10/19/2006 11:00PM

Multinational contenders in International

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Go Deputy, winning the Sword Dancer with Eibar Coa, comes into the Canadian International as a slight favorite, but contention runs deep.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sharp American shipper Go Deputy will try to hold off a quality European contingent and the local hotshot Sky Conqueror on Sunday at Woodbine in Canada's richest horse race, the Grade 1, $2 million .

The 69th running of the 1 1/2-mile International heads a stellar 11-race card, which includes two other lucrative turf stakes, the Grade 1, $1 million E.P. Taylor and the Grade 2, $500,000 Nearctic.

The Todd Pletcher-trained Go Deputy has had a fantastic campaign, hitting the board in all eight of his starts and earning $638,700. He won the Grade 1 Sword Dancer in August, and nosed out Showing Up for second last time out at Belmont in the Grade 1 Man o' War, which was won by Cacique.

"I think he ran a huge race," said Pletcher of the Man o' War. "Cacique got through on the inside, and we had to go around a few horses, but he just got beat. Showing Up is a really nice horse."

Blue Monday and Kastoria are the most accomplished Europeans in the lineup.

Blue Monday, based in England with trainer Roger Charlton, won the Group 3 Arc Trial in his last start. He was third in each of his two previous races, both in Group 1 stakes, against several of the top turf runners in the world, most notably David Junior, Ouija Board, and Dylan Thomas.

"He's a strange character," said Charlton. "He doesn't run two races alike. Sometimes, he's happy traveling on the bridle. Sometimes he's not on the bridle, but he always seems to produce good results. He's never been out of the money in all his starts. He's done nothing but improve. This is the first time he's ever flown anywhere, and he shipped very well."

Exercise rider Darren Stather said Blue Monday prefers some give in the course. "He's better with a bit of cut in the ground," Stather said. "We had a lot of rain here [Tuesday], which is a big bonus for us."

Kastoria will try to become the first filly or mare to win the International since Infamy in 1988. Kastoria won each of her last three starts, including the Group 1 Irish St. Leger over 1 3/4 miles.

James O'Neill, an assistant to trainer John Oxx, said Kastoria's 6-1 upset score over Yeats in the Irish St. Leger was not a fluke.

"It was obviously a very good run - probably a career best for her," O'Neill said. "Yeats was a hot favorite, but she was going very well, and we fancied her. She's a very straightforward mare, and she's very consistent. She acts on any type of ground."

Sky Conqueror captured two Grade 2 stakes here in July, including the 1 1/2-mile Northern Dancer. He missed some training after catching a virus late in the summer, and prepped for the International with an easy come-from-behind victory in a one-mile allowance on Oct. 8.

"He came out of his last race very well, and we're very happy with the position he's in right now," said trainer Darwin Banach. "He can be placed anywhere in a race. Coming out of the 1 post, he might have a ground-saving trip on the lead, if nobody else wants to go."

Relaxed Gesture and Meteor Storm, who finished first and second in last year's International, are both back for another go.

Relaxed Gesture is coming off consecutive fifth-place finishes in the Sword Dancer and Man o' War.

"His last two races were not quite as good as his last two races last year before the International," said trainer Christophe Clement. "He's still sound, and looks very well. He loves the cooler weather. The softer [the turf], the better."

Meteor Storm was fourth in his belated seasonal debut Sept. 30 in the Grade 2 Kelso BC Handicap going a mile at Belmont.

"He's not a miler, but he ran a very good mile," trainer Wally Dollase said. "This horse is as sharp as a tack, and I think he'll run a good race."

Collier Hill was a narrowly beaten second to Kastoria in the Group 3 Curragh Cup in Ireland on July 1. He won the Group 3 Stockholm Cup International in Sweden by nine lengths in September.

The Last Drop, the lone 3-year-old in the field, was recently second in the Group 1 St. Leger Stakes going 1o3/4 miles.

The Woodbine-based Langfuhr geldings Last Answer and Jambalaya both figure to be prominent in the early running.