09/18/2008 11:00PM

Big day looking truly huge


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 4, is shaping up as the second-biggest in Woodbine's history, behind only Breeders' Cup Day here in 1996.

Four graded turf stakes - the $2 million Canadian International, $1 million E.P. Taylor, $500,000 Nearctic, and $300,000 Summer - will be contested, and the winners of each will gain automatic berths into their corresponding Breeders' Cup races.

Woodbine released the lists of nominations for the four stakes on Friday, and the Grade 1 Canadian International attracted 25 horses, consisting of five locals, seven based in the United States, and 13 Europeans.

Marlang, a 3-year-old homebred who races for owner Gustav Schickedanz and is trained by Debbie England, is the latest local to have his hat tossed into the ring.

"He's feeling terrific," said England. "It's a tough task for a 3-year-old, but he's in good shape. If the turf is hard, he'll be tough."

Marlang led all the way over firm turf in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' here Aug. 3. Four weeks later, the colt journeyed to Saratoga and took the Grade 3 Saranac over 1 3/16 miles on firm ground.

Seaside Retreat and Spice Route, both of whom ran well in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer over 1 1/2 miles on yielding grass here Sept. 7, are scheduled to return in the Canadian International.

Seaside Retreat, a 5-year-old gelding, is trained by Mark Casse while Spice Route, a 4-year-old gelding, is trained by Roger Attfield.

"All systems are go," said Casse, who had sent out Seaside Retreat to win the Grade 2 Nijinsky here over 1 1/4 miles of firm ground in his start before his close third-place finish in the Northern Dancer.

Spice Route was making just his second start for Attfield when he finished fifth, beaten one length, in the Northern Dancer.

In his local bow, Spice Route had won a second-level optional $62,500 claimer over 1 1/2 miles on turf.

"I haven't seen him for a couple of days, but he was training up a storm when I left," said Attfield, who spent most of this week at the Keeneland yearling sale in Kentucky.

Champs Elysees and Quijano, who finished a nose apart when running 1-2 in the Northern Dancer, will be renewing their rivalry.

Champs Elysees, a 5-year-old horse, returned to New York and trainer Bobby Frankel following his Northern Dancer score. Quijano, who had arrived from Germany five days before the Northern Dancer, has stayed on here with assistant trainer Ilke Hildebrand and exercise rider Annika Gensch.

European-based runners Doctor Dino, Sixties Icon, and Mourilyan all are being aimed at the Canadian International and Zambezi Sun is a possibility.

Doctor Dino, a 6-year-old horse trained by Richard Gibson, won the Grade 1 Man o' War at Belmont and the Grade 1 Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin last fall.

Sixties Icon won the Group 1 St. Leger in 2006 at York and is coming off back-to-back Group 3 scores at Goodwood and Newbury.

Mourilyan has raced in Ireland, Dubai, Singapore, and England with his best placing coming in the Group 3 Dubai City of Gold.

Zambezi Sun, who also is a candidate for the Oct. 5 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, won the Group 2 Prix Foy in his last start at Longchamp.

Winner of Canadian due back for Taylor

There are 31 nominees for the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares, with 13 based in Europe, 12 in the United States, and six here at Woodbine.

J'ray, a 5-year-old, won the Grade 2 Canadian here over 1 1/8 miles of yielding going on the Sept. 7 program.

Based in New York with trainer Todd Pletcher, J'ray is expected to return for the E.P. Taylor.

Callwood Dancer, a 4-year-old who was beaten a length as the runner-up in the 1 1/8-mile Canadian, also is slated to run back in the E.P. Taylor.

"She's very good right now," said trainer Roger Attfield, who sent out Callwood Dancer to become a stakes winner here in the Grade 2 Nassau over 1 1/16 miles on May 31.

"I think she'll love the mile and a quarter."

Sealy Hill, a 4-year-old who was beaten 5 3/4 lengths as the fourth-place finisher in the Canadian, will be making her second consecutive appearance in the E.P. Taylor.

Trainer Mark Casse sent out Sealy Hill to finish second behind the talented French invader Mrs. Lindsay here last fall after watching her finish a close second in the Canadian.

Sealy Hill went on to be voted Canada's horse of the year, champion turf female, and champion 3-year-old filly.

"We're going to do some equipment changes," said Casse. "Hopefully, she's saved her best race for the E.P. Taylor.

"If she runs really well, she might go to the Breeders' Cup or somewhere else. But she has to give us a good performance, or the E.P. Taylor will be her last start."

Toque el Queda, who shipped over from France to finish third in the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington this summer, is scheduled to return to North America for the E.P. Taylor.

Heros Reward nominated for repeat bid

The Grade 2 Nearctic, a six-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds and upward, attracted 35 nominees including six Europeans, 18 based in the United States, and 11 locals.

Heros Reward, a 6-year-old gelding who won the 2007 Nearctic, has this year's renewal on his schedule.

Trained in Maryland by Dale Capuano, Heros Reward also won the Grade 3 Highlander over six furlongs on turf this June 22 after finishing second in the race last year.

Santiago Atitlan, a 6-year-old gelding who accompanied Quijano on his trip from Germany, ran well in a classified allowance over six furlongs on the main track here Sept. 6 in his first start in more than eight months.

Heading the local contingent is Starticus, a 4-year-old gelding trained here by Ralph Biamonte.

Starticus finished a game second behind the streaking Mr. Nightlinger at Arlington last time out and is 2 for 3 in local turf sprints.

- additional reporting by Alan Shuback