Desert storm just kicks up
8-to-1 longshot pulls the upset at Pattison Canadian International
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.
Desert Encounter, piloted by jockey Andrea Atzeni, wins the Pattison Canadian International at Woodbine Racetrack on Saturday.