Favored Champs Elysees, in likely the final race of his career, went out on top with a come-from-behind victory in the $$1,927,556 Pattison Canadian International (Can-IT) (VIDEO) at Woodbine Oct. 17.
Angled out for the stretch drive by Garrett Gomez following a ground-saving trip in the 1 1/2-mile event, Juddmonte Farms' homebred Champs Elysees took the lead from the English import Jukebox Jury with more than 300 yards to go and then had to hold off that rival under left-handed urging to post a half-length win in 2:28.36.
The victory had to be satisfying for trainer Bobby Frankel, who collected his first Canadian International triumph. Champs Elysees was badly impeded in his last start, the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (Can-IT) over the course Sept. 20, when he rallied along the inside for Gomez but was forced to check abruptly and finished fourth (moved up to third on the disqualification of Marsh Side ). Champs Elysees made the Pattison his first win in seven starts this year. He finished third in the race last year.
It was Juddmonte's third win in Canada's richest horse race, after taking the 1990 edition with French Glory and the 1994 renewal with stakes record-holder Raintrap in 1994.
Jukebox Jury finished a clear second in the Canadian International over another British invader, the diminutive Buccellati. The defending Canadian International winner Marsh Side, who set slow fractions and gave way grudgingly in deep stretch, finished fourth.
"I just tried to ride him with all the confidence," Gomez said of Champs Elysees. "He's probably one of the most talented horses I've ever seen, but he always finds a way to get in trouble, especially on big days. It's great to see him finally win a big one."
The Canadian International is a Breeders' Cup challenge series race for the $3-million Emirates Airline Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Nov. 7. Immediately after the race, Garrett O'Rourke, Juddmonte Farms manager in Lexington, Ky., confirmed that Champs Elysees will be retired to their stud, Banstead Manor in England.
"It makes it all the sweeter (that his last start is a win)," said O'Rourke. "And to go out on such a huge win like this, is obviously a huge boost to his stallion career as well. He deserves it. He has been a tremendous servant. He is very game, he is very talented."
The 6-year-old Champs Elysees, a British-bred son of Danehill, is one of five grade or group I winners produced by Juddmonte's fabulous Irish mare Hasili. Champs Elysees' third grade I win was worth $1,155,840 and bumped his career earnings to $2,864,444. The bay has fashioned a career mark of 6-8-7 in 28 starts.
Champs Elysees, breaking from the rail, raced at the back of a tight pack in front of only Northern Dancer winner Just as Well as Marsh Side was sent to an early lead by Javier Castellano and set a crawling pace while opening a 3 1/2-length advantage. Quarter-mile fractions for the first six furlongs were :26.02, :51.35, and 1:15.76.
Jukebox Jury, racing in second for jockey Royston Ffrench with Buccellati third, closed to within a half-length at the quarter pole and overtook the stubborn Marsh Side to grab a one-length lead mid-stretch. Champs Elysees, with four to beat in the homestretch, closed steadily to get the lead, outfighting Jukebox Jury in deep stretch for a well-earned victory.
It was two lengths back to Buccellati, who was ridden by British jockey William Buick, winner of the E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-IT) a race earlier with 44-1 shot Lahaleeb. Marsh Side was followed by Just as Well, Spice Route, Allied Powers, and Quijano, who eased up in the stretch.
Champs Elysees paid $7.20, $4, and $3, keying a $2 exacta of $38.60.
The Irish-bred Jukebox Jury was the only 3-year-old in the field and received a seven-pound weight break from the rest for his first North American start. Winner of the Preis von Europa (Ger-I) at Cologne in his last start Sept. 27 for trainer Mark Johnston, the son of Montjeu returned $5.40 and $3.20.
Buccellati, making his first start in North America for trainer Andrew Balding, was $5.10 to show.