10/20/2006 12:00AM

Europeans hold usual strong hand


NEW YORK - The domination of European raiders in the Canadian International - they have won 10 of the last 14 renewals - should continue at Woodbine on Sunday when Blue Monday and Kastoria will find conditions to which they are perfectly suited. Europeans also hold a strong hand in the day's two supporting stakes, the E.P. Taylor and Nearctic.

Although he acts on good ground, Blue Monday is even better on soft. A gelded Darshaan 5-year-old, he has finished ahead of four multiple Group 1 winners this year in Ouija Board, Aussie Rules, Dylan Thomas, and Laverock. Trainer Roger Charlton has him well spotted, and while some may doubt his ability to stay the International's 1 1/2 miles, his recent Group 3 score at Newbury going 1 3/8 miles suggests that an extra furlong will not pose a problem. He is the confident selection in a race whose outcome will be dictated by those who can handle the soft turf.

Kastoria is another who will like the going, but the lightly raced 5-year-old mare may be even better on good ground. All of her racing this season has been against males, and she excelled last time in the 1 3/4-mile Irish St. Leger when she beat Yeats, who is probably the world's best stayer and the current favorite for the Melbourne Cup.

Kastoria's owner, the Aga Khan, doesn't send horses across the ocean unless they have a winning chance, and with connections like trainer John Oxx and rider Michael Kinane, Kastoria has just that. She may, however, be a bit more adept at distances just beyond the International's 12 furlongs.

Collier Hill is as honest and consistent as they come. A well-traveled 8-year-old son of Dr Devious, Collier Hill was just a head behind Kastoria in the 1o3/4-mile Curragh Cup on July 1 when he was giving the winner six pounds. On Sunday he spots her just three pounds, but Kastoria is much improved since then.

The Last Drop is also a different horse than he was in the spring. He finished between the highly regarded Sixties Icon and Breeders' Cup Turf hopeful Red Rocks in the St. Leger, but is relatively inexperienced and would prefer good to firm ground.

E.P. Taylor

Seven of the last 12 E.P. Taylors have fallen to European raiders. The last three have been trained in the United States, although two of those, Commercante and Volga, were formerly trained in France. This suggests that the E.P. Taylor winner will not be Arravale, Ambitious Cat, or Ready's Gal, the only three who have never raced in Europe.

Michael Stoute has always had high hopes for Red Bloom. A Selkirk mare, she won the Group 2 Blandford Stakes at the E.P. Taylor distance last time on the same soft ground she will get on Sunday. Stoute has secured the services of Irish ace Kinane, and the combination could prove unbeatable.

Almerita, however, will be dangerous. Her last outing in the Canadian Stakes was over an inadequate 1 1/8 miles. The extra furlong Sunday is to her advantage, and the more rain that falls the more she will like it. The filly she beat in the German Oaks, Karavel, paid her a nice compliment at Hoppegarten in Germany on Oct. 3 when she beat older colts in the 1 1/4-mile Group 3 Preis der Deutschen Einheit.

Nearctic Stakes

No Euro invader has ever won the Nearctic Stakes. This year's edition will serve as North America's introduction to trainer Dandy Nicholls's School of Sprinting.

Based in the north of England, Nicholls is renowned for winning sprint handicaps and has lately graduated to winning group races as well. Moss Vale is his best yet, with an Irish Group 3 and a French Group 2 to his credit this year. He was a close third last time in Longchamp's Prix de l'Abbaye but, as Timeform points out, he is best on heavy or good-to-firm ground, so soft may not be up his alley.

His stablemate Peace Offering goes on any ground but is 0 for 13 at six furlongs. The winner could be Old Dodge, who will find the same soft ground he had when he won Brazil's championship turf sprint two years ago.