10/14/2016 1:10PM

Hovdey: Gosden tries to better his 0-for-Canada


All eyes will be on Toronto on Sunday, when Woodbine welcomes the world to its turf jewels, the $500,000 E.P. Taylor at 1 1/4 miles and the $1 million Canadian International over 1 1/2 miles.

The figures are in local dollars, of course, which run around 76 cents to the American version right now. But even at that rate, the money still spends, and the purses are more than enough to lure 10 handsome Europeans to the best grass course in North America.

In that spirit, John Gosden has sent Juddmonte’s 3-year-old filly Swiss Range for the E.P. Taylor, in which the daughter of Zamindar (by Gone West) will meet such fellow travelers as Parvaneh from Germany, Nezwaah from England, Banzari and Aim to Please from France, and Best In The World from Ireland.

Gosden, who has two Epsom Derbies, an Arlington Million, a Breeders’ Cup Classic, and an Arc de Triomphe to his credit, has yet to make a mark in either Woodbine event. While this does not keep him up nights pacing the halls of Clarehaven, he knows they are prizes worth winning.

“It’s a great turf course, outside the main track, and the races have a great history,” Gosden said.

In 1973, Secretariat made his spectacular final start in what was then known as the Canadian International Championship. Dahlia came from France to win the race the following year. In 1983, All Along made the Canadian race part of her North American Horse of the Year tour.

The dawning of the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 1984 dulled the importance of the Canadian race internationally, although winners like Sky Classic, Chief Bearhart, Singspiel, and Sulamani kept up the quality. Anyway, Ryan Moore likes the race. He’s won it the last three years and will go for a fourth aboard Idaho for Aidan O’Brien.

As for the E.P. Taylor, seven of the last 10 have been won by Europeans, and yet the race continues to be targeted by top American stables. This year, Chad Brown and Bill Mott each run two, with Mark Casse and Mike Maker also in the mix.

By his recent standards, Gosden has had an off year in 2016. He was champion British trainer in 2012 and 2015, campaigned European Horse of the Year Kingman in 2014, then did it again in 2015 with Golden Horn. As of Friday, he was a respectable second in the standings, though far behind the runaway total of O’Brien.

“As they say, someone has to finish second,” Gosden said, “although I’m sure they won’t remember who it was.”

Gosden ran Swiss Range once late in 2015, then put her away for the winter. She emerged to win the listed Pretty Polly at Newmarket in April, after which she was tossed in with some of the best of her generation, without success.

“The ground went soft in France for the Prix de Diane, and she didn’t like it at all,” Gosden said. “Then it rained again when she ran in the Nassau, so we’re hoping the rain stays away for Sunday and she gets some faster ground. If she does, she should run a nice race.”

The forecast, alas, is for Gosden to be disappointed. Thunderstorms are predicted for the Toronto area on Sunday.

Still, it was already a good week. Gosden is Britain’s greatest Bob Dylan aficionado, which is saying something since Ol’ Bob was a god in England before anywhere else. The news of Dylan’s Nobel Prize for literature was greeted with a raised glass and a spin of a classic CD or two in the Gosden household, where the entire collection holds a place of honor.

“When he heard the news, he probably smiled and shrugged,” Gosden said with a just a smile. Asked how many Dylan concerts he’d attended, he replied, “Countless.”

Countless is also about the right number of Thoroughbreds whose names have been inspired by Dylan titles. There has been Lay Lady Lay, Desolation Row, Mr. Tambourine Man, Drifter’s Escape, Maggies Farm, Memphis Blues, and Series of Dreams. Idiot Wind is untouched, however, as is Blackjack Davey, Brownsville Girl, Forgetful Heart, and Lone Pilgrim. There was, praise be, a horse named Simpletwistoffate.

The most successful probably was Jokerman, a son of Septieme Ciel who won a Group 3 race in France, then swept into California to take the Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park for Neil Drysdale and owners David and Jill Heerensperger. “Jokerman” was from the album “Infidels” (1983) and gave us the image of “resting in the fields, far from the turbulent space/half asleep near the stars with a small dog licking your face.”

Ring Them Bells (“Oh Mercy,” 1989) was a son of Shelter Half, which could have been a Dylan song, out of Gala Ding a Ling, which sounds more like Chuck Berry. He ran 42 times and won eight races.

And, not surprisingly, there have been a host of horses named Forever Young (“Planet Waves,” 1974), including a foal of 1979 who won $48,000 the hard way. He ran 132 times and must have had a piece of the lyric tattooed on his lip:

“May your hands always be busy/May your feet always be swift.

May you have a strong foundation/When the winds of changes shift.”