It was an ominous beginning for Irish-bred Joshua Tree, who delayed the start of the $2 million Pattison Canadian International (Can-IT) (VIDEO) because he lost a shoe in the paddock.
But after he got his equipment issues figured out the 3-year-old colt was just fine, as he took the lead in mid-stretch and desperately held off the late charges of Mores Wells and favored Redwood to score by a head for the biggest win of his career Oct. 16 at Woodbine.
Joshua Tree, who was making his North American debut for trainer Aidan O’Brien, earned an automatic berth to the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs. The son of Montjeu was winless in two starts this season entering the 12-furlong Canadian International, but was a group II winner at Ascot as a juvenile. He is owned by Derrick Smith, Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Khalifa Bin Hamad At Attyah.
With Colm O’Donoghue aboard, Joshua Tree raced mid-pack for a mile while Fifty Proof set the pace. He angled out four-wide on the final turn for his entry into the lane, took over from Fifty Proof in mid-stretch, and had just enough left to hold off furious late runs from longshot Mores Wells and 2-1 favorite Redwood.
The final time for 1 1/2 miles on the good turf course was 2:32.72. Mores Wells, also making his North American debut under Sebastien Maillot, nosed out Northern Dancer (Can-IT) winner Redwood for runner-up at odds on 20-1. Al Khali finished well to get fourth after a less than ideal trip.
"We were scared for a few moments before the race in the paddock,'" said Bernie Ryan, the agent for co-owner Khalifa Bin Hamad Al Attyah. "On a day like today you want everything to go perfect and smoothly and he didn't get into the (post) parade. But it was all OK.''
O'Donoghue downplayed the significance of the pre-race flap.
"These things happen,'' he said. "Obviously there's a big buildup towards the race, horses are fresh and well and excitable and there's a big crowd for the occasion.
"The horse is a professional, he does things right. It's just one of those things that unfortunately happens. Obviously he was prepared for today, he was trained perfectly for this race. He was the right horse for this race.''
Joshua Tree was fifth in his most recent start, the Sept. 11 St. Leger Stakes (Eng-I) at Doncaster. His stakes win came in the Royal Lodge (Eng-II) in September 2009. Now 3-1-1 from six starts, the bay colt has earned $1,393,252.
Bred in Ireland by Castlemartin Stud and Skymarc Farm, he is out of the Grand Lodge mare Madeira Mist.
The winner paid $11.20, $6.90, and $4.30. The exacta (7-3) returned $171.50 and the trifecta (7-3-8) was worth $702.70.