Woodbine Racetrack

Woodbine Racetrack (Michael Burns Photo)

It’s common knowledge that Europe’s best horses are generally superior to North America’s best horses going 1 ½ miles on turf, as recent renewals of the $800,000 Pattison Canadian International Stakes (gr. I) at Woodbine clearly indicate.

Horses based in Europe won seven consecutive editions of the Canadian International from 2010-2016, and they’ve won 13 of the 18 editions since 2000. Suffice to say, that’s quite a streak of success, and I’ll be betting on a similar outcome when the 2018 Canadian International is held on Saturday.

There are several European raiders to choose from, but I’m strongly drawn toward #2 Thundering Blue. Trained by David Menuisier, the five-year-old son of Exchange Rate started the season as a handicap competitor in Great Britain, but soon rose through the ranks to win the 1 5/16-mile Sky Bet York Stakes (Eng-II) before finishing a strong third in the Juddmonte International Stakes (Eng-I) behind two of Europe’s best runners, Roaring Lion and Poet’s Word.

Subsequently, Thundering Blue showed that he can travel and handle 1 ½ miles when he shipped to Sweden and won the Stockholm Cup International (Eng-III) over Crowned Eagle, a fellow traveler from England and a competitor in the 2017 Epsom Derby (Eng-I).

With those fine efforts under his belt, I see no reason why Thundering Blue won’t be competitive in the Canadian International. His regular rider, Fran Berry, will retain the mount, and Thundering Blue won’t be racing on Lasix, so there’s no chance of the medication negatively affecting his performance. If Roaring Lion or Poet’s Word were competing here, they would be an overwhelming favorite to win, so considering that Thundering Blue wasn’t disgraced by them at all in the Juddmonte International, I view him as the most likely winner on Saturday.

Trainer David Simcock, who won three Grade 1 races at Woodbine in 2014, will send out #10 Desert Encounter, beaten a half-length in the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup (Eng-III) at Newbury last month. Desert Encounter can’t boast quite the same level of form as Thundering Blue, but this Canadian International field isn’t the strongest and that alone could put Desert Encounter in the mix to finish on the board.

Among the North American runners, #6 Spring Quality didn’t seem to handle a soft turf course while finishing last in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. I) last time out, but the Graham Motion-trained runner previously won the Manhattan Stakes (gr. I) and finished third in the Sword Dancer Stakes (gr. I), so he’s got the class to compete at this level and it might be wise to draw a line through his non-effort in the Joe Hirsch. #11 Focus Group, a son of Kitten’s Joy who has risen steadily through the ranks this year for trainer Chad Brown, is another logical contender.

I’ll mix and match those two with Desert Encounter while making Thundering Blue the key to my wagers:

$12 to win on #2 Thundering Blue
$3 exacta: 2 with 6,10,11 ($9)
$3 exacta: 6,10,11 with 2 ($9)

Good luck!