TORONTO, ON – A pair of European shippers gave the audience quite a thrill at Woodbine on Saturday when Desert Encounter overtook Thundering Blue late to win the Grade 1, $800,000 Pattison Canadian International Stakes at Woodbine.
Breaking slowly from post 10 under Andrea Atzeni at 8/1 odds, Desert Encounter was forced to settle in toward the rear of the field. Meanwhile, Bandua overtook Funtastic up front after the opening 2 furlongs and was soon left through opening fractions of :25.67, :51.12, 1:16.17, and 1:40.15. Angling out near the 3/16 pole, Desert Encounter put forth a strong outside rally while the 3/1 favorite Thundering Blue came darting through along the rail. Outrunning his fellow invader late, the David Simcock trainee crossed the wire a length ahead in a final time of 2:28.88 for the 12-furlong event over the good turf course.
“He travelled good into the race and I followed the favourite all the way through Thundering Blue,” Atzeni said. “I thought he was the one to beat and he’s a horse that’s got such a high cruising speed, and then when he saw me, he actually got a very good turn of foot as well. You can’t get to the front too soon because once he gets to the front, he thinks he’s had enough, but he’s a horse that has a lot of ability and it’s great for the team at home, great for David and the owner and everybody involved.”
Much farther behind the top duo, Focus Group took third ahead of Tiz a Slam, Spring Quality, and Markitoff. Further back came Johnny Bear ahead of a weakened Bandua, with English Illusion, Khan, and Funtastic completing the order of finish.
Desert Encounter’s win came in his North American debut and improved his overall record to 23-8-4-5. The Irish-bred 6-year-old gelded son of Halling increased his career bankroll to $757,333.
“David Simcock has been here on a few occasions,” said Philip Robinson, racing manager for Abdulla Al Mansoori. “He loves it. I think he’s had this race in mind for a long time for this horse. He said that this is the race for him and he set out his program throughout the whole season to (prepare) him to come here. It worked out. He got it dead right.”
Desert Encounter returned $18.20 to win, $7.90 to place, and $5.40 to show. Thundering Blue brought back $5.40 to place and $3.50 to show, while Focus Group paid $3.60 to show.