CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL STAKES | PURSE: $1,500,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD & UP | GRADE 1 | 1 1/2 MILES (TURF)
Under a crafty Frankie Dettori ride, the globetrotting Joshua Tree wired Sunday's Grade 1, $1,531,868 Canadian International, regaining the title he first won at Woodbine in 2010. The Marco Botti charge was a troubled runner-up behind the filly Sarah Lynx last year, but didn't have a straw in his path this time. Joshua Tree joins George Royal (1965-66) and Majesty's Prince (1982, 1984) as the only two-time Canadian International winners since the race was switched to turf in 1958.
The "Win and You're In" offer for the Breeders' Cup Turf will likely not be accepted, for connections immediately after the race mentioned the Group 1 Japan Cup on November 25 as the next objective.
Sporting the colors of K.K. al Nabouda and K. Albahou, Joshua Tree was bustled to the front by Dettori, and he successfully angled over from post 8 to set up shop on the rail. Air Support, drawn widest of all in post 11, went with him to secure good early position. The filly Lay Time raced behind Joshua Tree on the inside, and Imperial Monarch, the 9-5 favorite from the Aidan O'Brien yard, tracked on the outside. Dandino and Forte dei Marmi were nestled in midpack, while Wigmore Hall and Reliable Man were anchored at the rear.
Joshua Tree carved out fractions of :25 2/5, :51 2/5, 1:17, 1:43 and 2:07 2/5 on the good turf, with Air Support lapped onto him. Down the lengthy homestretch, Dettori asked Joshua Tree, and the response was forthcoming. Joshua Tree lengthened stride, shrugged off Air Support, and pulled two lengths clear.
Inside the final furlong, fellow English shipper Dandino uncorked a bold move on the outside to threaten, and locally-based Forte dei Marmi also finished with interest, but they came too late.
Joshua Tree stuck his neck out and reached with all of his might for the wire, holding on by a half-length from the hard-charging Dandino. After negotiating 1 1/2 miles in 2:30 4/5, the winner returned $10.70, $6.10 and $4.40 as the co-second choice at 4-1.
Dettori tied the record for most Canadian International wins with three, having also piloted Mutafaweq (2000) and Sulamani (2004). Robert Watson first set the mark with a hat trick from 1942-44, but that was in its old incarnation on the dirt.
"That was always the plan, try to get to the front," Dettori said. "I'm very happy after half a mile. I was able to dictate my own tempo. When I kicked for home at the quarter-pole, I knew I had plenty of horse left.
"Woodbine has been phenomenal for me," the popular jockey continued. "The E.P. Taylor has been very lucky. I have some great friends here, been coming for so many years. I just love the place, love the people.
"It's the best turf track in North America, so for us Europeans it makes life a lot easier, but also you need the horse that answers every call and he did for me. I was able to set my own fractions, but when I asked him to pick up, he did. He fought right to the line.
"I rode him last time. He was third in a good race in France [the Group 2 Prix Foy] and this was always the target. He's won it before and was second last year. He is a super horse and loves this track. Who knows? He might even be back next year."
"It was always the plan [to bring him back to Woodbine one more time]," said Lucie Botti, the trainer's wife and assistant, " and we are delighted for him that he won for us. He is a great horse to us, very consistent. He's just a superstar for us."
The son of Montjeu made it three straight Canadian International wins for his late sire, who was also responsible for 2011 upsetter Sarah Lynx.
Dandino, a massive overlay at 25-1, fell just short of springing the upset.
"[Dandino] ran a simply phenomenal race," jockey Jim Crowley said. "Down the lane, he was always battling back. He wouldn't quit. I had a great trip. Another stride or two and I think we could have won it."
Forte dei Marmi reported home another half-length astern in third.
"I had a perfect trip," Hall of Famer John Velazquez recapped. "I was saving ground, right behind the speed, we came running, and they just caught me for second. He handled the turf perfect. Good horses beat him today, that's it."
Wigmore Hall came along for fourth, and Air Support tired to fifth. Rounding out the order of finish were Imperial Monarch, Scalo, Reliable Man, Prince Will I Am and Lay Time.
Al Khali was scratched because of the rain-softened ground, and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott indicated that he could be rerouted to the Breeders' Cup Turf.
With this second major international prize to his credit, Joshua Tree's scorecard stands at 24-6-6-3, $3,160,662.
Joshua Tree was coming off a third in the September 16 Prix Foy at Longchamp to Japanese superstar Orfevre, who was just caught in last Sunday's Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Two starts back, he landed the Group 2 Prix Kergorlay in August at Deauville, defeating subsequent Australian Group 2 victor Shahwardi. His 2012 highlight reel also includes placings in the Group 2 Princess of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket and the Group 3 Dubai Gold Cup on World Cup night at Meydan.
Originally part of the Coolmore empire and trained by O'Brien, Joshua Tree captured the Group 2 Royal Lodge as a juvenile in 2009. During his abbreviated three-year-old campaign in 2010, he finished third in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur and fifth in the Group 1 St Leger before grinding out a game victory by a head in the Canadian International.
In early 2011, Joshua Tree took up residence in Qatar for his new connections. He won once from four starts, taking the Qatar International Cup. The handsome bay was transferred to Botti that summer. A distant third to eventual Arc queen Danedream in the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden, he played second fiddle to Sarah Lynx here in his seasonal finale.
Bred by Castlemartin Stud and Skymarc Farm in Ireland, Joshua Tree commanded $659,458 from Demi O'Byrne as a Tattersalls October yearling. The six-year-old was produced by Grade 3 heroine Madeira Mist, a daughter of Grand Lodge, who is herself a half-sister to multiple Group 3-placed stakes victress Misty Heights.
Joshua Tree's third dam is Group 1 Coronation winner Magic of Life, the dam of Group 2 queen Enthused and granddam of Group 3 scorer Norman Invader. Magic of Life also appears as the ancestress of Group 1-placed Nova Hawk, most recently successful in the Group 3 Premio Sergio Cumani; Japanese classic-placed stakes winner Chunyi; and Energizer, hero of the Group 3 Tercentenary at Royal Ascot this June.
Further back, this is the family of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaires Miss Oceana and Sabin.