Weather to Play a Role in International

Idaho at Ballydoyle | Emma Berry photo

European raiders have annexed the last seven runnings of the GI Pattison Canadian International S., and to be sure, the Aidan O'Brien-trained Idaho (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and defending race champion Erupt (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) figure to dominate the markets for Canada's richest turf race. But with rain a near certainty Saturday night into and perhaps during the program Sunday, Mother Nature figures play some role in the outcome.

Of the two heaviest hitters, Idaho, a full-brother to the globetrotting Highland Reel (Ire), has far better form over varying degrees of easy ground. Third in the G1 Epsom Derby, the bay was a close second over legitimately yielding turf in the G1 Irish Derby of 2016. In five runs this term, Idaho was the impressive winner of the G2 Hardwicke S. at Royal Ascot over reasonably quick ground, but was no better than sixth as the favorite in the GI Sword Dancer Invitational S. at Saratoga Aug. 26. He exits an eighth in a soft-turf renewal of the G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in which he set the pace before weakening out to finish a bit more than seven lengths behind wonderfilly Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}).

Erupt's best performances have come over faster ground, including his success in this in 2016 where he raced handy and stayed on well for a one-length victory. He has made just three trips to the races this season and makes his first start for the Graham Motion barn, having finished a disappointing fifth in the Sword Dancer, but he looks a bit more ground-dependent than Idaho and could have his work cut out.

Champs Elysees (GB) (Sadler's Wells) raided from California to win the 2009 International for trainer Bobby Frankel, and while Flamboyant (Fr) (Peer Gynt {Jpn}) is not of that class, he is not without a chance. Though he is winless since landing the GII San Marcos S. at Santa Anita in February 2016, the bay has run well when fourth over an insufficient mile trip in the July 4 GIII American S. at Santa Anita and was most recently getting home well when third, beaten 3/4 of a length, by Hunt (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) in the 11-furlong GII Del Mar H. Aug. 19. He should appreciate the extra eighth of a mile here.

You have to go back to Chief Bearhart (Chief's Crown) in 1997 for the last Woodbine-based winner of the International, and the rags-to-riches Johnny Bear (English Channel) has some longshot claims. Racing for a $40,000 as recently as a year ago, the 6-year-old looks to have turned a corner over the last few months with course-and-distance scores in the restricted Halton S. Aug. 30 and a narrow defeat of the classy Hawkbill (Kitten's Joy) in the GI Northern Dancer Turf S. Sept. 16.

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