10/25/2013 12:43PM

Canadian International: Attfield sends two contenders in search of elusive win

Michael Burns
Forte Dei Marmi trains Thursday at Woodbine. He is the 3-1 morning-line favorite for Sunday's Grade 1 Canadian International.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Roger Attfield has run numerous horses in the Canadian International, without a victory. The drought could end Sunday, when he sends out favored Forte Dei Marmi and upstart Perfect Timber in the 76th running of the $1 million fixture.

The International encompasses exactly one lap around Woodbine’s roomy 12-furlong course. It heads a superb 11-race card that also features another Grade 1 turf stakes, the $500,000 E.P. Taylor, a 10-furlong test for fillies and mares.

Forte Dei Marmi had a disappointing spring campaign in the United States, but he turned the corner after returning to Woodbine early in the summer. He won his last three outings, all in graded stakes, most notably the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf here Sept. 15.

“He’s in very good shape,” said Eurico Rosa Da Silva, who was aboard for Forte Dei Marmi’s last two triumphs. “We expect a good race from him. Every time I work him, I couldn’t be happier with him. He’s a fighter. I hope it continues raining. He likes a soft turf.”

Attfield said it took a while for the 7-year-old Forte Dei Marmi to come around this year.

[CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL: Get PPs, watch Sunday's card live]

“I probably gave him too much time off for an older horse this winter, and it took me a long time to get him back on track again,” Attfield explained.

Perfect Timber, a late-developing 4-year-old, ran second to Forte Dei Marmi in two 12-furlong stakes, the Northern Dancer and the Grade 3 Singspiel.

“I took my time with him, because he was so big and backward,” Attfield said. “He’s only just getting the hang of the game now. I think he’s sitting on a really big race. He’s totally different than Forte Dei Marmi in that he’s a big, galloping horse. He doesn’t have the quick turn of foot that Forte Dei Marmi has.”

There are three European invaders in the field, including Joshua Tree, who stole last year’s International on the front end. He also won the 2010 International as a 3-year-old and was a troubled second in the race in 2011.

Joshua Tree, who is winless in five starts this year, faded in the stretch last time after setting the pace in the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on Oct. 6.

Now We Can, a Group 2 winner in France, finished seventh over soft ground in the Group 2 Prix Foy on Sept. 15.

“This horse is good mentally, so I don’t think traveling will take much out of him,” trainer Nicolas Clement said. “It’s a bit of a gamble to travel so far, but we like the [European-style] track.”

Seismos was a major player in Group 1 company in Germany during the summer, but he is exiting a subpar showing over about 2 1/2 miles in the Group 1 Prix du Cadran.

“He’s a tough horse,” said trainer Andreas Wohler, who saddled the runner-up in the International twice. “But the last time, it was just the distance that wasn’t right for him.”

New York-based trainer Bill Mott, who captured the 1995 International with Lassigny, is running the European import Slumber. His owner, Juddmonte Farms, has won the International three times.

Slumber rallied wide to finish a close fourth most recently in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont.

“He kind of had to wait to make his run,” Mott said. “Maybe if he got clear a little earlier, he could have benefited and been a little closer.”

Irish Mission, a close fourth in the Northern Dancer, was cross-entered in the Taylor. Trainer Mark Frostad said he would prefer to run her at the longer International distance, but he felt that 10 furlongs over soft turf could equate to 12 furlongs.

“She wants a mile and a half as opposed to a mile and a quarter,” Frostad explained. “She likes to be out there relaxed and galloping along. She doesn’t get tired.”

Hyper notched two stakes in the summer for trainer Chad Brown, including the Grade 2 Bowling Green at Belmont.

Lucayan has been competitive in Grade 2 company in Southern California for trainer Neil Drysdale, who won the 2008 International with longshot Marsh Side.

The Canadian International was moved two weeks later on the calendar this year and its purse was reduced by $500,000. The E.P. Taylor purse also was cut by $500,000.

Both races will be broadcast on Sportsnet 360 from 4:30-6 p.m. Eastern. TVG also will provide coverage, and Sunday’s card will be streamed live on DRF.com.