The Grade 1 hits just keep on coming for Chad Brown, the latest being Keeneland’s First Lady (A Raving Beauty) and Belmont’s Champagne (Complexity) and Beldame (Wow Cat) just yesterday.
On Saturday, with Brown juggernaut will roll into Woodbine with the pair of Funtastic and Focus Group confirmed for the Grade 1 Canadian International, and Santa Monica, Elysea’s World, and Pollara all probable for the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes.
The four-year-old colts Funtastic and Focus Group are relative newcomers to the upper echelon of Brown’s turf male division with the former becoming a Grade 1 winner at first asking in Monmouth’s United Nations and the latter set to make his Grade 1 debut after winning a restricted stakes at Saratoga.
A son of More Than Ready owned by Three Chimneys Farm, Funtastic had placed in a listed stakes at Aqueduct in his first campaign last year but was coming into the 1 3/8-mile United Nations after knocking out his second allowance condition in a 1 1/2-mile turf race at Belmont.
Brown had four runners in the United Nations and Funtastic was the longest price of the quartet at 23-1.
“In one way, he surprised me, that he was able to step up to that level that quickly,” said Brown. “But it’s not a surprise that he’s developed into a Grade 1-calibre horse. He’s another well-bred horse that always trained that he’ll develop into that quality.”
Funtastic was less effective when swinging back eight weeks later for the Sword Dancer, a 1 1/2-mile mile race in which he finished seventh.
“It was disappointing,” said Brown. “I thought he had a good trip, saving ground, he just didn’t fire that day. 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 per cent health. I’m looking forward to running him there.”
Focus Group has been in the zone of late, winning three of his last four starts and seeking his third straight win after making a successful stakes debut in the restricted John’s Call over 1 5/8 miles of turf at Saratoga.
“The horse is in good form,” said Brown of the Kitten’s Joy colt owned by Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence. “He’s an improving horse, we know he can get the distance.
“It’s a big step up in class but he’s a well-bred horse. He’s always acted like he’ll get to this level.
“The timing of the race really works for us,” added Brown. “And, my hope is that he will appreciate the course. Again, the timing of the race will suit him. We’ll have to see. It’s a race I’ve had in the back of my mind for quite a while.”
Brown has yet to win the Canadian International in only three attempts but has knocked on the door with second-place finishes by Hyper (2013) and Big Blue Kitten (2014) and a third with Wake Forest in 2016.
In the E.P Taylor, Santa Monica will be looking to duplicate the form she displayed in winning Grade 2 Dance Smartly over 1 1/4 miles in her local bow this June 30. The five-year-old Mastercraftsman mare finished second last out in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Glens Falls over 1 3/8 miles at Saratoga.
A five-year-old daughter of Champs Elysees, Elysea’s World also has run well on this course, finishing second in last year’s Grade 2 Canadian over 1 1/8 miles, and is coming off two Grade 3 turf wins at 1 1/8 miles.
Three-year-old Camelot filly Pollara, a Group 3 winner overseas, would be making her North American debut and first start for Brown, who also is seeking his first E.P. Taylor victory.
Motion dynamic duo primed for Pattison Canadian International
Trainer Graham Motion will have two opportunities to hoist his first Pattison Canadian International trophy, when he sends out turf talents Mekhtaal and Spring Quality in next Saturday’s $800,000 Grade 1 event.
A five-year-old son of standout Sea The Stars, Mekhtaal is quite familiar with Woodbine’s world renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course, having contested his past two races on the Toronto oval green scene.
After a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes on July 22, the British-bred faced nine rivals in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes on September 15, where he also earned runner-up honours.
Sent off as the 3-1 second choice in the Northern Dancer, Mekhtaal, eighth at the half-mile mark, continued to gain ground on the leaders, sitting fourth at track announcer Robert Geller’s stretch call.
At the wire, the Al Shaqab Racing charge was just a half-length back of Johnny Bear (who he’ll face again in the International).
Motion was pleased with the effort.
“He’s run well up in Canada,” said the conditioner who campaigned Animal Kingdom, winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby and 2013 Dubai World Cup. “This will be the third time we’ve brought him up here and it just seems very logical to keep on the path to this race. And I thought he ran very well in the Northern Dancer.”
The chestnut winner of three races from 13 starts – who also has five seconds – already has a Group 1 title to his name, when he took all the spoils in the Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly last May.
“He’s a very good horse,” praised Motion, who took over conditioning duties after the Arlington Million. “He was Group 1 caliber in Europe. He’s a very honest horse, who would probably handle any course. Certainly, he seems to handle the Woodbine course very well.”
A win in the International would certainly be meaningful to Motion.
“No doubt. We’ve coming up to Woodbine for quite a long time, trying to win races on this weekend. It’s a race I’d love to win. I feel like I’m up coming to Canada with two very legit horses. We like to run up here and it would be a feather in our cap to say we won this race.”
Woodbine-based rider Alan Garcia, who is closing in on 1,700 career wins, gets the call on Mekhtaal.
See tomorrow’s notes for a look at Spring Quality, Motion’s other Pattison Canadian International hopeful.
EARLY LOOK AT THE GRADE 1 PATTISON CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL (13)
Horse – Owner – Trainer – Jockey
Arklow – Donegal Racing, Bulger, Joseph and Coneway, Peter – Brad H. Cox – TBA
Bandua – Calumet Farm – Jack Sisterson – Adam Beschizza
Desert Encounter (IRE) – Abdulla Al Mansoori – David Simcock – Andrea Atzeni
English Illusion – 4U Thoroughbred Racing Stable Inc. – Sylvain Pion – Rafael Hernandez
Focus Group – Klaravich Stables & William H. Lawrence – Chad C. Brown – Jose Ortiz
Funtastic – Three Chimneys Farm – Chad C. Brown – John Velazquez
Johnny Bear – Colebrook Farms and Bear Stables, Ltd. – Ashlee Brnjas – Luis Contreras
Khan (GER) – Darius Racing – Henk Grewe – Clement Lecoeuvre
Markitoff – Three Diamonds Farm – Michael J. Maker – Irad Ortiz Jr.
Mekhtaal (GB) – Al Shaqab Racing – H. Graham Motion – Alan Garcia
Spring Quality – Augustin Stable – H. Graham Motion – Edgar Prado
Thundering Blue – Clive Washbourn – David Menuisier – Fran Berry
Tiz a Slam – Chiefswood Stable – Roger L. Attfield – Steve Bahen
EARLY LOOK AT THE GRADE 1 E.P. TAYLOR STAKES (9)
Horse – Owner – Trainer – Jockey
Elysea’s World (IRE) – Sheep Pond Partners and All Pro Racing LLC – Chad C. Brown – Joe Bravo
Golden Legend (FR) – Mrs. Henri Devin – H.F. Devin – Alexis Badel
Pollara (IRE) – Peter M. Brant and Allen Stable Inc. – Chad C. Brown – Irad Ortiz Jr.
Proctor’s Ledge – Patricia L. Moseley – Brendan P. Walsh – John Velazquez
Santa Monica (GB) – Mrs. John Magnier, Madaket Stables LLC and Deron Pearson – Chad C. Brown – Jose Ortiz
Sheikha Reika (FR) – Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum – Roger Varian – Andrea Atzeni
Sky Full of Stars (GER) – Gestut Karlshof – Henk Grewe – TBA
Starship Jubilee – Soli Mehta and Kevin Attard – Kevin Attard – Luis Contreras
Summer Luck – Gary Barber – Mark E. Casse – TBA