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Canadian International attracts star-studded field; Tannery tops Taylor

Forte Dei Marmi brings a three-race win streak into the Canadian International (WEG/Michael Burns Photography)

Forte Dei Marmi, Slumber, Hyper and defending champion Joshua Tree top a very competitive field of 11 entered for Sunday's Grade 1, C$1 million Canadian International at Woodbine. The 11 hopefuls were bred in Great Britain, United States, Ireland, France and Canada.

In addition to the 1 1/2-mile turf event, one of Canada's richest Thoroughbred races, another Grade 1 turf stakes will highlight the undercard in the C$500,000 E. P. Taylor sending fillies and mares 1 1/4 miles.

The 76th edition of the Canadian International will go postward at 5:42 p.m. (EDT). All horses carry 126 pounds, except Irish Mission, the only filly in the field (she is also cross-entered in the E. P. Taylor), who will lug 123 pounds, and three-year-old Stormy Len, who carries 119 pounds.

Forte Dei Marmi, one of two Canadian International hopefuls trained by Roger Attfield, enters on a three-race win streak. The seven-year-old son of Selkirk captured the Singspiel on July 7, the Sky Classic on August 18 and Northern Dancer on September 15 over yielding, firm and firm going, respectively. Established as the lukewarm 3-1 morning-line favorite, Forte Dei Marmi was the last horse drawn in the post position draw, getting post eight.

The British-bred gelding also finished a good third, one length behind winner Joshua Tree, in last year's Canadian International.

Attfield, one of only a handful of horsemen inducted into both the Canadian and U.S. Racing Hall of Fame, is still seeking his first Canadian International win after finishing second on three occasions with Spice Route (2008), Alywow (1994) and Steady Power (1989). Eurico Rosa da Silva, who leads all Woodbine riders with 24 stakes victories, rides Forte Dei Marmi, his first Canadian International mount.

Hyper is an improving sort who could jump up in a big way on Sunday (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

"I'm quite happy with the post positions for both horses," said Attfield, who will also saddle Northern Dancer neck-second Perfect Timber. "Yes, (Forte Dei Marmi is) in great shape. Both horses are really, really doing well. It would appear that Forte Dei Marmi has been in good form for a little while now. I just hope we can keep him there for a bit longer."

Slumber, a lightly-raced British-bred son of Cacique, comes into the Canadian International off a fourth-place finish in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park on September 28. The five-year-old was just 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner, Breeders' Cup Turf-bound defending champion Little Mike, with two-time Grade 1 winner Big Blue Kitten and Arlington Million winner Real Solution the only other horses to finish in front of him that day.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who won the 1995 Canadian International with Lassigny, and to be ridden for the first time by another Hall of Famer in jockey Mike Smith, Slumber will try to give owner Juddmonte a record fourth victory in the race (since 1958), following French Glory (1990), Raintrap (1994) and Champs Elysees (2009).

"He kind of had to wait to make his run (in the Turf Classic)," Mott explained. "Maybe if he had got clear a little earlier he could have benefited and been a little closer."

Trainer Chad Brown will saddle the third choice, Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Hyper, for the Canadian International. The six-year-old son of Canadian-bred Hall of Famer Victory Gallop is on a two-race win streak, having taken the July 31 Johns Call at Saratoga and September 7 Bowling Green at Belmont Park.

The Ramseys set a races-won record at Keeneland this year and are the continent's leading money-winning owners with $10.8 million in purses. Joel Rosario, who won the Dubai World Cup in March on Animal Kingdom and the Kentucky Derby on Orb in May, climbs aboard Hyper for the first time.

Joshua Tree, who won the 2010 and 2012 editions of the Canadian International, makes his fourth consecutive appearance, trying to become the first three-time winner of the race. The Irish-bred six-year-old son of Montjeu won for trainer Aidan O'Brien in 2010 before finishing second in 2011 and winning the 2012 edition for conditioner Marco Botti.

Joshua Tree seeks to become the first threepeat winner of the Canadian International (WEG/Michael Burns Photography)

Now trained by Ed Dunlop, Joshua Tree is far and way the field's leading money winner with more than $3.2 million but is winless in six starts since last year's victory. He'll be ridden by Ryan Moore on Sunday off a 13th-place finish to wonder filly Treve in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on October 6.

Lucayan was third to Breeders' Cup Turf-bound Indy Point in the September 29 John Henry Turf Classic at Santa Anita, but the Neil Drysdale pupil is winless in five starts this year in North America. The French-bred four-year-old will be reunited with French jockey Stephane Pasquier in Sunday's contest. Pasquier was aboard Lucayan for his two wins last year in France, including the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French Two Thousand Guineas) at Longchamp.

Irish Mission, an Ontario-bred four-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway, has won only one of her seven outings this season. However, the Mark Frostad trainee most recently finished fourth, only a length behind Forte Dei Marmi, in the Northern Dancer. Last year, the chestnut filly scored in the Woodbine Oaks and Breeders' Stakes and was runner-up in the Queen's Plate en route to Sovereign Awards as Canada's top three-year-old filly and top female turfer.

Irish Mission will be ridden by Gary Boulanger as she tries to become just the seventh filly or mare to win the Canadian International since 1958 and the sixth different Canadian-bred to win.

The field is completed by Irish-bred North American debuter Seismos, winner of the August 11 Grosser Preis von Bayern at Munich; multiple Grade 1-placed Stormy Len; last-out Grade 3 scorer Temeraine; and Group 2 victor Now We Can, who will be competing outside of France for the first time in the Canadian International.

Tannery was a powerful winner of the Sheepshead Bay earlier this year (NYRA/Joe Labozzetta/Adam Coglianese Photography)

The E. P. Taylor will go postward at 4:38 p.m. and has drawn a field of 10, headed by New York-based Tannery. Winner of the Sheepshead Bay and recent runner-up in the Flower Bowl Invitational, the Dylan Thomas filly will have Rosario aboard as she tries Woodbine's turf for the first time.

Tannery raced exclusively in Ireland before shipping stateside and taking up residence in trainer Alan Goldberg's shedrow. The four-year-old filly made her U.S. bow a third-place run in the Garden City in September 2012 before traveling to Keeneland for a subpar eighth-placing in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. The bay miss returned to New York and closed out her sophomore campaign with a fourth, just three parts of a length back of the winner, in the Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct and hasn't been outside of the Empire State since.

Tannery faced the boys two back in the Sword Dancer, missing by three lengths when fourth, and drew the far outside post for the E. P. Taylor.

Trainer Michael Matz will saddle two in the race, sending out the respective one-two finishers from Woodbine's September 15 Canadian in Minakshi and Colonial Flag. Neither one was favored in that nine-furlong grass contest, with Minakshi just getting the half-length victory at 7-1 over her 10-1 stablemate. The Footstepsinthesand mare was making her Woodbine debut that day, while Colonial Flag, a four-year-old daughter of Pleasant Tap, captured her prior appearance on the Toronto green when taking the Ontario Colleen in August 2012.

Moment of Majesty was 1 3/4 lengths behind Colonial Flag when third in the Canadian last out following a neck third in the Belle Mahone as the defending champion. That was the Saint Liam six-year-old's first start for Attfield after previously being conditioned by first Sue Leslie and then Andrew McKeever.

Group 3 winners Moment of Time, Fitful Skies and Samba Brazil will all be making their North American bows in the E. P. Taylor while Grade 3 vixen No Explaining and Grade 2-placed Nancy O complete the field. As previously mentioned, Irish Mission is cross-entered to both the Canadian International and Taylor.

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