Updated on 09/17/2011 5:43PM

International success comes in many colors


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Picking the winner of the $1.5 million Pattison Canadian International, to be run Oct. 24 at Woodbine, is usually a matter of tabbing the right European shipper, and it doesn't have to be the most accomplished runner from across the pond.

A total of 36 European invaders competed in the last 10 runnings of the Grade 1 event, and seven of them won, while returning an average price of more than $13. Local runners made 27 starts during that same time, and were victorious twice, while only one United States shipper from 30 starters got the job done.

The four most recent winners of the International all came from the British Isles, and each of them was making his first start with Lasix.

The first- and third-place finishers last year, 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, were both coming off a third-place finish in the Group 1 Irish St. Leger at The Curragh. Mutaman captured the Group 3 September Stakes at Kempton before taking the 2001 International.

French-trained longshots Husband and Raintrap captured back-to-back runnings in 1993 and 1994, but French runners haven't accomplished much in the International in recent years.

The two Woodbine-based winners since 1994, 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, while Thornfield was third after having captured the Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap.

U.S. runners have been second in five of the past 10 Internationals. Lassigny (1995) was the only horse from south of the border to win since 1994. He went into the race off a win in 1 1/2-mile stakes at Dueling Grounds, which is now called Kentucky Downs.

The International is run at 1 1/2 miles, which is exactly one lap around the expansive 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. The last four winners all prevailed after coming from less than four lengths off the pace, but three deep closers have triumphed since 1994.

European scale weights are used for the 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, winning three times to go along with three seconds and four thirds from 26 starters.

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

Just two favorites have won since 1994 - Chief Bearhart and Singspiel (1996).

This year's International field has yet to be firmed up, but the possible shippers include Sulamani, Hard Buck, Sabiango, Senor Swinger, and Brian Boru.

Sulamani, owned by Godolphin, defeated Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Bago in winning his last start, the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes at York Aug. 17.

Hard Buck, based in Kentucky with trainer Ken McPeek, has been absent since July 24, when he edged Sulamani for second in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes Diamond Stakes at Ascot.

Sabiango is coming off a front-running score in the Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup Handicap at Kentucky Downs. He was also victorious in the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at Hollywood in June.

Senor Swinger won the Grade 2 Belmont BC Handicap over soft ground Sept. 18, while Brian Boru was recently second in the Irish St. Leger.

The local contingent will include as many as three Sam-Son Farm runners - Strut the Stage, Burst of Fire, and Colorful Judgement, who won this year's Sky Classic.

Strut the Stage trailed the field as the favorite in the Sky Classic after having won the Niagara, which is a similar pattern to Thornfield's successful approach. If he shows up, he probably has the best chance of the locals.