Desert Encounter, returning to Woodbine Racetrack from England for trainer David Simcock, will be looking to become the first repeat winner of the Pattison Canadian International since Joshua Tree in 2012-2013.
Saturday’s 82nd running of the Grade 1 Canadian International, a 1 ½-mile turf race for three-year-olds and upward, offers a purse of $800,000 and has attracted a field of six.
Desert Encounter went off at 8-1 when he captured last year’s Canadian International, defeating fellow English shipper and favourite Thundering Blue by a length.
The Irish-bred seven-year-old Halling gelding, owned by Abdulla Al Mansoori, returns while riding the wave of three consecutive Group 3 turf stakes scores, all in England. His last success came at Newbury in the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup, a 1 3/8-mile race in which he had finished a close third last year while prepping for the Canadian International.
Andrea Atzeni will ride Desert Encounter for the first time since his success here last year. He also won the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes, for fillies and mares, with Sheikha Reika on that day’s program.
Other overseas shippers for the Canadian International are Ziyad, from France; Pivoine, from England; and Alounak, of Germany.
Ziyad also arrives in very good form, with a Group 2 victory at Deauville and a close Group 1 second at Saint-Cloud in his last two starts for owner/breeder Wertheimer et Frere.
The English-bred four-year-old son of Rock of Gibraltar is trained by Carlos Laffon-Parias. Chinchon, his only previous Canadian starter, finished sixth in the 2010 Canadian International.
Maxime Guyon, who has ridden Ziyad in 12 of his 16 career outings, will be making his Canadian debut aboard the gelding.
Pivoine, trained by Andrew Balding and owned by King Power Racing Co. Ltd., had some traffic problems when second, beaten a length by Desert Encounter, in the Dubai Duty Free. The five-year-old gelding by Redoute’s Choice is a six-time winner but is seeking his first graded stakes success. The Irish-bred raced in the Grade 1 Arlington Million earlier this year, finishing fifth.
Robert Hornby, who rode Pivoine in the Dubai Duty Free and to a handicap win at York four starts back, will be riding in North America for the first time.
Balding won the 2003 Canadian International with Phoenix Reach and the 2017 E.P. Taylor Stakes with Blond Me.
Alounak, conditioned by Waldemar Hickst in Germany, last saw action in his adoptive homeland, winning a Group 3 at 1 ¼ miles on the turf.
The French-bred four-year-old colt by Camelot had raced in a Group 1 two starts back and finished fifth, beaten just four lengths. Old Persian, the third-place finisher there, shipped across the pond to capture Woodbine’s Grade 1 Northern Dancer and is scheduled to make his next start in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Clement Lecouevre, aboard for Alounak’s last-out win, retains the mount for Darius Racing.
Nessy, a closing second when making his local bow in the Northern Dancer, will be shipping back up from Keeneland for the Canadian International.
Owned and bred by Sierra Farm and trained by Ian Wilkes, the six-year-old Flower Alley gelding became a stakes winner in Santa Anita’s 2018 running of the Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano.
Chris Landeros will be in from Kentucky to ride Nessy, who is a full brother to 2017 Canadian International upsetter Bullards Alley.
Pumpkin Rumble, the senior member of the field at age eight, was claimed for $30,000 at the Fair Grounds back in March 2014 by owners Al and Bill Ulwelling.
Sent north to trainer Kevin Attard in 2017, Pumpkin Rumble has been a consistent performer on both turf and Tapeta while racing at the top level in recent campaigns and closed out 2018 with a triple capped by the Grade 3 Valedictory Stakes.
This year, Pumpkin Rumble opened with third-place finishes in both the Grade 3 Dominion Day and the Grade 2 Nijinsky. The English Channel gelding then journeyed to Parx Racing for a rallying win in the Alphabet Soup, a turf race for Pennsylvania-breds in which he set a track record for the 1 1/16 miles of turf.
Eurico Rosa da Silva, who rode Bullards Alley to his Canadian International score, regains the mount on Pumpkin Rumble.
Scheduled as the afternoon’s ninth race (estimated post time of 5:42 p.m. ET), the Pattison Canadian International will be featured during a live broadcast on TSN4 from 5-6 p.m. ET.
The lucrative Pattison Canadian International program also features the $600,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes (Grade 1) over 1 ¼ miles of turf for fillies and mares and the $250,000 Nearctic Stakes (Grade 2), a six-furlong turf sprint for three-year-olds and up.
First race post time on Saturday is set for 1:05 p.m. For more information, visit Woodbine.com.
$800,000 Pattison Canadian International (Grade 1)
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer – Morning Line
1 – Ziyad (GB) – Maxime Guyon – Carlos Laffon-Parias – 1-1
2 – Pivoine (IRE) – Robert Hornby – Andrew Balding – 10-1
3 – Nessy – Chris Landeros – Ian Wilkes – 8-1
4 – Desert Encounter (IRE) – Andrea Atzeni – David Simcock – 2-1
5 – Alounak (FR) – Clement Lecoeuvre – Waldemar Hickst – 6-1
6 – Pumpkin Rumble – Eurico Rosa Da Silva – Kevin Attard – 15-1
Defending champion Desert Encounter, with exercise rider Pep Singh, at Woodbine Racetrack in advance of Saturday's $800,000 Pattison Canadian International (Grade 1). (Michael Burns Photo)
VIDEO: Meet the contenders - https://youtu.be/MirrmPe0XZg