10/07/2003 11:00PM

Clues to identify proper European


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Tabbing the winner of the $1.5 million Canadian International, scheduled for Oct. 19 at Woodbine, is usually only a matter of picking the right European shipper, and it doesn't have to be the most accomplished runner from across the pond.

A total of 37 European invaders competed in the last 10 runnings of the Grade 1 turf event, and seven of them won, while returning an average win price of $14.60. Local runners made 35 starts during that same time, and were victorious twice, while only one United Stakes shipper from 24 starters got the job done.

Two of the last three International winners - Ballingarry and Mutafaweq - were coming off a third-place finish in the Group 1 Irish St. Leger. Even though they had high-profile connections, both runners went off at a generous 4-1.

French-trained longshots Husband and Raintrap captured back-to-back runnings in 1993-1994. Both were exiting a fringe finish in the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville.

The three English-trained winners since 1993 came into the International under differing circumstances. Royal Anthem (1998) prevailed nearly three months after finishing third in his last start, in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. Singspiel (1996) used a win in the Group 3 Select Stakes as his final tuneup, while Mutamam (2001) prepped with a victory in the Group 3 September Stakes.

The makeup of the European contingent for this year's International was in a state of flux this week. Possible for the race are Brian Boru, winner of the Grade 1 St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster on Sept. 13, and the German runner Sabiango, recently fourth in the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Belmont.

Maryland-based Bowman Mill, winner of the Grade 2 Sky Classic Handicap here Sept. 28, and local hero Strut the Stage, fourth as the favorite in the Sky Classic, are both probable for the race. Last year's winner, Ballingarry, based in Southern California, could return in an attempt to become the first back-to-back winner since George Royal turned the trick in 1965-66.

The two Woodbine-based winners since 1993, Chief Bearhart (1997) and Thornfield (1999), both prepped locally in the Sky Classic. Chief Bearheart won the Sky Classic with authority, while Thornfield was a flat third after taking the Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap, a successful prep for the International in the 1980's.

Many U.S. runners were competitive in the last 10 Internationals, but only Lassigny (1995) was able to win. He went into the race off a win in a 1 1/2-mile stakes at Kentucky Downs.

The International is run at 1 1/2 miles, exactly one lap around the E.P. Taylor turf course. Only Royal Anthem has managed to lead all the way in the race since it was switched to the grass in 1958. The last two winners prevailed after stalking the pace in second, but closers have taken five of the last 10 runnings.

Irish jockey Mick Kinane, who rode Ballingarry in 2002, said the Taylor is ideal for European runners.

"This is a course that really suits the European type of horse," Kinane said. "If you have a good, strong galloper, stamina really comes into play."

Three-year-olds have held their own during the last 10 runnings, winning three times with 29 starters. Four-year-olds were 5 for 31; 5-year-olds were 1 for 9; and 6-year-olds were 1 for 12.

European scale weights are used for the International. Older runners carry 126 pounds, 3-year-olds carry 118, and fillies and mares get a three-pound allowance.

The last three International winners all shed significant weight heading into the race, but that isn't always the case. In 1989, Hodges Bay and Steady Power ran one-two over soft ground, leaving the much-fancied European Per Quod back in fourth. All three carried 126 pounds, but Hodges Bay picked up 12 pounds off his last race, and Steady Power picked up nine, while Per Quod dropped five pounds from his previous outing.

Horses from Europe making their first start on Lasix - the diuretic isn't allowed there on race day - have won the International four times since 1996.

Just two favorites have won since 1993 - Chief Bearhart and Singspiel.