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The field for the Grade 1, $800,000 Canadian International is set for this Saturday at Woodbine Race Course. This year’s version of the race has drawn a competitive field of 11, who will look to make a major splash in what is basically the last race that could produce a Breeders’ Cup runner. The card also includes three other stakes, the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor, the Grade 2 Nearctic, and the Grade 3 Ontario Derby. The Canadian International will go off as race 9, with a post time of 5:41 p.m. ET.
Spring Quality is the headline runner from America in the race, who will look to rebound from a poor effort last time out in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. The biggest win of his career came three races back in the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes, where he beat a loaded field. Strangely, many horses have come out of that race to win multiple races this season, yet Spring Quality has yet to do so. Edgar Prado will have the mount, with the horse drawing post six.
The morning line favorite for the race is Thundering Blue, who will be making his first start in North America after some solid success overseas. Recently, he has won two of his last three starts, including a big Group 2 victory three races back at York. Jockey Fran Berry will come to Woodbine for the ride, with the colt breaking from post 2.
The local hopeful will be Johnny Bear, who is coming off his second straight Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes triumph. The horse seemingly loves to run in that race. After her win in the Northern Dancer last year, she made her next start in this race, where she finished a well-beaten tenth. Luis Contreras will have the mount, as the local hero will break from post 9.
The full field from the rail out includes: Markitoff, Thundering Blue, Khan, Funtastic, Tiz a Slam, Spring Quality, English Illusion, Bandua, Johnny Bear, Desert Encounter, and Focus Group.
#11 Focus Group – There is no doubt that this jump up in class is a major test. From a numbers standpoint he looks to match up very well, though, while also having the training of Chad Brown on her side. It is interesting to note that Jose Ortiz rode him and Funtastic in their last starts, with him looking as though he has chose to ride Focus Group here. The pace of this race sets up really well for a closer, which should benefit this colt as he is the strongest finisher in this field. Chad Brown certainly has a formidable 1-2 punch here.
#4 Funtastic – Anytime Chad Brown brings one in to run on the turf you have to give it heavy consideration. Especially with Funtastic, who just two races back won the Grade 1 United Nations in wire to wire fashion. That win was his second in a row after he had won an allowance race the start before. However, he failed to show up with his best effort last time out, finishing a well beaten seventh in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer. There is plenty of speed in this race, which is concerning, but Brown would not ship him here for no reason.
#2 Thundering Blue – This is your morning line favorite after winning two of his last three races against stakes company overseas in England. This will be his first start in North American, which is always a question mark, making him a favorite that could be vulnerable. He is one you probably need to play in your multi race wagers, with the idea of trying to beat him on top if you are betting to win.
#6 Spring Quality – This horse won the toughest stakes race of the year in the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes three starts back at Belmont Park. It is crazy to think that several horses have come back to win out of that race, while Spring Quality has not. He was a solid third two races back in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga, then was a not so solid seventh next out in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, where he basically failed to fire. The pace sets up very well for him on paper, which could means he could rebound here in a big way.
#9 Johnny Bear – If this were the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes we would all need to be worried. Last time out, he won that race for the second time in a row, this time at of 16-1. For whatever reason, this horse runs well in that race, with him having no wins in-between those two victories. Last year he finished tenth in this race after winning the Northern Dancer. That has to make you skeptical coming into this event.
#5 Tiz a Slam – Since coming to Woodbine this season he has had a strong meet. He won the Grade 3 Dominion Day Stakes on synthetic, before capturing the biggest win of his career in the Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes on the turf. After that victory, he finished second in another Grade 2 event, before finishing sixth last time out in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer. He will likely rebound off of that effort today.
#7 English Illusion – This 5-year-old gelding is no stranger to success when it comes to running long on the grass. He can pretty much run all day, which will give him a shot in this 1 1/2 mile event. Two races back he was able to win a $100k stakes race at Woodbine, earning him a shot against Grade 1 company next in the Northern Dancer. He was third in that race, beaten by just a length, at long odds of 34-1. Look for him to provide some decent value once again.
#3 Kahn – I’ve listed the less-hyped European shippers in the party crasher category. As always, it’s just hard to know how they will handle the new conditions, with it being completely different than what they are accustomed to seeing. There are times that the less hyped shippers are the ones that run the best, with it all depending on who likes the conditions. Kahn comes here off of an impressive 6 length victory last time out in a stakes race in Germany.
#10 Desert Encounter – He has won once in seven starts this season, while facing tough competition in most of those races. Two races back he won over good ground in a small stakes event going long. Last time out, it was another solid performance, with him finishing third beaten only by a half length. There is no doubt running long on the turf is where he excels.
#8 Bandua – Let’s see how this European shipper does as he faces older horses for the first time. In his first two United States starts he has finished third and fourth in tough stakes races. This race seems to be even tougher than those, which is why he is a throw out, yet he has shown more talent than expected since shipping here.
#1 Markitoff – He won a race on New Year’s Day of this year, which was his only victory in 9 starts this season. Last time out, he was fourth in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer, finishing just a length behind eventual winner Johnny Bear. Let’s see if he can have any better luck against Grade 1 company in this tough spot.
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