Thun­der­ing Blue takes Swedish route to Canada

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - Front Page - By Alex Camp­bell

ETOBICOKE, On­tario – Euro­pean in­vader Thun­der­ing Blue seeks his first Grade 1 vic­tory as the 2-1 morn­ing-line fa­vorite in Satur­day’s Grade 1, $800,000 Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional Stakes for 3-year-olds and up over 1 1/2 miles on Wood­bine’s turf.

The 5-year-old Thun­der­ing Blue will make his first North Amer­i­can start fol­low­ing a vic­tory in the Group 3 Stock­holm Cup In­ter­na­tional Stakes in Swe­den on Sept. 23. Trainer David Menuisier said the ori­en­ta­tion of the turf course in Swe­den should set Thun­der­ing Blue up nicely for a run at Wood­bine.

“Ob­vi­ously, we don’t have cour­ses as tight as this in the U.K.,” he said. “So, that’s why Swe­den was a mas­sive thing for us, to take him over there, be­cause I think the track is quite sim­i­lar [to Wood­bine’s]. We were su­per pleased with the way he han­dled Swe­den, so we are pretty confident with him han­dling the track here.”

The 2018 cam­paign has been Thun­der­ing Blue’s best. He’s won three of his seven starts this year, and recorded his first group stakes vic­tory in the Group 2 York Stakes on July 28.

“His Group 2 win at York was mag­i­cal ... it was his first at­tempt in a pat­tern race,” Menuisier said. “He spent the whole of his ca­reer in hand­i­caps. He went from be­low-av­er­age hand­i­cap­per to a very tal­ented one in the space of 12 months, giv­ing us the feel­ing he was a pat­tern-class horse. The Group 2 win con­firmed what we thought of him.”

Fol­low­ing his vic­tory at York, Thun­der­ing Blue fin­ished third be­hind Roar­ing Lion and Poet’s Word in the Group 1 Jud­dmonte In­ter­na­tional Stakes at York.

“The real pin­na­cle was to fin­ish in the frame against a re­gal op­po­si­tion, beat­ing the win­ners of the 2000 Guineas, Dubai World Cup, Dubai Duty Free, Ir­ish Derby, and St James’s Palace Stakes,” Menuisier said.

KEY CON­TENDERS

Thun­der­ing Blue, by Ex­change Rate Bey­ers: NA-NA-NA

◗ Thun­der­ing Blue will leave the gate from post 2 in the Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional, and will likely be taken to the back of the pack early on.

“The draw’s not al­ways the big­gest thing we think about,” said Kim John­stone, wife and as­sis­tant to Menuisier. “He al­ways pulls him­self to the back, any­way.”

Spring Qual­ity, Qual­ity Road Last 3 Bey­ers: 55-100-102

◗ The 4-1 sec­ond choice will be look­ing to bounce back quickly off a sev­enth-place run in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Clas­sic at Bel­mont Park on Sept. 29.

“He ran very dis­ap­point­ingly over what was ex­tremely soft ground,” trainer Gra­ham Mo­tion said. “I don’t think he han­dled it at all. I kind of geared his whole sea­son to­ward the fall. He’s pretty lightly raced, which makes me feel com­fort­able run­ning him back fairly quickly.”

◗ He won the Grade 1 Man­hat­tan at Bel­mont Park in June.

Fun­tas­tic, by More Than Ready Last 3 Bey­ers: 96-102-96

◗ He could be an early pace threat while mak­ing his first start since fin­ish­ing sev­enth in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 25.

“It was dis­ap­point­ing,” trainer Chad Brown said. “He got a lit­tle bit banged up in the race – some cuts, stitches here and there – so maybe that con­trib­uted to it, I’m not sure. But he’s back to 100 per­cent health.”

◗ Ear­lier in the year, Fun­tas­tic stepped up off an al­lowance win to take the Grade 1 United Na­tions at Mon­mouth Park on June 30.

Johnny Bear, by English Chan­nel Last 3 Bey­ers: 98-95-95

◗ He cap­tured the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes for the sec­ond year in a row with an off-the-pace rally un­der jockey Luis Con­tr­eras.

◗ He did not han­dle the soft go­ing in last year’s run­ning of the Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional, but the out­look is good for a firm turf course for Satur­day.

Tiz a Slam, by Tiznow Last 3 Bey­ers: 94-95-96

◗ He du­eled for the lead early with Hawk­bill in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf last time out on Sept. 15, but gave way in the late go­ing to fin­ish sixth, beaten just two lengths. He should be up close to the pace again Satur­day.

◗ He’s recorded two graded stakes wins this year, in­clud­ing a win at this dis­tance on the grass in the Grade 2 Ni­jin­sky Stakes on July 22.

RON­NIE BETOR

Spring Qual­ity floun­dered over soft ground in the Joe Hirsch.

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