triomphe winner coming back on two-weeks rest after a flight across the ocean. Imagine anyone trying that in this day and age?

All Along went on to capture the Turf Classic at Aqueduct and the Washington, D.C. International Stakes at Laurel earning a $1-million bonus for capturing three of North America’s top turf races.

Although we do not have a horse of All Along’s significant character at Woodbine this weekend (let’s not forget we were treated to back-to-back Woodbine Mile wins from Wise Dan), this is still a day loaded with talent.

We have Group / Graded winners from all parts of the world such as the Irish-bred fillies No Explaining, Moment In Time and Tannery; the French-bred Minakshi; and German-bred Samba Brazil along with U.S-bred Colonial Flag.

The PATTISON International is loaded with quality and potential including the Irish-bred Joshua Tree who makes his fourth appearance in the race having won it twice to go along with a second-place effort.

Seismos, bred in Ireland but racing primarily in Germany, is a Group 1 winner.

British-breds Forte Dei Marmi, Slumber and Now We Can add to the International appeal.
 
Forte Dei Marmi
And as a fan that hung out at the rail and collected autographs as a kid, the star potential on Sunday’s jockey index is staggering.

Andrea Atzeni arrives at Woodbine fresh off a Group 1 score in Saturday’s Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.

Stephane Pasquier rode Rail Link to victory in the 2006 edition of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Ryan Moore was champion jockey in 2006, 2008 and 2009 and has won the Arc and Epsom Derby to name just a couple major European races.

Joel Rosario, Mike Smith and  John Velazquez have accomplishments too numerous to mention in North America
 
Fans can meet the greats like John Velazquez
Part of the joy of this day is a chance to see “our” talent match up with the best of the world.

Eurico Rosa da Silva, one of Woodbine’s top local jockeys, will ride 3-1 morning line favourite Forte Dei Marmi in the International.  Forte Dei Marmi is trained by local legend Roger Attfield, a Hall of Fame trainer.

Know that the grandstand will erupt if little Forte can topple this field.

Perfect Timber, a horse bred right here in Ontario, is 12-1 on the morning line and is a live long shot in his race.  I had the pleasure of writing a feature story on Perfect Timber’s exercise rider AllysonWalker this week and I have high hopes for a storybook post script.
Irish Mission!

Irish Mission, a lanky filly known as ‘Biggins’, is cross-entered in both big races and is a huge fan favourite at Woodbine. 

And Nancy O, bred in Ireland but based at Woodbine in the barn of Carolyn Costigan, has developed a local following as well.

International day packs a lot of emotion into a few short hours.  I’m excited to be a part of it and, rain or shine, I can’t wait for Dan Loiselle’s call.

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If you’re betting Woodbine tomorrow, you MUST visit our Canadian International site which is loaded with key information.

Val Grash and Sid Fernando have analyzed the E.P. Taylor Stakes with an eye on pedigree power.


Pat Cummings of Trakus provides a full data analysis of theCanadian International field.



In addition to all that info, there are feature stories, news and notes and so many great pictures courtesy of Mike Burns.

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Here’s my selections for the two big races on the card:

E.P TAYLOR STAKES

Samba Brazil (12-1) is going to be the wise guy horse. She won a Group 3 race at a mile on yielding ground followed by a fourth-place run in a Group 1 at a mile on soft turf against the boys.  Atzeni arrives from Europe for the mount. 

Tannery (2-1) is going to be tough as she LOVES soft going. Tannery was a Group 3 winner in Ireland and is a Grade 2 winner in the US. Last time out she finished second to Breeders Cup bound Laughing in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl.  And she races against the boys too having notched a fourth-place finish, defeated less than three lengths in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer won by Big Blue Kitten. Added bonus: she has defeated E.P. Taylor rival Minakshi this year on soft going and Minakshi defeated a few of the horses in this field last out in the Grade 2 Canadian.

NANCY O (30-1) – Her mum, Arravale, won this race on soft turf. Lightly raced, Nancy O was very impressive in her recent maiden score going seven furlongs.  Taking on quality Group 1 fillies is quite a step up, but she has faced good company throughout her short career including stakes winners Spring Venture, Spring in the Air, Are You Kidding Me and was closing on the rail in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf when shut off.

IRISH MISSION (8-1) – She’s always looking for distance on the turf and often takes on the boys.  She more than held her own in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer when she got rolling a little too late ending up fourth, defeated only a length, by three starters in the International field including the favoured Forte Dei Marmi.

PICKS:
  1. Tannery
  2. Samba Brazil
  3. Irish Mission

PATTISON CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL

JOSHUA TREE (6-1) saved all the ground going wire to wire in last year’s edition.  He figures to rate off the pace of SEISMOS and STORMY LEN here. Ryan Moore will be charged with pushing the button at the right time and we know from experience this is a stubborn horse proven on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.

SEISMOS (10-1) finished second to Novellist in a German Group 1 two starts back.  Novellist was the early favourite for the Arc De Triomphe before catching a fever and sold to stud.  It’s worth noting that the third-place finisher in that event came back to be 10th in the ARC in front of Joshua Tree (13th). Throw out his last race, a 2 ½-mile Group 1.

FORTE DEI MARMI (3-1) set a track record here winning the Sky Classic, a 1 ¼-mile race. He’s a little horse and loves the soft going as evidenced by his romp in the Grade 1 Singspiel in a monsoon. He finished third in this race last year. He NARROWLY defeated stablemate PERFECT TIMBER last time out in the G1 Northern Dancer while saving all the ground.

LUCAYAN (8-1) won the French Guineas over good to soft turf. It will be much softer than that on Sunday and as a deep closer, I’m a little worried, he’ll have a hard time digging in. He’s recently had traffic trouble in graded events in California. That said, Woodbine’s lengthy and expansive turf stretch, might suit him.

Picks:

  1. Lucayan
  2. Seismos
  3. Joshua Tree
To borrow a line from Eurico Rosa da Silva - - Good luck to everybody!!

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