Saturday's horse racing stakes races calendar has a sense of stillness three-weeks before Breeders' Cup storm arrives at Santa Anita. There are just eight stakes races with $100,000 or more in prize money at the tracks this Saturday.
Belmont Park 7 - $100,000 FLORAL PARK STAKES
Belmont Park 9 - $200,000 SANDS POINT STAKES - GRADE II
Delta Downs Race 8 - $100,000 GOLD CUP STAKES
Keeneland Race 9 - $500,000 QUEEN ELIZABETH II CHALLENGE CUP - GRADE I
Santa Anita Race 7 - $100,000 CALIFORNIA DISTAFF HANDICAP
Woodbine Race 7 - $250,000 NEARCTIC STAKES - GRADE II
Woodbine Race 8 - $600,000 E.P. TAYLOR STAKES - GRADE I
Woodbine Race 9 - $800,000 PATTISON CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL STAKES - GRADE I
Toronto, Canada's Woodbine Racetrack hosts the three most expensive outings with the $800,000 PATTISON CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL STAKES the grandest of all. BUNTY LAWLESS won the inaugural CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL STAKES in 1938 and the race was the home of SECRETARIAT's final race in 1973.
This year, six thoroughbreds will race 1 1/2 miles on Woodbine's turf course for their share of the $800,000 jackpot. ZIYAD (PP: 1) is flying in from France and is the even-money favorite. The four-year old has raced exclusively on turf and usually at today's distance or longer. He's hit the board in 13 of 16-lifetime starts and five of his last six at 1 1/2 miles.
The Carlos Laffon-Parias won his last effort the G2 Lucien Barriere Grand Prix in France. He looks to be in good form with his win, a second by a neck and another second by ¾ a length in hist last three efforts. He could be lone speed and benefits from the rail, which has won two of the seven races at the distance/surface.
Defending CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL STAKES champion, DESERT ENCOUNTER (PP: 4 ML 2-1) must feel like Rodney Dangerfield as the oddsmaker's second choice. He gets no respect, I tell ya. The seven-year-old is on a three-race winning streak, all G3s.
He'll likely take up near the back of the pack and look to rally his way to the wire to defend his crown. Last year, he started 10th of 11, seven and a quarter lengths off the lead before leaning into the finish line. Comments for DESERT ENCOUNTER's stacking of Ws say he's running style hasn't changed.
PIVONE (PP: 2 ML 10-1) will try to put DESERT ENCOUNTER behind him this time after finishing second by a length to DESERT ENCOUNTER in his last race, the G3 Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup at Newbury in Great Britain. He may have been the best horse in the race, but was cut off/squeezed in the stretch, had to hold up and then moved wide late.
PUMPKIN RUMBLE (PP: 6 ML 15-1) looks like an overlay on paper. He won his last and is making his second start after two-months in the barn. RUMBLE's history suggests he'll be better in round two off the bench. His numbers suggest he doesn't need to improve by much if at all.
He's won four of his last six starts and finished third in the other two and has hit the board in six of seven races with Woodbine's top moneymaker, jockey Eurico Da Silva onboard. PUMPKIN RUMBLE will probably run around the track as DESERT ENCOUNTER's sidekick and try to outrun all of them to the wire.
Here's how we lined them up in our Pro Subscriber's bonus commentary:
"ZIYAD has finished in the money in 13 of his last 15 starts. PUMPKIN RUMBLE has four wins and two seconds in his last six races. Why not at 15-1? DESERT ENCOUNTER has won three-straight in Great Britain, all G3s. PIVOINE finished second by a length to DESERT ENCOUNTER in his last outing."