European invaders have started to make their marks on Woodbine's Grade 2 Nearctic in recent years as both Caspar Netscher (2014) and Serious Attitude (2010) won the turf race, and Bated Breath ran second in 2011.
This year, the $250,000 event on the Canadian International undercard includes an enticing English prospect in Cotai Glory, who will face seven rivals Sunday in the six-furlong event for three-year-olds and upward.
Cotai Glory, a durable five-year-old horse, who has two Group 3 victories and a couple of Group 1 placings on his scorecard.
“He’s in good form,” said Mark Lashly, assistant head lad for trainer Charlie Hills, who checked in with Cotai Glory very early Tuesday morning. “He’s put in some positive races lately.”
Cotai Glory turned in one of his best career performances this August, finishing third behind Group 1 winner Marsha and the redoubtable American invader Lady Aurelia in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York.
Lashly notes that Cotai Glory is a versatile sort.
“He can drop in, or make the running,” said the head lad.
Skeptics may point out that Cotai Glory is 0-fo-4 at six furlongs, with his other 38 outings at five-eighths of a mile, and has yet to win around a turn.
“He hated Chester,” said Lashly, with reference to the English-bred’s fourth-place finish over six furlongs on that course in August. “It’s like a turn there, the whole way. I think he’ll handle the bend here.”
Dowse’s Beach and White Flag both ship in from Belmont and will be looking to exploit any gap in Cotai Glory’s armour.
The six-year-old turf specialist Dowse’s Beach, claimed for $62,500 by trainer Brad Cox at Belmont on May 7, promptly rattled off back-to-back wins on the turf course there.
The gelding then made his stakes debut at Woodbine on August 19, cutting out all the pace in the seven-furlong Play the King before succumbing to the late rally of Conquest Panthera and finish second, beaten a neck.
Less than two weeks later, Dowse’s Beach was favoured in Saratoga’s Lucky Coin, a 5 1/2 furlong race for non-winners of a stakes this season.
Cox believes the intermediate distance of the Nearctic will be ideal for his charge.
“For sure, he prefers six furlongs,” said the trainer. “That last race was probably a bit short, and back a bit quick for him.
“If he runs back to that race up there, he’ll be tough. He likes the track up there; I think he likes the big, wide turn.”
Jose Ortiz has picked up the mount on Dowse’s Beach.
White Flag has been on a roll for trainer Christophe Clement and comes off a triple consisting of his maiden win, a first-level allowance, and the Allied Force Stakes. All three turf races came against fellow sophomores.
"He’s doing well,” said Clement, who conditions the homebred colt for Robert Evans. “He’s a young horse, but he’s a nice horse.
“It’s a big jump to take on the older horses, but he looks good and it’s time to try.”
Joel Rosario, aboard for White Flag’s last two wins, retains the mount.
Rounding out the field will be the locally-based Yorkton, Ikerrin Road, Conquest Tsunami, Field of Courage and Circle of Friends.
Yorkton, trained by Stu Simon, also will be taking on older horses for the first time. The Chiefswood Stable homebred has won three of his past four starts with the only misstep during that period coming when he traveled to Arlington Park for the Bruce D. Memorial Stakes.
"He just lost all chance at the break,” said Simon. “He just stumbled so badly, and just kind of caught his ankle.
“We regrouped from that and when we ran him back here last time he really ran well, it was arguably the best race of his life.”
That race was the King Corrie, a six-furlong Tapeta stakes in which Yorkton led throughout while drawing off in the late stages.
The Speighstown colt had become a stakes winner on turf when coming from just off the pace to prevail in the one-mile Charlie Barley here July 2.
Ikerrin Road has been a gold mine for trainer Vito Armata, who claimed the four-year-old gelding for $32,000 and has seen him record three wins and become a Grade 3 stakes winner when making his last start in the Bold Venture here September 16.
“He came out of it very well,” said Armata, who conditions Ikerrin Road for his brother, John Armata. “He’s anxious to go.”
Ikerrin Road also has run well on the turf here, with two wins including a $50,000 claiming mile in a rapid clocking.
Mark Casse trains both Conquest Tsunami and Field of Courage.
Conquest Tsunami, a stakes winner on Polytrack here and on dirt at Churchill Downs as a two-year-old, is coming off a second-place finish behind the streaking San Nicole Thunder in a six-furlong optional claiming/allowance race here September 3.
Field of Courage was second last time out in the Elgin, a 1 1/16 mile yearling sales stakes won by the classy multiple stakes-winner Melmich.
Rounding out the field will be Circle of Friends, a three-year-old who won the Ontario Jockey Club over six furlongs on the Tapeta in July. Circle of Friends will be making his turf debut, but has galloped on the main turf course the past three mornings. The gelding will race with blinkers for the first time.
Here is the field for the Nearctic:
Post - Horse - Jockey - Trainer
1. Dowse’s Beach - Jose Ortiz Jr. - Brad Cox
2. White Flag - Joel Rosario - Christophe Clement
3. Circle of Friends - Eurico Rosa da Silva - Robert Tiller
4. Ikerrin Road - David Moran - Vito Armata
5. Conquest Tsunami - Patrick Husbands - Mark Casse
6. Yorkton - Jesse Campbell - Stuart Simon
7. Cotai Glory - Oisin Murphy - Charles Hills
8. Field of Courage - Luis Contreras - Mark Casse
Source: Woodbine Communications Office