Joshua Tree, winless so far in 2013, captured the prestigious Pattison Canadian International (Can-IT) (VIDEO) for a record third time with a patient ride from jockey Ryan Moore on a yielding turf course Oct. 27 at Woodbine.
Sitting in behind pacesetter Stormy Len at the fence in the $957,566 event, Joshua Tree shot through to grab the lead at the head of the stretch and opened up by about three lengths. Weakening late, he dug in for the final sixteenth of a mile to repel the onrushing Hyper by three-quarters of a length for a 13-2 upset in a field of 10.
This was was the fourth time in the Canadian International for the much-traveled, European-based Joshua Tree. The 6-year-old son of Montjeu, now trained by Edward Dunlop, won the race in 2010 for Aidan O'Brien and in 2012 for Marco Botti. He was second in 2011.
Hyper finished second with German invader Seismos third. The final time for the 1 1/2-mile distance was 2:35.45.
Joshua Tree, owned by Khalid Nabooda and Kamel Albahou, had lost six in a row since his win in the International last year. He was coming off a fading 13th-place finish after opening a big early lead in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) Oct. 6.
"He seems to be at home here," said Andrew Stringer, assistant trainer for Dunlop. "He drank well, ate well, and trained well. He settled down. Everything was perfect preparation for him.
"We had a bit of rain which helped. I just can't believe it that he's won three group I races here for three different trainers with three different training methods. It just goes to show you how tough and genuine this horse is."
Castlemartin Stud and Skymarc Farm bred Joshua Tree in Ireland out of the Grand Lodge mare Madeira Mist. Remarkably, nearly half of Joshua Tree's career victories have come in this 76-year-old race.
Juddmonte Farms Slumber, a fast-closing fourth behind Little Mike in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) Sept. 28 at Belmont Park, was made the 17-10 favorite.
Under cool and windy conditions after much rain in recent days in the Toronto area, Joshua Tree was slow to begin the marathon turf event and Moore had to work out a trip in behind several others as Stormy Len grabbed the early lead. But Joshua Tree eventually came to settle in second or third behind the leader with Now We Can and Slumber to his outside. Stormy Len led the way through a soft half mile in :52.05 and reached the half mile pole still in front while stepping the mile in 1:42.03.
Moore sat patiently in behind the leader rounding the final turn, and when Stormy Len came off the fence leaving the bend, Joshua Tree had nothing but daylight in front of him. He quickly seized the advantage as Slumber, who did not respond in the stretch, was carried out by Stormy Len.
Joshua Tree was comfortably in front at the eighth pole and held sway under steady encouragement while tiring late as Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT) victor Hyper came charging for Joel Rosario after getting clear in the stretch.
"He started a little slow. I was in a good position and quite happy to let (Stormy Len) take the lead," said Moore, whose best previous International finish was a second aboard Ask, a nose behind Cloudy's Knight in 2007. "I didn't want to get into the race too early, so I let Mike (Smith, jockey of Slumber) go and I thought, 'He stays so well, I'll get a good run up the inside and kick home.' I went a little sooner than I would have liked ideally but somehow I knew he'd stay better and outfight most of them."
The Irish-bred Seismos also finished willingly for third with Andrea Atzeni aboard, three parts of a length behind Hyper, while Now We Can was a neck back in fourth. They were followed by Temeraine, Slumber, Forte Dei Marmi, Stormy Len, Lucayan, and Perfect Timber.
Joshua Tree earned $574,080 for his seventh win in 31 races, extending his career bankroll to $3,832,085. In addition to his victories, he has seven seconds and four thirds.
Carrying 126 pounds, Joshua Tree paid $15.30, $7.20, and $4.50 as the third choice of the public. Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred Hyper, from the Chad Brown barn, returned $6.90 and $4.60, and was part of a $92.90 exacta. Seismos paid $6 to show as the trifecta was worth $942.
The filly Irish Mission was scratched after racing unplaced in the E.P. Taylor Stakes (gr. IT) earlier on the Woodbine program.