It has been 20 years since a Canadian-bred took home the top prize in the Pattison Canadian International at Woodbine Racetrack.
Thornfield, bred and owned by Knob Hill Stable and trained by Phil England, was the horse of the hour on that October 17, 1999 afternoon as he scored by a length under Richard Dos Ramos at odds of almost 19-1.
Next Saturday (October 12), another pure local product will look to hold the fort as Tiz a Slam, a Chiefswood Stable homebred trained by Roger Attfield and ridden by Steven Bahen, goes postward for the 82nd running of the Grade 1 Canadian International over a 1 ½ miles on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
“I'd love to win it,” said Attfield, whose Hall of Fame portfolios do not include a victory in the Canadian International. “I've been second, a few times.”
The Attfield runners-up were Spice Route, in 2008; Alywow, in 1994; and Steady Power, beaten just a head in the 1989 renewal.
Whether Tiz a Slam is able to go one better will be decided during the long stretch run as he figures to employ the front-running style which has produced his best performances.
“He's always been a very easy horse to train,” said Attfield. “He has a lovely nature to him. He just was a horse that took quite a long time to actually get mature, and get some balance to him. He's very coordinated now.
“In his early days, you couldn't get him eased on, or checked, or covered up because he couldn't get going again. A big, long galloping stride—that's what he has.”
Tiz a Slam, now five years old, has blossomed since adopting the free-running style and teaming up with Bahen last summer.
Although he came up short in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer and the Pattison Canadian International, the Ontario-bred was far from disgraced.
“It's possible he was tailing off a bit,” said Attfield. “He'd had a long year.”
And, the Tiznow horse reasserted himself this year with front-running victories in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs and Woodbine's Grade 3 Singspiel and Grade 2 Nijinsky.
“He's still a big galloping type horse but he's showing a lot more speed than he did in his younger days,” said Attfield. “I think he's at his best right now. He's doing very well, feeling very well.”
Tiz a Slam not only would give Attfield great satisfaction but also could mark a crowning achievement for the Chiefswood outfit, which is riding the crest of back-to-back Sovereign Awards as Outstanding Owner.
Chiefswood Stables Limited, the moniker adopted for the racing and breeding operations of Bob and Mark Krembil, topped the Woodbine standings in money won last year with almost $2.6 million (Canadian), its best result since being formed in 2002.
With more than $2 million in the bank already this season, Chiefswood is on pace to set a new personal Woodbine record and the $576,000 winner's share of the Canadian International purse (including Ontario-bred bonus) would take care of that in one fell swoop.
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