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Andrea Atzeni aboard Desert Encounter heads to the winner's circle after the Canadian International.
The last Grade 1 races of the Canadian racing season were run at Woodbine on Sunday, highlighted by the 81st renewal of the $800,000 Pattison Canadian International (G1), featuring top older horses going 1 1/2 miles, 1 complete lap of the E.P. Taylor Turf Course. Due to overnight rains, the course was officially rated good, but with a 9.9 GoingStick reading, would be called "good-to-firm" in Europe. Conditions were typical for mid October in Toronto, with mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 40's.
Desert Encounter leads in deep stretch while Thundering Blue acts up in second.
Jockey John Velazquez sent Funtastic to the lead first time by through an opening quarter of 25.67 before 36-1 Bandua was sent to the front by Adam Beschizza through fractions of 51.12, 1:16.17, and 1:40.15. Turning for home, Thundering Blue, 7th early, swept to lead through 10f in 2:04.43. However, 8-1 Desert Encounter, 10th early under Andrea Atzeni, came out for room and rallied to win by a length in 2:28.88 over a rank Thundering Blue. It was a long 4 1/2 lengths back to late-running Focus Group third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 10 Desert Encounter Atzeni 18.20 7.90 5.40 2 Thundering Blue Berry 5.40 3.50 11 Focus Group Ortiz 3.60 Winning Time: 2:28.88 $2 Exacta 10-2 95.10 $2 Trifecta 10-2-11 501.70 $1 Superfecta 10-2-11-5 2,792.45Results chart
Left: Desert Encounter in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Andrea Atzeni, celebrating his first Canadian International win in his 4th try said, "He travelled good into the race and I followed the favourite all the way through, Thundering Blue. 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."
Right: Andrea Atzeni poses with the trophy.
Left: Desert Encounter in the paddock before the race.
Right: Desert Encounter behind the starting gate. Philip Robinson, racing manager for owner Abdulla Al Mansoori added, "(Trainer) David Simcock has been here on a few occasions. 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."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Thundering Blue behind the starting gate before the race. Jockey Fran Berry said, "It didn't go quite as quickly as I had envisioned through the first two turns. It was quite steadily run until we turned to the backstretch, then the race got going, but I was always comfortable. I knew I had a good bit of horse and I was prepared to stay in and ride the rail until we got into the stretch. When I picked it up, we got a perfect split right at the right time. That's when I said, 'It's game over, I'm going to win here,' but I couldn't believe Desert Encounter joined us as quickly as he did and then went by us."
Right: Third place finisher Focus Group returns after the race. The 4-1 second choice trailed the field early under Jose Ortz then rallied 6 wide to finish third beaten 5 1/2 lengths. The Chad Brown trainee improved his record to 4 wins, 0 seconds, and 3 thirds in 11 starts, earning $289,364 for owners Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence.
The field breaks from the starting gate for the 81st running of the Pattison Canadian International.
2018 E.P. Taylor, Nearctic Stakes, and Ontario Derby results
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