Top contenders from around the world line up Oct. 14 at Woodbine for the 75th edition of the $1.5 million Pattison Canadian International (Can-IT) and a chance at a berth in the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT). At an Oct. 11 post position draw, the Aiden O'Brein-trained Imperial Monarch drew position 10 of 11 and was installed as the 3-1 favorite on the morning line.
Air Support, Al Khali, and Prince Will I Am are the American invaders for the 1 1/2-mile test, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" event with entry fees paid and a travel allowance provided to the victorious connections. The International is carded as race 10, with an approximate post of 5:44 p.m. EDT. TVG will once again present exclusive on-site coverage of the Canadian International program.
Imperial Monarch, a lightly raced sophomore son of Galileo who runs for Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, has won three of four starts and makes his first outing since July 14 at Longchamp. There, he posted a thrilling head victory in the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris (Fr-I). He came into that start off his only loss, a luckless run in the Prix du Jockey Club (Fr- I, French Derby), in which he was shuffled back to a troubled eighth after finding no room to run in the home stretch.
"I think he's had so little racing that he's still learning (about a preferred racing style," said T.J. Comerford, assistant to O'Brien. "The last time, he made the pace. It didn't bother him. He's got a great temperament. 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."
Ryan Moore makes up part of a 119-pound impost, lightest in the field, aboard the young talent for O'Brien, a two-time winner of the International with 2010 victor Joshua Tree and 2002 hero Ballingarry.
Joshua Tree, now trained by Marco Botti, will make a third consecutive appearance in the International. Last year, as an 11-1 shot, he finished second to an even bigger longshot, 22-1 filly Sarah Lynx. The 5-year-old son of champion Montjeu won the 2010 edition by a head and will be trying to become just the third horse to win multiple runnings.
Joshua Tree arrives at Woodbine fresh off a solid third-place performance just 1 3/4 lengths behind Orfevre in the Sept. 16 Prix Foy (Fr-II) at Longchamp. In his previous start for owners Khalid Nabooda and Kamel Albahou, he won a group II at Deauville.
"I thought he was in very good form," Botti said of the Prix Foy. "He seems to be coming into his best form recently and seems to enjoy racing. I haven't trained many horses as tough as he is. Every time he comes back after a race, he's full of life."
Frankie Dettori, who won the International in 2000 with Mutafaweq and 2004 with Sulamani, will partner the 5-1 third choice on the morning line.
The 4-1 second choice, Reliable Man, was the toast of Chantilly when he won the French Derby for owner Fair Salinia in 2011. Now the 4-year-old son of Dalakhani comes in off a runner-up finish in the Sept. 21 La Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte (Fr-III) still seeking his first seasonal win. Jockey Olivier Peslier, who was aboard Reliable Man for his past two starts—including a fourth in the July 21 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I)—is aboard.
Al Khali was second by just a neck to fellow International contender Wigmore Hall in the Sept. 16 Northern Dancer (Can-IT), and will make a second appearance in this event. In 2010 he finished a hard-charging fourth to Joshua Tree, beaten just three-quarters of a length after encountering trouble in the stretch.
In addition to the runner-up finish in the Northern Dancer for Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable, the 6-year-old Medaglia d'Ororidgling was second to Point of Entry in the Aug. 18 Sword Dancer (gr. IT) at Saratoga Race Course this summer off a third in the July 7 United Nations (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park.
"He had a great trip in the Northern Dancer," Mott remarked. "He battled back through the stretch, looked like he might win it at one point, but we were just outrun, second-best. He's in good form. There have been some that have outrun him, but he always shows up."
Mott won the 1995 International with Legacy, while jockey Garrett Gomez, who guided Champs Elysees to the winner's circle in 2009, is also seeking his second International score.
Stuart Janney III's Air Support has been extremely consistent in his 15 starts, and recently won the Sept. 8 Bowling Green (gr. IIT) at Belmont. He was also second in the United Nations and the Colonial Turf Cup this year.
"He's had a good year," Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said of the 4-year-old Smart Strike runner. "In the Colonial Turf Cup, he was the victim of pace, as he was in the United Nations. But he came back and ran a good race in an allowance race, then ran a good race in the Bowling Green. I think he's probably a true mile and a half horse. He's a nice little package, not a great big horse, but he's put together right."
Mark Hawtin's Wigmore Hall, a 5-year-old by High Chaparral, looks to improve his perfect 2-for-2 record at Woodbine's E.P. Taylor Turf Course. Boasting back-to-back scores in the Northern Dancer, trainer Michael Bell believes a combination of ground and rider have created the perfect storm for both of Wigmore Hall's Canadian coups.
"I think the environment there really suits him," said Bell. "He's also been given two really blinding rides by Jamie Spencer. He looks in very good form, he loves to travel and he's in very good shape. We'll see how he gets on when upped in class."
Wigmore Hall, earner of $1.9 million through a 27-start career, was shipped home to England after his Sept. 16 Northern Dancer score this year and returned Oct. 6 to challenge the International.
Lay Time, the only filly in the race, looks to follow in the footsteps of last year's winner and become just the ninth female runner to take the turf classic. A daughter of Galileo trained by Andrew Balding for owner Robert Barnett, she comes in off a Sept. 22 runner-up finish in the Dubai Duty Free Arc Trial St. Simon Stakes (Eng-III) and secured the Aug. 25 Totepool.com Winter Hill Stakes (Eng-III) at Windsor earlier in the season.
Forte Dei Marmi, third in the Northern Dancer for Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield, group III winner Dandino, multiple graded stakes winner Prince Will I Am, and multiple group winner Scalo (fourth in the Northern Dancer last time out) complete the field.
$1,500,000 Pattison Canadian International (Can-IT, Race 10, approximate post 5:44 p.m. EDT), 3YO & Up, 1 1/2 miles (turf) PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Lay Time (GB), J. Fortune, 123, A Balding
2. Dandino (GB), J. Crowley, 126, J R Fanshawe
3. Forte Dei Marmi (GB), J R Velazquez, 126, R L Attfield
4. Scalo (GB), A. Starke, 126, A Wohler
5. Prince Will I Am (KY), R. A. Dominguez, 126, M. Nihei
6. Wigmore Hall (IRE), J. P. Spencer, 126, M L Bell
7. Reliable Man (GB), O. Peslier, 126, A De Royer-Dupre
8. Joshua Tree (IRE), L. Dettori, 126, M Botti
9. Al Khali (KY), G. K. Gomez, 126, W I Mott
10. Imperial Monarch (IRE), R. Moore, 119, A O'Brien
11. Air Support (KY), J. Castellano, 126, C R McGaughey III