Sizing up the Europeans in the Canadian International & EP Taylor
Cannock Chase photo courtesy of WEG/Michael Burns Photography.
As our own Jennifer Caldwell noted in her story, Sunday's Canadian International (G1) program at Woodbine is loaded with foreign intrigue. Here's how I'd rank the invaders.
Cannock Chase is the pick of the European trio in the Canadian International. The Sir Michael Stoute trainee appeared bound for big things in 2014, after capping a three-race winning streak in the Tercentenary (G3) at Royal Ascot. But he was shelved following that effort last summer, and his 2015 hasn't exactly gone according to plan. Cannock Chase was rounding into form by the time Royal Ascot rolled around, earning a crack at the June 17 Prince of Wales's (G1), and even attracted some notice as a "wise guy" horse. Although a problematic trip in the pocket didn't help, the Lemon Drop Kid colt failed to do much when he did have a chance, and he wound up seventh. Stoute admitted that the colt has had "one or two little niggles," so there have been physical issues in play this term.
Not seen again until the August 29 Winter Hill (G3) at Windsor, Cannock Chase finished second to Godolphin's promising Racing History, who just came back to finish a useful fourth in Saturday's Champion (G1) at Ascot. He stepped up to 1 1/2 miles for the first time in the September 25 Godolphin at Newmarket, where he bolted up as much the best. This should be the best spot to get him a Grade 1 laurel.
Second Step has needed every yard to get up in his two big scores, the May 2 Jockey Club (G2) at Newmarket and the August 9 Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1), where he was under pressure a long way out before finally gaining traction. Off that evidence, it made sense for Luca Cumani to try him over 1 3/4 miles in the Irish St Leger (G1), but he was no match for runaway Order of St George in fourth. Reverting to 1 1/2 miles should help the Dalakhani gelding, as will the long stretch at Woodbine. My one nagging concern is that Cannock Chase has the stronger turn of foot, and may be gone by the time Second Step gets stoked up.
Sheikhzayedroad warrants respect for his course-and-distance success in last year's Northern Dancer Turf (G1), and in light of trainer David Simcock's terrific strike rate on this side of the Atlantic. He hasn't had any success since that Woodbine raid, but it's only fair to point out that he's been pretty highly tried in the interim too. Dropped to listed company at Chester last out, he was disadvantaged by racing well back off a tepid pace on soft ground, and his strongly rallying third was actually better than it looks on paper. I'm not quite convinced he's as talented as the other two English shippers in here, though.
Twice as many European distaffers have arrived for the E.P. Taylor (G1), and Yaazy might have the most upside at 10-1. Based in France with John Hammond, the Shadwell homebred captured her career debut at Longchamp in May and was immediately tossed into the Prix de Malleret (G2). The daughter of Teofilo closed relentlessly for third to the classy Sea Calisi, missing second by a neck. Her inexperience showed next time in the Prix Minerve (G3), where she was rank early, yet still finished well for second to another high-class type in Candarliya. Those rivals filled the minor awards behind Treve in the Prix Vermeille (G1).
Yaazy got a confidence booster, and a switch in tactics, in the September 14 Prix Joubert. Grabbing control to set the pace, she kept on strongly to earn her first stakes win in just her fourth career start. This represents another challenge for such a lightly raced type, who makes her first international foray while cutting back in trip to 1 1/4 miles for the first time. Note that she hails from the same productive family as recent Woodbine Mile (G1) winner Mondialiste.
Talmada's record looks much stronger if you pay attention only to her attempts in the vicinity of this distance. Most notable in this category are her runner-up efforts in the May 14 Middleton (G2) to Secret Gesture -- she of the Beverly D. (G1) DQ -- and in the June 26 Hoppings to subsequent Irish Oaks (G1) and Prix de l'Opera (G1) heroine Covert Love. Last time out, Talmada scored a stakes breakthrough in the 1 1/4-mile John Musker at Yarmouth. From the yard of successful young trainer Roger Varian, the Cape Cross filly descends from the female line of 1994 Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) hero Barathea. That's a pretty nice profile for a 15-1 shot.
Coolmore's Curvy was on a roll earlier in the season for David Wachman, progressing rapidly from a couple of handicap wins to upset Giovanni Canaletto in the Gallinule (G3) and Pleascach in the Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot. The full sister to 2012 Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) winner Power has stalled recently, however, when third in the Irish Oaks and fourth in the Yorkshire Oaks (G1). She can be forgiven her fifth in the October 3 Flower Bowl (G1) on account of the yielding ground, and better conditions can put her in a better light. Yet Curvy has already reached her high-water mark, and that may make her a vulnerable favorite, especially at a trip that may be short of her best.
I'd pegged this race as a suitable objective for Lacy in her scouting report for the Beverly D., so there will be beating of the head against the cubicle if she strikes at 20-1. This trip is preferable for her, and she's sure to get much better ground than the Arlington monsoon that ended her Beverly D. chances before she ever got to the gate. And as I'd noted in her profile, her collateral form through her troubled near-miss in last fall's Premio Lydia Tesio (G1) is very intriguing. Still, I think she'd have preferred having fewer European rivals to tackle.
Godolphin's Devonshire has been an honorable servant for trainer Willie McCreery, and her third in the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) to Pleascach and Found was a grand reward for her attitude. That said, the hard trier isn't exactly bred for 1 1/4 miles, and this is a lot stiffer than the nine-furlong listed race she just won at Listowel.
Nakuti, a handicapper and borderline listed class performer for much of her career, exits a career best victory in the Atalanta (G3) at Sandown. If you can stay a mile there, you've got a shot at getting 1 1/4 miles in North America. A bigger question mark is class: Blond Me, who just missed in the Atalanta, has since finished a well-beaten second to Sentiero Italia in the Sands Point (G2) and sixth to Her Emmynency in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1). Wiener Valkyrie, eighth in the Atalanta, was runner-up at 66-1 in Saturday's Athenia (G3). (Full disclosure: Talmada was only fifth in the Atalanta. I'm not holding that against her, since she wants further.) This looks like an opportunistic, strike-while-the-iron-is-hot attempt at a Grade 1 placing for Nakuti, before she changes to the Graham Motion barn. As an experienced customer, she might check that box, but she's likely to find a couple in here too good.