Ballingarry, winning the Canadian International.

Ballingarry, winning the Canadian International.

Michael Burns

Woodbine Race Report: International Intrigue

Published in the Oct. 5 issue of The Blood-Horse
Mick Kinane had never been to Toronto's Woodbine but admitted he's often been lucky when he visits a track for the first time. The 43-year-old Irish-born jockey kept that luck intact when he rode a brilliant race on Susan Magnier's Ballingarry to win the $1.5 million Canadian International (Can-I) over 1 1/2 miles of the track's famous E.P. Taylor turf course on Sept. 29.

Ballingarry, a fast improving 3-year-old colt, was also the first horse sent to the Canadian track by the powerful Magnier racing team and trainer Aidan O'Brien.

"I've always wanted to ride here," said Kinane. "It's a track that really suits the European type of horse." Indeed, horses from overseas dominated both the International and the co-featured E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-I), won by the English filly Fraulein.

Ballingarry, a racy bay Irish-bred by Sadler's Wells, out of the Desert Wine mare Flamenco Wave, was one of four European invaders entered in the 65th running of the International, Canada's richest Thoroughbred race.

The colt, while not at the top of the imposing list of exceptional runners from O'Brien's Ballydoyle training yards in Ireland, was a group I winner last year as a 2-year-old, taking the Criterium de Saint-Cloud (Fr-I) in his fourth career start.

(During the week following the Canadian International, Ballingarry was purchased by a group of U.S. owners. See complete related story)

Ballingarry won his 2002 debut, the Prix Noailles (Fr-II) at Longchamp in April, and was later placed in both the Italian (It-I) and Irish (Ire-I) Derbys before being sidelined by a virus. The colt "prepped" for the International with a third-place finish in the 1 3/4-mile Irish St. Leger (Ire-I) on Sept. 14 behind the ultra-tough older handicapper Vinnie Roe.

The International also attracted three survivors of last year's roughly run edition. Paolini, a cantankerous German horse who missed winning the 2001 International by less than a length when he tried to bite eventual winner Mutamam, was back for trainer Andreas Wohler. Zindabad, trained by Europe's red-hot Mark Johnston, was back after running well for third in last year's race but sawed off Falcon Flight in the stretch and was demoted to sixth place through a double disqualification. Falcon Flight, who was put up to fourth, also returned.

Johnston also sent over his ageless wonder, 10-year-old Yavana's Pace, a veteran of 73 races who had been third in a group I in Germany just seven days earlier.

Locals Full of Wonder, a Canadian grade I winner, and 3-year-old Portcullis, both owned by Sam-Son Farms; and Charles Fipke's exciting young prospect, Perfect Soul, completed an intriguing field.

It didn't take long for Ballingarry to hint to his connections he was relishing the Woodbine environment, even though the turf course had been soaked with heavy rain two days before the race.

"I was expecting this (win), especially after seeing him yesterday," said T.J. Comerford, an assistant trainer for O'Brien. "We were a little disappointed with the rain so we decided to take him out to gallop on the turf and he absolutely bounced off of it. He loved it."

Kinane also got some good vibes. "When I got on him before the race he was full of himself," he said. "I thought if he runs as good as he feels, the others were in trouble."

It helped that Kinane rode the course like he'd been here before as he placed his colt directly behind an aggressive Yavana's Pace and simply bided his time.

"The plan was to make all (of the pace) or stay very close, depending on the pace of the race," said Kinane. "I knew that if Yavana's Pace wanted the lead, he would make the pace, so I was really happy to let him through and give me a good lead."

Ballingarry, the 4-1 fourth choice, quickly snuck up on Yavana's Pace with a quarter of a mile left and shot to a three-length advantage in the stretch.

From there, the result was never in doubt as Ballingarry's galloping stride was smooth and strong. The margin of victory was a deceptively small 2 1/4 lengths as Kinane had geared down on the colt near the wire.

Falcon Flight, the surprising post time favorite, rallied hard in the final eighth under Pat Valenzuela but was second best, four lengths ahead of Yavana's Pace.

"I had a very relaxing trip the whole way until about the three-eighths pole when the jockey in the blue and white (Paolini) put me up on top of the rail putting me in very tight quarters," said Valenzuela. "Me and my horse dropped back at that point and we hit the rail."

Paolini, who acted up in the paddock, finished sixth, behind Zindabad and ahead of Portcullis and Full of Wonder. The running time on the deep turf that was listed as "yielding" was a decent 2:31.68.

O'Brien was not at Woodbine but watched the race from Ireland.

"Aidan was delighted with the horse," said Comerford. "He couldn't believe the way he won. The horse was so relaxed today. He acted like a proper gentleman. He's very good now."

Comerford said Ballingarry will return to Ireland and could be sent back to North America for the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Arlington Park on Oct. 26.

Fresh Fraulein
The co-featured E.P. Taylor Stakes, the filly and mare equivalent of the International, was a weirdly run race won by Cliveden Stud's Fraulein. Fraulein had not started since finishing second in a listed race at Salisbury, England, in August.

Fraulein and jockey Kevin Darley stalked incredibly slow fractions of :29.70, :57.93, and 1:23.33 for six furlongs, set by the Neil Drysdale-trained Nadia, before making an early move inside the quarter pole.

Darley's gamble paid off as the filly held off a hard-charging Alasha and a troubled Volga to win by a length in 2:10.03 for the 10 furlongs.

"We literally walked for the first three-quarters of a mile," said Darley, who a day earlier had won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) on longshot Where or When.

Fraulein, a 3-year-old daughter of Acatenango, had won three of 10 career starts for trainer Edward Dunlop, but the Taylor was her first graded stakes victory.

Assistant trainer Peter Boothman said Fraulein would be pointed to the Pebbles Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont on Oct. 14.

Highlander Noon
Gritty little Wake At Noon, owned and bred by Bruno Schickedanz, probably wrapped up champion sprinter honors in Canada with his one-length score in the $160,800 Highlander Handicap (Can-III) earlier on the card.

Trained by Abraham Katryan and ridden by Emile Ramsammy, Wake At Noon won the six-furlong race over Cheap Talk in a quick 1:09.72 under 126 pounds. The 5-year-old horse by Cure the Blues out of the Silver Deputy mare Sermon Time was winning his fourth stakes race of the year from nine starts. He boosted his career earnings to $1,245,696.

(Chart, Equibase)