Analysis: Thundering Blue class of Canadian International field

October 11, 2018 02:15pm
Analysis: Thundering Blue class of Canadian International field
Photo: Michael Burns/Woodbine
Given the high reverence for European turf racing, it makes sense the Grade 1, $800,000 Pattison Canadian International favorite is Thundering Blue, who comes into Saturday's race at Woodbine with a record of 7-3-1-1 this season. While this 5-year-old gelding’s blood is American as a son of Exchange Rate and a Forestry mare, this will mark his first North American start.

Only one race is needed to understand why Thundering Blue deserves respect: the Juddmonte International (G1) run in late August.




First of all, look at some of the names in this race – Roaring Lion, Poet’s Word, Saxon Warrior and even Thunder Snow, who set the pace before folding. These are all high-class horses on the British racing scene.

Thundering Blue is not hard to spot in this field, as he is the brightest gray at the back early alongside Saxon Warrior, who ran slightly ahead.

Saxon Warrior made his move first after the final turn when his path became the outside, while Thundering Blue waited a little bit longer behind horses. But Saxon Warrior began to hang late, eventually settling for fourth, while Thundering Blue steadily kept picking off horses late to steal third. The point to comparing these two is that if Thundering Blue can out-run a good horse from roughly the same pace group, it shows there is quality to him.

In addition, Thundering Blue only finished a half length behind Poet’s Word, the winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) over Crystal Ocean and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1) over Cracksman.

Before Bullard’s Alley’s surprising win last year, European invaders won the Canadian International seven straight times. The lack of Lasix is a concern, but regardless, Thundering Blue is the top pick in an otherwise difficult field.

Next on the contender list is Spring Quality, a disappointing last-place finisher in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park. Watching the race again, there is nothing in particular to note. He looked disinterested. 

Spring Quality’s previous races are good enough to win, though, as he posted four straight TimeformUS Speed Figures above 120, including a 127 in winning the Manhattan Stakes (G1) at Belmont back in June. 

Although not the most exciting choice, he can rebound. 

If not Thundering Blue or Spring Quality, maybe one of the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (G1) runners can upset. This prep is usually not the race that produces the Canadian International winner, but exceptions happen.



The first horse to consider from that race is Tiz a Slam. 

Early on, it becomes apparent Tiz a Slam finds trouble when Hawkbill forces him outside after the first turn. Hawkbill continued to set the pace with Tiz a Slam staying on his flank, and the duo did well to open up on the far turn. 

Tiz a Slam then gradually put away Hawkbill, but the early trouble took its toll and the closers including Johnny Bear, English Illusion and Markitoff engulfed him. While those last three horses are decent, Tiz a Slam ran the hardest and will offer value at a generous 20-1. Markitoff is the same price.

As for other fringe contenders, Funtastic and Focus Group come from the Chad Brown barn, and it seems difficult to toss any of his runners on turf.  

Funtastic actually won the United Nations Stakes (G1) in wire-to-wire fashion back in June, before disappointing in the Sword Dancer Stakes (G1) with a flat seventh. Many expected him to pressure Glorious Empire. 

Focus Group took the ungraded John’s Call Stakes at Saratoga by a nose, after winning an optional claimer by less than a length over Channel Cat over the same racetrack. Channel Cat went on to win the Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs and Bald Eagle Derby at Laurel Park. 

With a fast pace and some luck, Focus Group can surprise the field.

There are two other European invaders in this field, Khan and Desert Encounter, but neither of them are serious win contenders on paper.

Desert Encounter is easier to throw out of the top slot, as he finished last in the aforementioned Prince of Wales’s by 31 ½ lengths and second to last in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth by 21 ¼ lengths. Lasix and a new environment can help him move forward, but a win is still unlikely.

Khan’s races came in Germany, and those can be difficult to handicap because the group stakes races over there are unfamiliar. For the most part, American racing fans know stakes races in France, Ireland and England, especially the ones held during the prestigious Royal Ascot meet. 

Khan recently won the Preis Von Europa (G1) in Germany. Does that mean anything? The second and third-place finishers aren't big-name horses. 

Finally, Bandua is a tossout given the poor form of the Secretariat Stakes (G1) runners. He also finished a flat fourth in the Dueling Grounds Derby.

Profiting off Thundering Blue will pose a challenge, given the public will bet him below 2-1 in all likelihood. One idea is to use a win bet as a “saver” and throw some longshots underneath. For example, with a $100 bankroll, $40 could be used for a simple win bet, while Tiz a Slam and Markitoff are thrown in the second slot in $30 exactas each with Thundering Blue on top.

In any case, Thundering Blue is the “A” in horizontals, while Spring Quality deserves the “B” slot, maybe with one or two more horses. The rest can be clumped together in the "C" category. Overall, a tough race from which to profit big.


 

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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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