Desert storm just kicks up

8-to-1 long­shot pulls the up­set at Pat­ti­son Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - DAN RALPH

An­drea Azteni proved Satur­day he’s a cool cus­tomer in traf­fic.

Sit­ting last with a quar­ter-mile re­main­ing the Ital­ian jockey mas­ter­fully ma­noeu­vred Desert En­counter to the lead, over­tak­ing 3-to-1 favourite Thun­der­ing Blue in deep stretch for the stun­ning win in the Grade I $800,000 Pat­ti­son Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional. Fran Berry did a nice job tak­ing Thun­der­ing Blue to first down the stretch af­ter stand­ing sixth with a quar­ter-mile re­main­ing but couldn’t pre­vent Desert En­counter from earn­ing his first Grade 1 vic­tory Satur­day af­ter­noon.

“He trav­elled good into the race and I fol­lowed the favou- rite all the way through, Thun­der­ing Blue,” Atzeni said af­ter win­ning his first Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional in four tries. “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 (win­ning trainer David Sim­cock) and the owner and ev­ery­body in­volved.”

Desert En­counter’s kick sur­prised Philip Robin­son, the rac­ing man­ager for win­ning owner Ab­dulla Al Man­soori.

“I thought the horse was go­ing to go run sec­ond when he pulled out (be­cause) the other English horse (Thun­der­ing Blue) quick­ened up well,” said Robin­son. “I thought, ‘Well he’s go­ing to win the race, we’re go­ing to run sec­ond,’ but then he found an­other gear the last 200 (me­tres) and it was all over.

“He got a great ride. He saved ground all the way around and pulled out when he needed to.”

Ir­ish-bred Desert En­counter, an 8-to-1long­shot based in Eng­land, won the 1 1⁄2- mile race by a length in 2:28.88 on a good turf at Wood­bine Race­track. Thun­der­ing Blue fin­ished sec­ond in the11-horse field ahead of Fo­cus Group, the 4-to-1sec­ond choice.

“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,” Berry said. “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. My horse raced well, but (Desert En­counter) just had a kick that sur­prised me.”

The field, in or­der of fin­ish, also in­cluded: Tiz a Slam; Spring Qual­ity; Mark­itoff; Johnny Bear; Ban­dua; English Il­lu­sion; Khan; and Fun­tas­tic.

Azteni con­tin­ued his win­ning ways in the Grade I $500,000 E.P. Tay­lor Stakes. He guided French-bred Sheikha Reika, a 6-to-1 pick, from fourth to the lead down the stretch for the 1

3⁄4- length vic­tory over Golden Leg­end, an­other French-bred horse, in the 1 1⁄4- mile turf event for fil­lies and mares three years old and up.

Desert En­counter, a 6-yearold geld­ing, paid $18.20, $7.90 and $5.40 while Thun­der­ing Blue re­turned $5.40 and $3.50. Fo­cus Group paid $3.60.

The In­ter­na­tional win was the first for trainer Sim­cock.

MICHAEL BURNS THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Desert En­counter, pi­loted by jockey An­drea Atzeni, wins the Pat­ti­son Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional at Wood­bine Race­track on Satur­day.

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