10/19/2005 11:00PM

Yeats the latest O'Brien threat

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Aidan O'Brien will have a representative in the Grade 1 for the fourth straight year Sunday, with Yeats set to do battle in the $2 million turf race over 1 1/2 miles.

O'Brien, based in Ireland, sent over Ballingarry to win the 2002 Canadian International and Brian Boru to register back-to-back third-place finishes in the last two editions.

Assistant trainer T.J. Comerford, who has accompanied all of the stable's International entrants, expects another competitive effort from Yeats.

"This track will suit him," said Comerford, who checked in with Yeats last Sunday. "We only bring horses that suit here. He's a big, galloping horse. He's a very decent horse at home."

Yeats, an Irish-bred 4-year-old by Sadler's Wells, became a Group 1 winner in Epsom's 1 1/2-mile Coronation Cup on June 3 but was an inexplicably dull ninth in Deauville's Group 1 Prix de Saint Cloud over the same distance later that month.

In his most recent outing, Yeats finished a close fourth in the Group 1 Irish St. Leger, a 1 3/4-mile race at The Curragh.

"He was very unlucky," said Comerford, who noted that Yeats was making just his fourth start of the season in the Sept. 17 St. Leger. "He got stopped in the running a few times.

"He's a fresh horse, and he's at the top of his form. And he's been a good traveler - he's very happy here."

Ballingarry came into the Canadian International off a third-place finish in the Irish St. Leger. Brian Boru finished second in the Irish St. Leger before his third-place finish behind Sulamani and Simonas here last year.

Simonas may be fall guy

Simonas, the German-based 6-year-old gelding who was 21-1 when beaten by 1 1/2 lengths here last year, again figures to be overlooked on Sunday.

Purchased privately this spring by owner Gary Tanaka but remaining with trainer Andreas Wohler in Germany, Simonas won a Group 2, 1 3/8-mile turf race by disqualification at Hamburg in June.

In his last start, over 1 1/2 miles on soft going at Cologne on Sept. 25, Simonas finished a close second behind the talented 3-year-old filly Gondbarda.

"We think he may be an autumn horse," said assistant trainer Christa Germann. "His form is like last year's, but this race this year looks a little bit heavier."

Iota a European dark horse

European-based 3-year-olds have fared very well over the years in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes, the 1 1/4-mile filly-and-mare companion feature to the Canadian International.

The German-based Iota, the only 3-year-old in this year's lineup, looms the dark horse in the field of 12 for this year's E.P. Taylor, which has had its purse boosted by $250,000 to $1 million.

Iota was undefeated in her first three starts, including the Group 3 trial for the German Oaks and the Group 1 Preis der Diana (German Oaks), both over 1 3/8 miles on yielding turf.

In her last start, the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks at 1 1/2 miles, Iota faded to finish fifth. She was beaten 5 1/2 lengths by Punctilious, who finished second in the E.P. Taylor last year and is the favorite for Sunday's renewal.

But Paul Harley, racing and breeding manager for the Gestut Schlenderhan operation of owner Baroness Karin Von Ullman, believes Iota will perform much better in the E.P. Taylor.

"We were under the impression she didn't stay the trip at York," said Harley, who also felt Iota could have been ridden more judiciously that day. "This distance should be ideal, and a little bit of ease in the ground would be an advantage."

Harley added that Iota should be able to cope with any pace scenario that should arise.

"She won her maiden from behind," said Harley. "But she's usually been up there, going on from halfway."

One negative concerning Iota is her recent non-start at Longchamp, when she surprisingly refused to load for the Oct. 2 Prix de l'Opera.

Iota was schooled extensively at the gate here Thursday morning, however, and her demeanor suggested she has put that isolated incident behind her.

Michael Kinane, who won the Canadian International with Ballingarry in 2002 and has the mount on the favored Electrocutionist in the race this year, will ride Iota for the first time.

Carrying 118 pounds, Iota will be getting five pounds from her older rivals and will break from post 10.

Crystal Castle back for Nearctic

Crystal Castle, who finished a close fifth in last year's Nearctic, has returned from California for this year's running of the Grade 2 turf sprint on Sunday.

The Nearctic had its purse doubled this year to $500,000, and a competitive field of 12 has been entered for the six-furlong race.

Crystal Castle, who was making his North American debut here last year, has raced just once in the intervening 12 months.

"We never really diagnosed what was wrong with him," said Chris Vienna, son of and assistant to Crystal Castle's trainer, Darrell Vienna. "It was a weird muscle strain, something above the knee."

Crystal Castle certainly didn't seem to lose much during his absence, as he returned at Santa Anita to finish a close third in the restricted Blue Jay Way Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong turf race at Santa Anita.

Vienna believes Crystal Castle will be all the better for the outing.

"He's really trimmed down since then," said the assistant trainer. "He was training really well but was a little chunky."

Crystal Castle's owners, Herrick Racing, enjoyed success here in 2002 with Nuclear Debate, who won the 2002 Nearctic. Nuclear Debate also finished third in both the 2002 Atto Mile and the 2003 Nearctic.

David Flores rode Nuclear Debate to his Nearctic victory and has the call on Crystal Castle, who will break from the outside post Sunday.

The field

Pattison Canadian International
Purse: $2 million; 1 1/2 miles, turf; Grade 1

PPHORSEJOCKEYWT.ODDS
1SimonasE. Pedroza12612-1
2Grey SwallowP. Smullen1268-1
3ElectrocutionistM. Kinane1262-1
4Relaxed GestureC. Nakatani1268-1
5JambalayaJ. Jones11920-1
6Last AnswerC. Fraser12630-1
7King's DramaJ. Velazquez1264-1
8Strut the StageT. Kabel12620-1
9YeatsK. Fallon1263-1
10Meteor StormJ. Castellano12615-1

* Track odds
* Television: Sunday; 3-5 p.m. Eastern, The Score

The field

E.P. Taylor Stakes
Purse: $1 million; 1 1/4 miles, turf; Grade 1

PPHORSEJOCKEYWT.ODDS
1Noble StellaE. Ramsammy12320-1
2PunctiliousF. Dettori1232-1
3Honey RyderJ. Velazquez1235-1
4BarancellaE. Prado1234-1
5CassydoraC. Nakatani12310-1
6LaticeJ. Santos12312-1
7Ambitious CatP. Husbands12320-1
8Stunning RoseT. Kabel12320-1
9Classic StampE. Wilson12312-1
10IotaM. Kinane11815-1
11Mona RoseJ. McAleney12330-1
12FineryJ. Castellano12315-1