10/14/2010 12:02PM

Marsh Side difficult to gauge coming into fourth International

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Michael Burns
Marsh Side, breezing Thursday under exercise rider Louis Contreras, will try to win the Canadian Internatioinal for the second time on Saturday.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Which version of Marsh Side will show up this Saturday for the $2 million Canadian International?

Marsh Side will be making his fourth appearance in the Grade 1, 1 1/2-mile turf race, with the first dating back to 2007 when he finished last of 12 in his last start for trainer Michael Dickinson.

Neil Drysdale took over as Marsh Side’s trainer the following year and saddled him for a 29-1 upset in Canada’s richest Thoroughbred race.

Marsh Side had finished fourth that year in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer, a 1 1/2-mile turf race which he won in 2009 prior to running a creditable fourth in his third Canadian International try.

This summer, Marsh Side appeared to be back on top of his game when he scored easily here in the Grade 2 Sky Classic over 1 1/4 miles of soft going.

But his bid for a second straight win in the Northern Dancer fell way short as Marsh Side prompted the pace of Fifty Proof before dropping from contention and finishing eighth in the field of nine.

Marsh Side had shipped back to Drysdale in California following the Sky Classic, and returned there following the Northern Dancer.

Although the going was listed as firm that day, the E.P. Taylor turf course can tend to be more giving on the backstretch and around the turn and firmer in the stretch run.

And that, according to Drysdale, explains Marsh Side’s fade in the Northern Dancer.

“I think he was traveling well on the soft grass, and that it surprised him when he hit firm ground in the stretch,” said Drysdale.

Marsh Side had his final workout for the Canadian International on Hollywood’s synthetic surface last Sunday, going seven furlongs in a solid 1:27.

“He’s well, and he’s happy,” said Drysdale

Marsh Side was the last horse to arrive on the scene for the Canadian International, checking in late Wednesday afternoon. Edgar Prado retains the mount on the 7-year-old horse.

Comerford optimistic about Joshua Tree’s chances

T.J. Comerford, a traveling head lad for trainer Aidan O’Brien, checked into Woodbine on Wednesday for his sixth appearance at the Canadian International.

Comerford was first here with Ballingarry, the 2002 winner, and returned in 2003 and 2004 with Brian Boru, who finished third on each occasion.

Yeats finished off the board in 2005, as did Honolulu two years later, and Comerford will be looking to reverse that trend with Joshua Tree.

A 3-year-old, as was Ballingarry when successful here, Joshua Tree has started just five times and is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Group 1 St. Leger over about 1 3/4 miles of good going at Doncaster on Sept. 11.

“I think a mile and six was too far for him,” said Comerford. “He shouldn’t mind a mile and a half.”

Joshua Tree had finished third when making his first start of 2010 in the York’s Group 2 Great Voltigeur, over 1 1/2 miles of good ground on Aug. 17.

“He’s won on good and firm, won a Grade 2, and I don’t think he’d be far away,” said Comerford.

Colm O’Donoghue, who guided Joshua Tree to that Grade 2 victory in the one-mile Royal Lodge at Ascot last Sept. 26, has the mount on Joshua Tree, who will be racing with Lasix for the first time.

Kennedy Road next target for Smokey Fire

Smokey Fire, trained by Sid Attard, had been nominated to Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Nearctic but ran instead in the $100,000 Mt. Sassafras here Wednesday night.

Facing just three opponents in the seven-furlong Mt. Sassafras for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds and upward, Smokey Fire pressed the pace under Jono Jones before taking charge for a one-length victory.

“Jono never touched him; he just hand-rode him,” said Attard, who conditions the homebred 5-year-old gelding for the Jim Dandy Stable of Mel Lawson.

The next major target for Smokey Fire, who has won 3 stakes in his 5 starts this season, will be the Grade 3, $150,000 Kennedy Road here Nov. 20.

“We wanted to give him an easy race, before that one,” said Attard, who sent out Smokey Fire to make a successful stakes debut in last year’s running of the six-furlong Kennedy Road.

Attard feels Signature Red can rebound in Nearctic

The Attard barn still will have a representative in the Nearctic with the 4-year-old Signature Red among 11 entrants in that six-furlong turf race.

Signature Red’s two wins this season have come going six furlongs on grass. He captured the prep for the Highlander and the Grade 2 stakes race itself.

Although Signature Red has since finished fifth of seven in the Play the King and 12th of 13 in the Woodbine Mile, Attard is inclined to discount those efforts.

“He hit his head in the gate, in the Play the King,” said Attard. “And, a mile just doesn’t suit him.”

Luis Contreras will be riding Signature Red for the first time in the Nearctic.

Blinkers back on Field Commission

Field Commission, who recorded his biggest career win in last year’s Nearctic, will be back to defend his title on Saturday after being scratched from the Mt. Sassafras.

An Ontario-bred 5-year-old horse who is owned by his trainer, Danny Vella, in partnership with Ed Seltzer, Field Commission is winless in six starts this year but will be back racing with blinkers after going without the equipment in his last two outings.

Field Commission blew out three furlongs in 38.40 seconds here Thursday morning.

ESPN2 will televise three stakes

ESPN2 will be on location here Saturday to produce a two-hour telecast featuring the Canadian International, E.P. Taylor, and Nearctic.

Daily Racing Form ’s Jay Privman will be part of an on-air team which also will include Jerry Bailey, Jeannine Edwards, Randy Moss, and Joe Tessitore.

TSN will simulcast the ESPN2 show in Canada.

Tribute to Secretariat

Saturday will be Secretariat Day at Woodbine, marking the opening of the recently released film and remembering Secretariat’s last career appearance here in the 1973 Canadian International.

Members of Woodbine’s jockey colony, from a list expected to include Chantal Sutherland, Caroline Duquet, Eurico Rosa da Silva, Omar Moreno, and Tyler Pizarro, will be on hand at the front entrance with Secretariat posters.

Donations of non-perishable food items to the Daily Bread Food Bank will be welcomed at the location.

There also will be a Secretariat showcase area in the north window area on the second floor of the grandstand.

Author Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery, will be on hand from 2 p.m. through 4 p.m. to sign her copies of her book, “Secretariat’s Meadow,” which will be on sale.

Displays will include silks, memorabilia, and videos.