Making his first start in North America, Abdulla Al Mansoori's Desert Encounter proved explosive over the Woodbine lawn when he captured the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International on Saturday. The 6-year-old gelded son of Halling, sent off at odds of 8-1, circled the field in the stretch to run down 3-1 favorite Thundering Blue by just over a length on the wire. Ridden by Andrea Atzeni for trainer David Simcock, Desert Encounter completed 1 1/2 miles over the “good” turf in 2:28.88.
“He travelled good into the race and I followed the favourite all the way through, Thundering Blue,” said Atzeni, who was winning his first Canadian International in his fourth attempt.
“I thought he was the one to beat and he's a horse that's got such a high cruising speed and then when he saw me, he actually got a very good turn of foot as well. You can't get to the front too soon because once he gets to the front, he thinks he's had enough, but he's a horse that has a lot of ability and it's great for the team at home, great for David and the owner and everybody involved.”
Funtastic was quick out of the gate, but sophomore Bandua and Adam Beschizza took over the lead after a first quarter in :25.67. Bandua led by just under a length over Tiz A Slam, with a well-bunched group behind including Thundering Blue, Khan and Markitoff. Meanwhile, Desert Encounter was relaxed early in second-last position, tracking fractions of :51.12 and 1:16.17.
Turning for home, Thundering Blue fought his way through the pack to take the lead, but Atzeni and Desert Encounter were flying late down the center of the turf course. Desert Encounter wandered about a bit in the final 50 yards, but crossed the wire a winner by just over a length. Thundering Blue had to settle for second, while Focus Group got up for third over Tiz A Slam.
“David Simcock has been here on a few occasions,” explained Philip Robinson, the racing manager for owner Abdulla Al Mansoori. “He loves it. I think he's had this race in mind for a long time for this horse. He said that this is the race for him. And he set out his program throughout the whole season to (prepare) him to come here. It worked out. He got it dead right.”
Bred in Ireland by Tally-Ho Stud, Desert Encounter was a $54,086 yearling purchase at Tattersalls. The International is his first Grade 1 victory and eighth win overall from 23 career starts; his share of the $800,000 purse increased his overall earnings to over $850,000.
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