10/17/2014 1:31PM

Brown Panther shortens up for North American debut in Canadian International

Michael Burns
Brown Panther gallops for the first time on the turf course at Woodbine Racetrack on Friday.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The 1 1/2-mile distance of Sunday’s $1 million Canadian International may be a little short for Brown Panther at this stage of his career, but that shouldn’t stop the world traveler from being an imposing presence in the 77th running of the Grade 1 turf fixture at Woodbine.

Brown Panther, a 6-year-old trained by Tom Dascombe, is coming off an authoritative victory in the Group 1 Irish St. Leger, a 1 3/4-mile test at The Curragh. He previously was third in the Group 2 Goodwood Cup, a two-mile marathon in England, where he is based.

Brown Panther has won 10 of 24 starts for earnings of $1.1 million. His five victories going 1 1/2 miles mostly came during his formative years.

“He’s pretty versatile,” said Dascombe. “He goes right-handed, left-handed, firm ground, soft ground, artificial surface ... he’s pretty adaptable. He’s traveled to Australia and Dubai and now North America. As long as things go well in the next few days, he should run to his best.”

Brown Panther is owned by Betfair co-founder Andrew Black and retired soccer player Michael Owen, who was a star in the English Premier League during the 2000s.


The 10-horse Canadian International is the sixth race on an excellent 11-race card that includes three other stakes, most notably the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor. The Canadian International will be broadcast in Canada on TSN from 3 to 4 p.m., with post time for the race itself at 3:32.

:: Canadian International Day: Get PPs, watch Sunday's card live

Key contenders

Brown Panther (No previous Beyers)

* He arrived at Woodbine late Tuesday evening and was full of himself coming off the track Thursday morning while heading back into the quarantine barn.

Big Blue Kitten (Last 3 Beyers: 100-101-102)

A Grade 1 winner in 2013, he has been lightly raced this year, with a restricted stakes win to his credit. Trainer Chad Brown said he was disappointed with the 6-year-old’s recent fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont.

“We really liked him going into the race,” Brown said. “It wasn’t a bad effort, but it wasn’t a winning effort, either. But he came out of the race in great shape. He’s training well.”

Brown wants firm ground for the 11-time winner owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

Hillstar (No previous Beyer)

The 4-year-old put together a productive season in England under the guidance of trainer Michael Stoute after coming up empty in the rich Dubai World Cup on the Tapeta surface in March.

“He didn’t handle that track in Dubai, but in England, he’s been ultra-consistent,” Stoute said. “He’s coming into this race in good shape and appears to have traveled well.”

Hillstar wound up second to Brown Panther going 1 11/16 miles in a Group 3 event in May.

“I would be hopeful I could beat him at a mile and a half,” Stoute said.

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Suntracer (Last 3 Beyers: 99-63-97)

He rebounded from a 20-length loss in the American St. Leger to win the Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup on Sept. 13.

His trainer, Chris Block, campaigned 2011 Canadian Horse of the Year Never Retreat, who was a turf expert.

“I think if he gets some luck on his side, he can be very strong in a lot of these bigger races,” Block said. “He needs to have the proper rider aboard, the right kind of pace scenario, and a firm turf.”

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 3 Suntracer. Trainer Chris Block is 22-4-4-5 with a $6.13 ROI over the past five years in graded stakes of 12 furlongs and longer on turf. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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The Pizza Man (Last 3 Beyers: 89-99-98)

The big bay had won five stakes in a row in Chicago before failing to deliver in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf here Sept. 14. His connections said he didn’t ship well for that engagement, so they sent him here early to prepare for the Canadian International and worked him an easy five-eighths over the main turf last Sunday.

Dynamic Sky (Last 3 Beyers: 99-87-91)

The 4-year-old has evolved into a useful grass specialist this year. He rallied for second in the 12-furlong Northern Dancer, perhaps the best performance of his career.

“I knew he had it in him to run a good race in the Northern Dancer, so we were very pleased with his effort,” said trainer Mark Casse.

Reporting Star (Last 3 Beyers: 98-95-92)

One of the most improved local runners this year, he ran through his allowance conditions before finishing second in the Grade 2 Sky Classic and third in the Northern Dancer. He figures to lead the way after breaking from post 10.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 8 Pyrite Mountain. Trainer Todd Pletcher is 49-1-2-9 with a $0.14 ROI over the past five years in Grade 1 turf routes. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 6 War Dancer. Trainer Ken McPeek is 14-0-0-1 over the past five years in Grade 1 stakes on turf. Click for more details. Mike Hogan