10/20/2005 12:00AM

Europeans rule the Canadian International

Email

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Picking the winner of the Grade 1, $2 million on Sunday at Woodbine is usually a matter of tabbing the right European invader.

A total of 33 shippers from Europe have competed in the last 10 runnings of the Canadian International, and seven of them have won. Local runners have made 29 starts in that span, and two have won. Only one of the 33 American shippers has won.

The five most recent International winners came from the British Isles, and each of them went on Lasix for the race.

Before his dazzling victory in last year's Canadian International, Sulamani defeated Bago in the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes. The first- and third-place finishers in 2003, Phoenix Reach and Brian Boru, had run third and first in their previous start, in the Group 1 St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster.

Ballingarry, the 2002 winner, and Mutafaweq, the 2000 winner, both came off a third-place finish in the Group 1 Irish St. Leger at The Curragh. Mutamam won the Group 3 September Stakes at Kempton, before taking the 2001 Canadian International.

French-trained longshots Husband and Raintrap won in 1993 and 1994, but the few French runners who contested the race in the interim failed to accomplish much.

The two Woodbine-based winners since 1995, Chief Bearhart (1997) and Thornfield (1999), both had their final prep in the Sky Classic Handicap. Chief Bearhart won the Sky Classic in a romp, and Thornfield was third, three weeks after taking the Grade 2 Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap.

U.S. runners have been second in five of the past 10 Internationals. Lassigny (1995) was the only horse from the U.S. to win since 1995. He went into the race off a win in a 1 1/2-mile stakes at Kentucky Downs.

The Canadian International is a 1 1/2-mile race run around one lap of the E.P. Taylor turf course. Only Royal Anthem (1998) has managed to lead all the way in the race since it was moved to the grass in 1958. Six stalkers and three closers have won in the past 10 years.

European scale weights are used for the Canadian International. Older runners carry 126 pounds; 3-year-olds carry 119; and fillies and mares get a three-pound allowance.

Three-year-olds held their own during the last 10 runnings, with 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 3 thirds from 25 starters.

The last five International winners all shed significant weight for the race, but 18-1 shot Thornfield picked up 10 pounds to 126 off his flat effort in the Sky Classic.

Three favorites have won since 1995: Sulamani, Chief Bearhart, and Singspiel (1996).

This year's International field is shaping up to be a good one, with European sensation Electrocutionist the likely favorite.

Electrocutionist's only loss in seven starts was a nose defeat over soft ground in a Group 1 fixture in Italy last October. Like Sulamani last year, Electrocutionist is coming off a win in the Juddmonte International at York.

The other Europeans prospects for the race are Grey Swallow, an Irish runner with spotty form; Simonas, the runner-up in last year's International; and the Aidan O'Brien-trained Yeats, who won with Ballingarry in 2002. Yeats and Ballingarry are both sons of Sadler's Wells.

King's Drama, fifth in last year's International, heads a strong U.S. contingent that includes Relaxed Gesture and Meteor Storm. King's Drama, who won the Grade 1 Sword Dancer on the front end in his penultimate start at Saratoga, could be the pacesetter Sunday.

Relaxed Gesture was a close third behind Better Talk Now and King's Drama in the Grade 1 Man o' War last month at Belmont. Meteor Storm recently was fourth in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont.

The locals - Jambalaya, Strut the Stage, and Last Answer - are overmatched on paper.

Electrocutionist is definitely the one to knock off, but value-conscious handicappers should give serious consideration to Simonas and Yeats. The talented but inconsistent Grey Swallow is liable to give a top effort if he gets Lasix, and is worth using in the superfecta, along with King's Drama and Relaxed Gesture.