Canadian International at Woodbine scrapped for 2020 owing to coronavirus

Horse Racing Canadian International Desert Encounter
Hat-trick halted: Desert Encounter, who has won the last two Canadian Internationals.
Photo: Woodbine Entertainment/Michael Burns Photography

By Nicholas Godfrey

Canada: Another high-profile contest has fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic with news that one of the world’s longest-established trans-continental races, the Canadian International, will not be run in 2020.

Woodbine issued a press release saying the G1 event will not feature on their stakes schedule this year owing to “complications with international travel”.

The news robs the David Simcock-trained Desert Encounter of the chance of completing a historic hat-trick in the storied race after victories in 2018 and 2019. Only fellow European-trained Joshua Tree has won the race three times – in his case, for three different trainers and three different jockeys in 2010, 2012 and 2013.

Although proximity to the Breeders’ Cup – and event that it helped inspire – has robbed some of its lustre, the Canadian International remains a major international contest, won in nine of the last ten years by European-based horses including the only three-time winner Joshua Tree.

Moreover, the 1m4f event can boast a rich litany of former winners – among them the great Secretariat, who switched to turf to end his career in triumphant fashion in Toronto with a famous 6½-length victory in 1973.

Other notable winners in the 1970s included the great racemare Dahlia, Derby winner Snow Knight, while the likes of All Along, Singspiel, Royal Anthem and Sulamani have won more recently.

In the absence of the main event, the October 18 card at Woodbine will now be highlighted by the G1 EP Taylor Stakes with prize-money of $600,000. The G2 Nearctic for sprinters also remains, with the addition of Northern Dancer Turf, usually in effect a local trial for the International.

A regular venue on Sky Sports Racing coverage in Britain, Woodbine will start a belated six-month stand on June 6, running until December 13. 

Other feature events still on a revised stakes schedule include the Ricoh Woodbine Mile on September 19, with two G1 juvenile events on grass – the Summer Stakes and the Natalma Stakes – on September 20.

The 161st running of the Queen’s Plate, the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, originally scheduled for June 29, has been postponed until Saturday September 12. The $1 million contest is the oldest continuously-run stakes race in North America; it carries no Graded status because it is restricted to Canadian-bred horses.

• View the revised Woodbine stakes schedule for 2020

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