Zindabad, trained by Mark Johnston, has been installed a mild 3-1 favorite for Sunday's 65th running of the $1.5 million Canadian International (gr. IT) at Woodbine.
The International, Canada's richest horse race and the eighth leg in the World Series Racing Championship, drew a global field of eight who will battle over one and one-half miles on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course. Post time is 5:10 p.m. ET.
At Thursday's post position draw with guest drawmaster Canadian auto racing star Patrick Carpentier, 6-year-old Zindabad, owned by Abdullah Buhaleeba, drew post three. The multiple Group II winner, who will be ridden as usual by Kevin Darley, most recently finished third to standouts Golan and Nayef in the July 27 Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
The French-bred son of Shirley Heights also finished third to Mutamam in last year's International, but was subsequently disqualified for interference in the stretch and placed sixth.
"This is far and away his best year," said Johnston. " He's been very, very consistent in his last few runs. He's definitely come on from where he was at this point last year and we all know from his performance last year, that even a bit of improvement should see him get very close."
Listed as the 4-1 second choice is Germany's Paolini, to be handled by Andreas Suborics. The field's leading money winner with over $1.3 million, Paolini finished second to Mutamam in an event-filled International last year. This season, the 5-year-old Lando offspring, although winless in three tries, has run two excellent races. The Andreas Wohler trainee, a two-time Group 1 winner, opened his 2002 season with a solid second to Grandera in the Singapore Airlines International Cup in Singapore in early May and was most recently sixth, just one-half length behind Beat Hollow, in the Arlington Million (gr. IT) on Aug. 17.
"He shipped in very well and he's doing great right now," said assistant trainer Bianca Sieling. "It doesn't matter if he comes from off the pace or is near the front. He seems to be able to handle any kind of race."
Ballingarry, owned by Mrs. John Magnier and trained by Aidan O'Brien, is the 9-2 third choice. The 3-year-old son of Sadler's Wells has won once in five starts this year, taking the Group II Prix Noailles at Longchamp in April. Most recently, the bay colt returned to the races after a 10-week layoff and finished a solid second to Vinnie Roe in the Irish St. Leger, at 1 3/4 miles. He'll be ridden from post four by the stable's first string rider Mick Kinane.
Gary Tanaka's Falcon Flight, like Zindabad and Paolini, contested last year's International as well, finishing in a dead heat for sixth with Strut The Stage, but was elevated to fourth through a double disqualification. Trained by Don Burke, the 6-year-old has raced only twice this season, winning the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) in late July, then finishing a troubled fifth in the Aug. 17 Arlington Million, just a half-length back of winner Beat Hollow. Listed as the fourth choice at 5-1, he'll be ridden for the first time by California's leading rider Pat Valenzuela from post six.
Three local hopefuls who will carry Canadian colours are Sam-Son Farm's Full Of Wonder and Portcullis and Charles Fipke's Perfect Soul.
With the introduction of new wagering regulations this year which uncouples horses of similar ownership in $1 million races, Full Of Wonder is pegged at 6-1 in the morning line, while Portcullis is the longest shot on the board at 15-1.
Full Of Wonder, a 4-year-old son of Mr. Prospector, comes into the International off a 3/4- length win in the Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap, Aug. 31, contested over the same 1 1/2-mile distance. The Mark Frostad-trained colt has won three of his last four starts and will be ridden by Todd Kabel from post five.
Three-year-old Portcullis enters the International on a three-race win streak, including the Breeders' Stakes, third jewel in Canada's Triple Crown of Racing on Aug. 10, when the son of Smart Strike rallied to win by a neck over El Soprano. He'll be ridden by Slade Callaghan from post seven as he tries to give Sam-Son its third International win (Sky Classic, 1991 and Chief Bearhart, 1997) and Frostad his second (Chief Bearhart, 1997).
Perfect Soul, a 4-year-old son of Sadler's Wells, will try to give Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield his first Canadian International win after 10 previous attempts. Attfield horses have twice finished second – Steady Power in 1989 and Alywow in 1994. Also listed at 6-1, Perfect Soul, who tasted defeat for the first time to International rival Full Of Wonder in the Niagara Breeders' Cup after winning his first three starts, will break from the outside post eight with Robert Landry.
Completing the field is 10-year-old Yavana's Pace, also trained by Mark Johnston, for owner Joan Keaney. The front-runner becomes the oldest horse to ever contest the International and also became the oldest Group I winner in history earlier this year when capturing the Credit Suisse Private Banking Pokal in Cologne, Germany in August. The Irish-bred son of Accordion drew the rail with jockey Keith Dalgleish and is pegged at 10-1.
Over the years, the International has been won by such champions as Secretariat, All Along, Dahlia, Singspiel, Chief Bearhart, Sky Classic, Youth, Exceller and Snow Knight.
The winner of the International receives $900,000. All starters carry 126 pounds, except three-year-olds Ballingarry and Portcullis, who will lug 118 pounds. The record time for the classic is held by the Andre Fabre-trained Raintrap, who fashioned a 2:25 3/5 clocking in his surprising 1994 victory.
Several other stakes races highlight the Canadian International day undercard.
One is the $750,000 E.P. Taylor (gr. IT), which has drawn a compact but select group of six fillies and mares for the 1 /4-mile turf contest.
The Christophe Clement-trained Volga, runner-up to Choc Ice in last year's edition, is the 9-5 favourite with Jerry Bailey named to ride. Defending champion Choc Ice, with Davy Bonilla up, is pegged at 5-2, while the Neil Drysdale-conditioned Nadia, to be handled by Corey Nakatani, is the 7-2 third choice.
The other is the $150,000 added Highlander Handicap (gr. III), over six furlongs on the main track, headed by multiple stakes winners Wake at Noon and Rare Friends. $1.5 Million Canadian International (gr. 1T), 1 1/2 miles, 3 & Up
1/YAVANA'S PACE/Joan Keaney/Mark Johnston/Keith Dalgleish/10-1
2/PAOLINI/Mrs. Carde Ostermann-Richter/Andreas Wohler/Andreas Suborics/4-1
3/ZINDABAD/Abdullah Buhaleeba/Mark Johnston/Kevin Darley/3-1
4/BALLINGARRY/Susan Magnier/Aidan O'Brien/Michael Kinane/9-2
5/FULL OF WONDER/Sam-Son Farm/Mark Frostad/Todd Kabel/6-1
6/FALCON FLIGHT/Gary Tanaka/Don Burke/Pat Valenzuela/5-1
7/PORTCULLIS/Sam-Son Farm/Mark Frostad/Slade Callaghan/15-1
8/PERFECT SOUL/Charles Fipke/Roger Attfield/Robert Landry/6-1