09/30/2008 11:00PM

Europeans often win, but rarely when favored


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The $2 million Canadian International, which will be run for the 71st time on Saturday at Woodbine, has been a race where value-conscious handicappers can reap the rewards, because legitimate contenders often go off at a square price.

In last year's running of the 1 1/2-mile turf event, the sharp Chicago shipper Cloudy's Knight scored at a generous 18-1, even though he was coming off a victory in Woodbine's Grade 2 Sky Classic Stakes.

Cloudy's Knight returned an overlaid price because there were five accomplished European invaders in the field, and shippers from across the pond have dominated the race, winning seven of the last 10 runnings. Those seven European raiders returned an average of $10.90 to win. Only the 2004 winner, Sulamani, was favored, and the longest shot was Collier Hill, who paid $23.50 in 2006.

Kastoria could only manage eighth as the favorite in 2006, and it has been common to see the most fancied European in the International run flat, while another one steals the show. A prime example came in 2003 with Phoenix Reach, who prevailed at 5-1 over Macaw and the favored English runner Brian Boru.

The favorite in this year's International will likely be Doctor Dino, who captured the Group 2 Grand Prix de Chantilly in June. He carried a hefty 136 pounds when he ran second in his most recent outing in another Group 2 stakes in France.

Doctor Dino is no stranger to North American racing. After ending up third in last year's Grade 1 Arlington Million, he took the Grade 1 Man o' War at Belmont.

Doctor Dino defeated Quijano in this year's Group 1 Hong Kong Vase, and Quijano will have a chance to turn the tables on Saturday. Quijano, the third-place finisher in the 2007 International, was a close second here last month over yielding ground in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer BC Turf.

Quijano saved ground throughout the 1 1/2-mile Northern Dancer, and the inside part of the course seemed to provide the best footing that day in the two stakes that were run in lane 1. The Northern Dancer winner, Champs Elysees, had an inside trip until Garrett Gomez angled him wide for the drive, and the first three finishers in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile all raced inside that day.

Seaside Retreat finished just a half-length back in third after a three-wide stalking trip in the Northern Dancer, and Marsh Side rallied outside to finish a lapped-on fourth. Seaside Retreat broke Woodbine's 1 1/4-mile course record in his next-to-last race and is a legitimate contender, while the inconsistent Marsh Side is a wild card who appears to relish some give to the ground.

Champs Elysees is hard to gauge. The blue-blooded 5-year-old placed in several group stakes in 2007, and his first three North American efforts were all solid, but he went into a two-race tailspin before the Northern Dancer. Is he poised to run another corker, or is some regression in the works?

Spice Route weakened to finish just a length back in fifth in the Northern Dancer after making a three-wide bid for the lead early in the stretch. One race earlier, he beat a modest group of optional claimers traveling 1 1/2 miles.

Marlang figures to set the pace. He led throughout the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Stakes for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds Aug. 3, and then doubled up in the Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga. Royal Anthem, in 1998, was the only horse to lead at every call in the International since it was moved to the grass in 1958.

As a 3-year-old, Marlang carries 119, seven pounds fewer than what the older runners will tote in the Grade 1 race. The last 3-year-old to win the International was Phoenix Reach. The best known 3-year-old to turn the trick, of course, was Secretariat in 1973.

Two of the Europeans - Lucarno and Mourilyan - will be making their first start on Lasix. Five of the last seven European winners of the International added Lasix.

The $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes, the supporting feature on Saturday, could be a formality if J'ray replicates her tremendous effort in the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes on Sept. 7. She trailed the large field on the turn in the nine-furlong contest before closing stoutly through the stretch to win by a length.

J'ray has run as far as 1 3/8 miles but has never competed at the Taylor distance of 1 1/4 miles. Her trainer, Todd Pletcher, won the 2005 Taylor with Honey Ryder.