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TORONTO, ON – Abdulla Al Mansoori’s Desert Encounter brought his three-race win streak back to Woodbine and decidedly defended his title in Saturday’s $800,000 Pattison Canadian International Stakes (G1).
Breaking from post 4 under Andrea Atzeni as the 3/2 second choice on the tote, Desert Encounter hopped in the air and spotted his five foes a handful of lengths right away. Up front, even-money favorite Ziyad posted opening fractions of :26.31, :52.26, 1:16.93, and 1:41.23 through the first mile.
Still last of all as the field straightened for home, Atzeni shook Desert Encounter’s reins, and the defending champion responded immediately. After riding the rail up to fourth, Desert Encounter tipped out near the 1/8 pole and split between Alounak and Ziyad.
Striding away impressively while never asked beyond a hand ride, Desert Encounter galloped home a 1/2-length the best in a final time of 2:28.62 for the 1 1/8-mile event over the good outer turf course. The David Simcock trainee became the first horse since Joshua Tree (2012-13) to repeat.
“The plan was to jump slow and he probably jumped a stride slower than I would have liked,” Atzeni said. “But it’s a mile and 1/2, it’s a long way, it’s a small field, so we were never panicking. The plan was always to sit last and come through them, so I wasn’t too worried. He’s a good horse, he likes it here, he loves the ground, and I think he’s actually a better horse than he was last year.”
Alounak necked out Ziyad for second, while Pivoine‘s late push along the rail could only get him up to fourth, a neck behind Ziyad. Pumpkin Rumble weakened to fifth after chasing from second early, while Nessy came up empty off of the far turn and completed the order of finish.
Desert Encounter’s win followed a trio of similar late-running scores in Great Britain against Group 3 company and improved his lifetime record to 31-12-4-7. The Irish-bred 7-year-old gelded son of Halling eclipsed the seven-figure earnings mark, increasing his lifetime bankroll to $1,317,309.
“I dare say if he’s still a happy horse like he is now, for sure, he’ll be back (in 2020),” said Al Mansoori’s racing manager Philip Robinson. “He enjoys it here; why not? The last three of four races, he’s just never stopped improving; he’s still improving. You expect it maybe from a 4- or 5-year-old, but I think mentally, he’s improving so much. He’s enjoying his racing. He’s just in a very happy place this moment.”
Desert Encounter returned $5 to win, $3.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. Alounak brought back $10.90 to place and $4.60 to show, while Ziyad paid $2.10 to show.
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