Twenty-seven horses have been nominated to the 81st running of the $800,000 Pattison Canadian International, a 1-1/2 mile Grade 1 event which will be contested on Saturday, Oct. 13 over Woodbine's world-renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course in Toronto.
The Pattison Canadian International will headline a stellar stakes program, which also includes the $500,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes (Grade 1), a 1-1/4 mile turf event for fillies and mares that drew 28 nominees. Turf sprinters will face off on the undercard in the $250,000 Nearctic Stakes (Grade 2) over six furlongs and three-year-olds will have their turn in the spotlight in the $125,000 Ontario Derby (Grade 3), to be contested over 1-1/8 miles on the Tapeta.
Two-time Grade 1 Northern Dancer upsetter Johnny Bear will look to gain more respect and continue to make his connections proud as he takes aim at the Pattison Canadian International. Bred in Ontario by Ivan Dalos' Tall Oaks Farm, the seven-year-old English Channel gelding is trained by Ashlee Brnjas for her father John Burness's Colebrook Farms and partner Danny Dion of Bear Stables Ltd.
“If you look at his form for the last year, you can't really argue that the horse has talent,” said Brnjas. “It just wasn't always the right day or the right distance. He's very specific about distance, turf conditions and jockey. And Luis [Contreras] and him seem to really get along.”
With the home field advantage, Johnny Bear will be looking for redemption in the Pattison Canadian International after being hampered by unfavourable weather conditions in last year's edition.
“Well obviously, he, aside from us, is a big fan of that turf course,” said Brnjas, who is hoping for sunny skies after describing the first attempt as a “disaster” for the particular gelding who hopped like a bunny over the soft turf and trailed the 10-horse field. “Clearly, the horse wasn't going to be competitive that day.”
Johnny Bear was the 2012 Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society Yearling Sale topper and is a full-brother to last year's Breeders' Stakes winner Channel Maker, who recently added the Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes at Saratoga to his resume.
While Johnny Bear's early days were trying for his connections, the beloved local star has blossomed from a sleepy youngster into a multiple-graded stakes winner and has proven to be a special racehorse for all involved. He now has eight wins, eight seconds and six thirds from 40 lifetime starts with nearly $860,000 in purses.
“When my father and Bear, Danny Dion, purchased the horse, he was, I think at the time, the most expensive Canadian purchase,” said Brnjas. “Truthfully, as a rookie, I didn't feel I was going to be entitled to have the horse [to train] so on its own merits that I was allowed to keep the horse was really special.
“He traveled with me everywhere. He finally started to show some spark of interest, I would say, maybe his three or four-year-old year,” said Brnjas, also praising the team behind Johnny Bear's success including his rider Nick Griffiths, groom Pablo MacKenzie and veterinarian Dr. Pete Vatcher. “And he is wonderful to have around. He's the coolest horse. He just doesn't care about anything. He's very laidback. If he were a person, he would be a surfer.”
If Johnny Bear's perfect day doesn't pan out, Canadian Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield could have a shot at an elusive Pattison Canadian International victory this year with Tiz a Slam, who won last year's Grade 3 Ontario Derby and back-to-back graded stakes this summer including the Grade 2 Nijinsky over the same course and distance as the Canadian International. The four-year-old Tiznow colt was bred and is owned by Chiefswood Stable, which has also nominated the Mark Casse trainee Neepawa. One of three sophomores on the nomination list, the Scat Daddy colt Neepawa won the $400,000 Breeders' Stakes, the final 1-1/2 mile turf leg of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown, last time out on August 18.
A Group 1 winner in France, Northern Dancer and Nijinsky runner-up Mekhtaal will continue his quest for graded stakes-winning status in North America under the tutelage of Graham Motion for Al Shaqab Racing. Motion also trains Augustin Stable's Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes winner Spring Quality and Albert Frassetto's Grade 2 Sky Classic champion Can'thelpbelieving, who have both been nominated.
