British invader Hillstar blasted to the lead approaching midstretch and held on firmly for victory under jockey Ryan Moore in the $1 million Pattison Canadian International (gr. IT) (VIDEO) Oct. 19 on the Woodbine turf.
Hillstar was the 6-5 favorite in the field of nine, defeated the grinding Big Blue Kitten by about three-quarters of a length in a time of 2:29 flat on good turf for the 1 1/2-mile distance. With the victory, Hillstar surpassed $1 million in career earnings in his first North American start.
The 4-year-old son of Danehill Dancer races for Sir Evelyn de Rothschild and is trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who won his second Canadian International following Singspiel in 1996. Southcourt Stud bred Hillstar in Great Britain out of the Mark of Esteem mare Crystal Star.
Hillstar provided the second Canadian International winner in a row for the international champion rider Moore, who won last year's race with Joshua Tree.
"I was out a little bit too early but he was fine and plenty and it was going to take a good horse to get by him," said Moore. "Like Brown Panther, he (Hillstar) was the best horse in the race and just felt we would keep it as simple as we could.
"I am sure the boss (trainer Stoute) had this race as a target from a long way out and it was always something we had in the backs of our minds if things were going well. I moved a bit too early today but he was the best horse and we kept it straightforward again."
Hillstar won his initial grade or group I race and became the first favorite to win the Canadian International since Champs Elysees in 2009.
Big Blue Kitten was second, with Dynamic Sky third. The race's complexion changed completely when morning line Favorite Brown Panther was scratched after dumping jockey Richard Kingscote prior to the start and running off.
Hillstar won last year's King Edward VII (Eng-II) at Ascot in June 2013 before finishing third in the prestigious King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (gr. IT), both at 1 1/2 miles. The bay colt was coming off a group III tally in the Arc Trial Legacy Cup at Newberry Sept. 20.
Sunday, Hillstar raced midpack for the opening mile as Reporting Star, tracked by The Pizza Man, set the pace. Reporting Star negotiated the opening half mile in :50.34 and the mile in 1:40.10 before The Pizza Man took control approaching the quarter pole in 2:04.54.
The Pizza Man took the field into the stretch as Hillstar, who advanced to fourth on the outside rounding the final bend, loomed into contention. Three wide coming into the stretch, Hillstar took command after sweeping past The Pizza Man and finished in a drive for Moore all the way to the wire.
Big Blue Kitten, who was tracking Hillstar all the way into the stretch, rallied willingly for Joel Rosario and was cutting into Hillstar's advantage as they reached the wire.
"I had a good trip," Rosario said about runner-up Big Blue Kitten." It took him a long time to get into the race, but he ran well. I though the horse that won the race was the best horse today, and I'm glad we got second."
Dynamic Sky, who was last early under Patrick Husbands after a slow start, came on gamely for third, nosing out The Pizza Man while finishing two lengths behind the runner-up.
Suntracer was fifth, followed by Reporting Star, War Dancer , Pyrite Mountain, and O'Prado Ole.
Hillstar recorded his fourth lifetime win in 15 starts and boosted his career bankroll to $1,192,400 with the winner's share of $531,900.
Under equal weights of 126 pounds, Hillstar paid $4.50, $2.70, and $2.50 across the board, keying a chalky $13.80 exacta with the 5-2 second choice Big Blue Kitten. Ken and Sarah Ramsey's multiple grade I winner returned $2.80 and $2.80 for the place, while Dynamic Sky was $4.50 to show.
Brown Panther, who was also making his U.S. debut after winning the Irish St. Leger (Ire-I) Sept 14, was fractious prior to the race and bucked off jockey Kingscote near the starting gate. He got loose shortly thereafter and shockingly bolted past the starting gate, taking off around the course, with the remounted Kingscote, his feet out of the stirrups, unable to control him.
Kingscote was eventually dropped on the backside by Brown Panther, who then continued his journey alone around the turf course before finally being corralled by the course outrider.
"Just before the break, the horse got wound up and unfortunately he got me off," a dejected Kingscote said afterward. "When I got back on, I tried to keep him relaxed and as soon as I let go he bolted. There wasn't much I could do after that. He's never done that before. He sometimes dances about and gets on his toes, but he's never been that extreme."
"It's very disappointing," said Tom Dascombe, trainer of Brown Panther. "Well done to the winner and the connections of Caspar Netscher (Nearctic Stakes winner). It wasn't our day today."