The entries for Sunday's Grade 1, C$1.5 million
International are dominated by Europeans, both quantitatively and
qualitatively. Seven of the 11 contenders are based on the other side of the
pond, including the Aidan O'Brien-trained Imperial Monarch; 2010 Canadian
International winner Joshua Tree; Wigmore Hall, two-for-two in his previous
visits to Woodbine; and Reliable Man, last year's Group 1 French Derby hero. The
North American team comprises Al Khali, Air Support, Prince Will I Am and an
ex-European in Forte dei Marmi.
Aside from the prestige and lucrative purse, the Canadian International
offers an automatic berth to the Breeders' Cup Turf as a "Win and You're In"
Imperial Monarch brings a sterling three-for-four career mark, with his only
loss a nightmare-trip eighth in a rough running of the June 3 French Derby. An
impressive maiden winner in his only start at two, the Galileo colt captured the
Group 3 Sandown Classic Trial in his reappearance. In that April 28 prep on
heavy going, he took the brave route all alone on the stands' side of the
course, losing plenty of ground in the process, but rallied strongly to win
While Imperial Monarch would have been a worthy participant in the Group 1
Derby, his connections already had Camelot bound for Epsom. Instead he was
diverted to the French version, where he lost all chance with his trouble.
Imperial Monarch was entered in the Group 1 Irish Derby, but again bowed out in
favor of Camelot, and returned to France on a rebound mission for the Group 1
Grand Prix de Paris on Bastille Day. Taking early command, he led throughout and
held on by a head in another messy finish.
Imperial Monarch has not raced since that July 14 victory, but has run well
fresh so far, and gets a seven-pound weight concession from his older male
rivals. Installed as the 3-1 favorite on Sunday, he will break from post 10 with
top British jockey Ryan Moore.
"I think he's had so little racing that he's still learning (about a
preferred racing style)," O'Brien's assistant T.J. Comerford said. "The last
time, he made it (the pace). It didn't bother him. He's got a great
"Whatever Aidan decides is the style he'll use. Aidan will talk to Ryan about
it and decide what to do. Ryan Moore is a very top class rider. That's why Aidan
"Aidan likes this horse. He's very lightly raced but we might be a lot wiser
after. He's a good horse.
"I just hope we see him at his best on Sunday. He's been off (for three
months) but at the same time, we're getting him here thinking we've got him spot
on. He's got loads of ability. It depends on how competitive a race it is."
Joshua Tree prevailed in this race two years ago when trained by O'Brien.
Subsequently transferred to Marco Botti, he was runner-up as the defending
champion in 2011, and makes his third foray to Woodbine here. The five-year-old
son of Montjeu enters in sharp form. The winner of the Group 2 Prix Kergorlay at
Deauville two starts back, Joshua Tree was most recently a fine third in the
Group 2 Prix Foy, beaten just 1 1/4 lengths by Japanese Horse of the Year and
Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe near-misser Orfevre. Frankie Dettori will be
"(In the Prix Foy) I thought he was in very good form," Botti said. "He seems
to be coming into his best recently. I haven't trained many horses as tough as
he is. He loves the traveling. You put him on a plane and he seems
to enjoy it."
Traveling head lad Keith Williams also noted that Joshua Tree is in fine
fettle at the moment.
"He's rarin' to go," Williams said. "He's jumping and kicking out there. He's
in real good form."
Wigmore Hall has shipped in to claim the past two editions of the Grade 1
Northern Dancer Turf over this course and 1 1/2-mile distance. Last year, the
Michael Bell trainee didn't return for the Canadian International, opting
instead to stay home for the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot, where he wound up
ninth. His luck did not improve in 2012, and he went winless until he came back
to Woodbine and successfully defended his title in the September 16 Northern
Dancer Turf, beating Sunday rivals Al Khali, Forte dei Marmi and Scalo. Rather
than face Frankel in another tilt at the Champion Stakes, Wigmore Hall has
wisely chosen this target at his pet course.
"This (the International) will obviously be a better race (than the Northern
Dancer Turf)," Bell said. "But I think the environment there really suits
him. He's also been given two really blinding rides by Jamie Spencer. We'll see
how he gets on when upped in class."
Reliable Man was under consideration for last Sunday's Arc, but trainer Alan
de Royer-Dupre decided to point for the Canadian International. Although the
Dalakhani colt has dropped six straight since landing the Group 2 Prix Niel in
2011, sparking sarcastic jokes about his name, his formline has been quite
strong this summer.
A late-running fourth to So You Think in the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes
at Royal Ascot, Reliable Man filled that same spot behind Danedream, Nathaniel
and St Nicholas Abbey in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The
gray returned from his summer holiday with a useful second in the Group 3 La
Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte September 21, and should be spot on for his first
start outside of Europe. Olivier Peslier, fresh from his record-tying fourth Arc
win, will reunite with Reliable Man.
Also testing the North American turf for the first time are Dandino and the
filly Lay Time. Dandino, a Group 2 veteran, was outdueled by Sea Moon in the
Tapster Stakes earlier this season. Two starts ago, the James Fanshawe charge
was runner-up to Group 1 Melbourne Cup-bound Quest for Peace, beating another
Cup hopeful in Gatewood. Dandino came right back to score handily in the Group 3
September Stakes over Kempton's Polytrack. The Andrew Balding-trained Lay Time
steps up to 1 1/2 miles for the first time, but her pedigree suggests that
she'll handle it. The daughter of Galileo has already proven her mettle versus
males in her last pair, taking the Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes and just missing
in the Group 3 Arc Trial at Newbury.
Rounding out the European contingent is two-time German highweight Scalo, who
has made Woodbine his home away from home over the past couple of months. The
Andreas Wohler trainee finished an encouraging third in the Grade 2 Sky Classic
August 19, but didn't move forward when fourth in the Northern Dancer Turf. The
classy son of Lando, who was a distant second to Danedream in last summer's
Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin, gets a rider switch to Andrasch Starke and
"I only arrived Monday," assistant trainer Christa Germann said, "but the
horse looks much better than he did at home (during the summer).
"I think he'll give a good effort. He'll be more concentrated (with
blinkers). He could be closer (to the pace than normal).
"Andrasch is the best jockey in Germany. There should be no problem."
Forte dei Marmi was no better than Group 3-placed in Europe, but has found
more success in North America with trainer Roger Attfield. A smashing
last-to-first winner of the Sky Classic, the Selkirk gelding got up for third in
the Northern Dancer Turf, his first attempt at this trip. John Velazquez picks
up the mount on the deep closer.
Grade 2 winner Al Khali has run three big races at Woodbine, albeit in
defeat. Beaten less than a length by Joshua Tree after a troubled trip in the
2010 Canadian International, the Bill Mott charge has twice placed to Wigmore
Hall in the Northern Dancer Turf. Al Khali has also placed in three straight
editions of the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational over 1 1/2 miles at Saratoga,
finishing best-of-the-rest behind the streaking Point of Entry in his last Spa
Air Support has yet to race this far, but might be crying out for the added
ground. Trained by Shug McGaughey, the Stuart Janney homebred has posted his
signature wins at 1 1/4 miles -- last year's Grade 2 Virginia Derby and the
Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap in his latest -- and was a closing second in the
Grade 1 United Nations at 1 3/8 miles.
Grade 1 veteran Prince Will I Am has proven stamina, having won at this
distance and also crossed the wire second in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Marathon
(only to be disqualified for interference). But he was sidelined for more than
14 months, and in his comeback, trailed in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap.
Although the Michelle Nihei pupil is entitled to improve, he must answer stiff
class questions in his second start off the lengthy layoff.
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