Globetrotting Collier Hill, under sure handling from jockey Dean McKeown, won a desperate drive to the wire by a nose over Go Deputy to spring an upset in Sunday's $2 million (Canadian) Pattison Canadian International (Can-I) on the Woodbine grass course.
Collier Hill - the 10-1 shot who has started in six different countries in his last seven outings - was coming off a victory in the Stockholm Cup International (Swe-III) Sept. 10. His last previous victory came in the 2005 Irish St. Leger (Ire-I) at the Curragh more than a year ago. Overall, the George Strawbridge-bred Collier Hill has won 14 of 44 starts and went over the $3 million (U.S.) mark in career earnings with Sunday's win.
Eight-year-old gelding Collier Hill overtook pacesetter Last Answer in upper stretch after stalking in second and edged away by more than two lengths. As they passed the eighth pole, however, the charging Go Deputy and John Velazquez engaged for the lead, drawing even in the final 100 yards, before Collier Hill won the head-bob. Collier Hill became the oldest winner in the 69-year history of the prestigious race.
It was the first start in the International for Collier Hill's connections: co-owners Russell Hall, David Abell and Richard Crowe, trainer Alan Swinbank and McKeown, the gelding's 46-year-old regular British rider who teamed with Swinbank in the fall of 2004.
Said an elated Hall, "He's done very, very well, as he always does. He's an honest, genuine horse. Wherever he goes, he's proud of himself and presents himself as a star."
Swinbank was unable to make the trip to Woodbine.
McKeown said he thought Go Deputy was going to sweep past in the final yards.
"I did. But this horse is such a battler," he said following his first ride in Canada. "He's been all over the world. We've been to Dubai, Germany, Sweden; and he's won everywhere. As an 8-year-old, he's just an incredible horse, a very, very, talented horse that just doesn't get the recognition he deserves."
The British-bred Collier Hill, a chestnut son of Dr. Devious, completed the 1 1/2-mile test in 2:37 1/5 on a course rated soft.
It was 3 1/2 lengths back to Sky Conqueror, who rallied belatedly to finish third, edging Blue Monday by a half-length.
The grade I winning mare Kastoria, the 2-1 favorite in the field of 10, was away slowly and rallied coming off the final turn on the outside before tiring in the stretch. Kastoria won the 2006 Irish St. Leger in her last start.
Last Answer led by as many as five lengths after completing the opening six furlongs in 1:19. Collier Hill took control with a quarter-mile to go and became the sixth British-bred to win the International and the sixth gelding to win it.
He paid $23.50, $9.70, and $5.90. The Todd Pletcher-trained Go Deputy, who was coming off a second-place finish in the Man O' War (gr. IT), turned in another fine effort to return $5 and 43.50. Sky Conqueror, on a three-race winning streak and ridden by Todd Kabel, was $5.10 to show.
Blue Monday was followed by Meteor Storm, Last Answer, The Last Drop, Kastoria, Jambalaya, and 2005 International winner Relaxed Gesture, who trailed throughout.
"I had a little hard time going into the first turn getting a hold of him," said Velazquez of Go Deputy. "Around the turn, he started getting his momentum back. Down the lane, I asked him and he ran and I thought he was going to go by the old horse. For a moment, I put a nose in front, but the other horse came back to beat us."