10/14/2010 1:14PM

Redwood back to claim Canadian International loot

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Michael Burns
Redwood, Michael Hills up, wins the Northern Dancer.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Redwood blew into town last month for the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes, and ran like a favorite should, winning the 1 1/2-mile contest after a perfect trip. If he avoids a regressive “Euro-bounce” Saturday at Woodbine after shipping home to England and then back again in a four-week span, then he should be competitive in the 73rd running of the $2 million Canadian International.

Europeans have won six of the last 10 runnings of the International, and there are three other invaders from across the pond in the nine-horse field: Chinchon, Joshua Tree, and Mores Wells.

The 1 1/2-mile International – one lap around the Woodbine course – is one of three Grade 1 turf stakes on the card, along with the $1 million E.P. Taylor and the $500,000 Nearctic. All three are Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In events, meaning the winner gains inclusion into its corresponding BC race Nov. 5-6 at Churchill, the Turf in the case of the Canadian International. The three races will be broadcast on ESPN2 from 4-6 p.m. TSN-HD will carry the show across Canada. TVG will also provide coverage.

Post time for the first of 11 races is 12:50 p.m. There was rain in the Toronto area Wednesday night, but the course is expected to be good to firm on Saturday.

MORE: Contredanse tops Taylor | Bridgetown preps in Nearctic | Card has a French twist

Redwood, trained by Barry Hills, finished a close second in the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville before shipping here for the Northern Dancer. Regular rider Michael Hills guided Redwood over to the golden rail early in the race. After running in mid-pack, he came inside pacemaker Fifty Proof at the top of the stretch, en route to a half-length win over that one. He was awarded a Beyer Speed Figure of 100.

“I was under no fixed plan,” said Michael Hills. “I took the inside run. English horses like that, you know. I was getting just a perfect passage. I was hoping the horse in front would come off the rail, and he did. It was like, ‘C’mon, Mike go do your thing,’ and away he went.”

Chinchon came from France to take the July 1 United Nations over Take the Points and Winchester at Monmouth, earning a Beyer Figure of 104. He never fired over soft turf most recently in the Group 2 Prix Foy at Longchamp, which was his prep for the International, according to trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias.

Garrett Gomez, who won last year’s International aboard Champs Elysees, rode Chinchon in the Grade 1 United Nations.

“Just after we turned for home, I took him to the outside, and he really exploded,” said Gomez. “He flew home.”

Joshua Tree, the lone 3-year-old in the field, was a Group 2 winner last year. He will receive four pounds from the rest of the runners and carry 122 pounds. Joshua Tree, trained by Aidan O’Brien, hasn’t show much in two starts this summer.

“He was one of our better 2-year-olds,” said O’Brien, “but had a few hold-ups in the spring – nothing major, just little problems – so he got a late start.”

Mores Wells has run hot and cold of late. He is coming off a victory in the Stockholm Cup International in Sweden, a Group 3 race that Collier Hill won before taking the 2006 International at 10-1.

Marsh Side, the 2008 International winner, was a retreating eighth as the 2-1 second choice most recently in the Northern Dancer, a race he won last year.

Jockey Edgar Prado said that he was baffled by Marsh Side’s subpar last performance.

“He looked so happy on the backside,” Prado said. “Even around the turn, I had a lot of horse underneath me. I waited to turn him loose at the top of the stretch, and when I did, he only gave me a sixteenth of a mile.”

Al Khali and Simmard finished first and third, a neck apart, in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap Sept. 11 at Belmont Park. Al Khali had a troubled trip before surging late for the win, which came on the heels of a third-place finish in the mile and a half Sword Dancer at Saratoga.

“After the Sword Dancer, we thought maybe it was a bit too far for him,” said Leana Willaford, an assistant to trainer Bill Mott. “But I think Woodbine, with the long stretch, will be to his advantage, if he runs like he did [in the Bowling Green].”

Simmard was making just his second start of the year in the 1 3/8-mile Bowling Green.

“He went into the race in New York in great shape off a long layoff, and ran really big,” said trainer Roger Attfield. “He’s a very nice horse, but I haven’t gotten him on a regular schedule. He’s been working very well. I expect a big race from him.”

The fast-improving Fifty Proof figures to lead the way in a race that has had only one gate-to-wire winner since it was moved to the turf in 1958. He might have won the Northern Dancer had he not drifted off the rail early in the stretch, which enabled Redwood to have a clear passage along the freshest part of the course.