Owned by Darius Racing and trained by Henk Grewe, the German-bred four-year-old Khan is being pointed to the Pattison Canadian International following a maiden-breaking Group 1 victory in the Preis von Europa over 1-1/2 miles of yielding turf on September 23 at Cologne.
One of two filly nominees hailing from Great Britain, Horseplay is a Cliveden Stud homebred trained by Andrew Balding, who won the 2003 Pattison Canadian International with Phoenix Reach. The four-year-old Cape Cross filly won the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks over Haydock's 1-1/2 mile turf course in July and most recently came up just a neck short in the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes on September 13 at Doncaster.
Four-year-old filly Eziyra has finished no worse than third in her 11 career starts for trainer Dermot Weld and His Highness The Aga Khan. The Teofilo miss won the Group 2 Moyglare Jewels Blandford Stakes last time out on September 16 over 1-1/4 miles of yielding turf at Curragh.
Other possible Group stakes-winning European invaders include Irish-breds Teodoro, conditioned by Tom Dascombe, and Desert Encounter from the David Simcock stable, as well as the David Menuisier-trained Thundering Blue.
A three-time Group 1 stakes winner as a sophomore in Argentina, La Providencia's six-year-old millionaire Hi Happy won the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes over 1-3/8 miles of turf this past spring at Belmont Park under trainer Todd Pletcher's tutelage and has also been nominated to the Pattison Canadian International.
Three Chimneys Farm's Funtastic, winner of the grassy Grade 1 United Nations over 1-3/8 miles at Monmouth Park in late-June, is one of three contenders trained by Chad Brown.
The top three finishers in the Grade 3 Kentucky Downs' Turf Cup have been nominated including the Brad Cox-trained winner Arklow as well as millionaire Bigger Picture and Soglio, both conditioned by Michael Maker. The Maker-trained Oscar Nominated, who was last year's Pattison Canadian International runner-up, is also a contender along with Markitoff.
A full list of horses nominated to the Pattison Canadian International is available below in alphabetical order. Other stakes nominees can be viewed by clicking here.
NOMINEES FOR THE 2018 PATTISON CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL (GRADE 1)
Horse – Owner – Trainer
Arklow – Donegal Racing, Bulger, Joseph and Coneway, Peter – Brad H. Cox
Bandua – Calumet Farm – Jack Sisterson
Bigger Picture – Three Diamonds Farm – Michael J. Maker
Call Provision – Klaravich Stables & William H. Lawrence – Chad C. Brown
Can'thelpbelieving (IRE) – Albert Frassetto – H. Graham Motion
Dee Ex Bee (GB) – Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed al Maktoum – Mark Johnston
Desert Encounter (IRE) – Abdulla Al Mansoori – David Simcock
English Illusion – 4U Thoroughbred Racing Stable Inc. – Sylvain Pion
Eziyra (IRE) – His Highness The Aga Khan – Dermot K. Weld
Focus Group – Klaravich Stables & William H. Lawrence – Chad C. Brown
Funtastic – Three Chimneys Farm – Chad C. Brown
Hi Happy (ARG) – La Providencia, LLC – Todd A. Pletcher
Horseplay (GB) – Cliveden Stud – Andrew Balding
Johnny Bear – Colebrook Farms and Bear Stables, Ltd. – Ashlee Brnjas
Khan (GER) – Darius Racing – Hank Grewe
Markitoff – Three Diamonds Farm – Michael J. Maker
Mekhtaal (GB) – Al Shaqab Racing – H. Graham Motion
Mustajeer (GB) – David Spratt – Ger Lyons
Neepawa – Chiefswood Stable – Mark E. Casse
Oscar Nominated – Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey – Michael J. Maker
Sadler's Joy – Woodslane Farm – Thomas Albertrani
Soglio – Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey – Michael J. Maker
Souper Tapit – Live Oak Plantation – Mark E. Casse
Spring Quality – Augustin Stable – H. Graham Motion
Teodoro (IRE) – Bellman, Laurence and Ingram, Caroline – Tom Dascombe
Thundering Blue – Clive Washbourn – David Menuisier
Tiz a Slam – Chiefswood Stable – Roger L. Attfield
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