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Marsh Side points to Breeders' Cup
ETOBICOKE, Ontario - California-based trainer Neil Drysdale, whose specialty here has been the Woodbine Mile, pulled off another major training feat here in Saturday's Grade 1 Canadian International.
Drysdale, who had won the Mile on three occasions, sent out Marsh Side to capture the $2,002,000 Canadian International at 29-1. The International is a Win and You're In race for the Breeders' Cup Turf, and Marsh Side is expected to run in that race on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.
"He'd tipped his hand in the Northern Dancer," said Drysdale, who had watched Marsh Side came from eighth place to finish a close fourth in that 1 1/2-mile turf race here Sept. 7. "Tactically, we changed things around this time. In the Northern Dancer, he was sucked back to last going around the first turn."
Marsh Side, a 5-year-old homebred who races for owner/breeder Robert Evans, had a new rider Saturday in Javier Castellano and stalked the early pace from third before taking charge into the stretch.
The victory was first for Marsh Side since he captured the Valedictory over 1 3/4 miles of Polytrack here nine starts back in December 2006 for his former trainer, Michael Dickinson.
When Dickinson retired to concentrate on his Tapeta Footings business, Marsh Side joined Drysdale's string on the heels of three indifferent efforts, including a last-place finish in the 2007 Canadian International. And things didn't get much better as Marsh Side was unimpressive in his first three outings for Drysdale prior to the Northern Dancer.
"He'd come out of the Canadian International last year with an ankle problem and was given plenty of time off," Drysdale said. "I sent him out to California with the idea of running him on synthetic tracks. Even though he trained very well on them, he's still a better horse on the grass."
Marsh Side now has underlined that point, and Patrick Lawley-Wakelin, racing manager for Evans, suggested that Marsh Side certainly would take advantage of his guaranteed berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf, provided that all remained well.
"After the Northern Dancer, we'd discussed whether to stay here or not," Lawley-Wakelin said. "Neil Drysdale was quite emphatic, saying the horse was acclimatized in California and would be much better coming from the warm climate back to this climate.
"He's a big horse, and he's been carrying a lot of weight, and he was lighter and leaner coming into this race. The other good thing is he's been lightly raced."
The Canadian International was the 18th career start but just the fifth of this season and the ninth in the last two campaigns for Marsh Side.
Champs Elysees eyes BC Classic
Champs Elysees had won the Northern Dancer and returned to Woodbine to finish a fast-closing third in the Canadian International.
"I thought he ran a good race," trainer Bobby Frankel said. "He was a little bit out of position, but there's nothing we can do about that."
The only other U.S. shipper in the race, Champs Elysees returned to his Belmont base but soon will be heading back to California.
"If he runs in the Breeders' Cup, it will probably be in the Classic," Frankel said.
Europeans leave disappointed
The Canadian International proved to be an exercise in frustration for the European contingent, as Doctor Dino finished fifth as the 6-5 favorite, with Mourilyan, Lauro, and Lucarno following in that order, and Northern Dancer runner-up Quijano ending ninth in the field of 10.
Lauro, based in Germany with trainer Andreas Wohler, is staying on at Woodbine for the Grade 2 Sky Classic, a 1 3/8-mile turf race on Oct. 25.
The others in the European contingent, which also included the E.P. Taylor winner Folk Opera and fifth-place finisher Toque de Queda, have returned to their respective bases.
"The race didn't pan out as we hoped," said Doctor Dino's trainer, Richard Gibson. "Last position in a slow-pace race, and the horse was obliged to make an early effort wide and in ground that was less consistent than on the rail.
"C'est la vie and we hope to have him back in good shape for Hong Kong."
Doctor Dino won last year's Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin, with Quijano finishing second. This year's running will be held Dec. 14.
Quijano, who finished third in last year's Canadian International, had stayed here since returning for the Northern Dancer and had trained well in the interim.
"He's entered for the Hong Kong Vase, but we'll have to see once he gets back to Germany," said Simon Stokes, racing manager for Quijano's owner, Gestuet Fahrhof. "Maybe he needs a break now; he's had quite a program this year."
Mourilyan and Lucarno also came out of the Canadian International in good order and will regroup in England.
Folk Opera considers F-M Turf
The $1,012,600 E.P. Taylor lacked the drama of the Canadian International, as the favored Folk Opera, racing for Godolphin, took the lead under Frankie Dettori, controlled the pace, and never looked back.
Following the E.P. Taylor, trainer Saeed bin Suroor said that a Breeders' Cup run in the Filly and Mare Turf would be considered.
Folk Opera is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup program and would have to return to Europe to fulfill quarantine restrictions for entry to the United States.
"She's happy," said Claire Sparkes, assistant to bin Suroor, as she completed preparations for Folk Opera's return flight to England late Sunday morning. "She enjoyed her trip."
True to Tradition keeps improving
Trainer Scott Lake, jockey Kendrick Carmouche, and owner Bennie Mondello all were being represented by their first entrant at Woodbine when True to Tradition went postward in Saturday's Grade 3 Nearctic over six furlongs of turf.
And all had plenty to celebrate on Saturday after True to Tradition scored by a nose in the $502,800 Nearctic to earn a berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.
"This horse just keeps getting better and better," said Mondello, who owns True to Tradition in partnership with Adam Russo. "Now we're going to the Breeders' Cup. It's unbelievable."
True to Tradition, claimed for $35,000 at Saratoga in August 2007, registered his sixth win for his current connections in the Nearctic after romping in Philadelphia Park's Turf Monster over five furlongs of turf in his previous outing.
"This horse handles everything - turf, dirt, Poly," Lake said. "He's won at five furlongs, he's won at a mile and an eighth."
True to Tradition will get a brief breather at Delaware Park while his Breeders' Cup plans are finalized, Lake said.
International Day handle rises
Business was up for Canadian International Day in comparison to last year's card, which took place Oct. 21.
The total handle from all sources for Saturday's live races card was $4,875,813, an increase from $4,605,531 in 2007.
Handle on the Canadian International itself was $881,301, down from $1,048,861.