Desert Encounter embarks on Canadian hat-trick mission at Woodbine after two-year wait

Horse Racing Desert Encounter Woodbine
Desert Encounter: seeks an unprecedented Canadian International hat-trick at Woodbine. Photo: Michael Burns Photography/Woodbine Entertainment

By Jon Lees

Canada: David Simcock’s stable stalwart Desert Encounter has records in his sights on Saturday at Woodbine when he will bid to become the first horse to win three consecutive runnings of the Pattison Canadian International, and its oldest.

UPDATE: Canadian International: Walton Street out on his own as Frankie Dettori lands record fourth win

The nine-year-old has had to wait two years to get the chance to return to Woodbine because of the pandemic but the winner of more than £1.1 million in prize-money loves his overseas trips.

“He seems to really enjoy travelling here,” said Ian Russell, Simcock’s travelling head lad for trainer David Simcock. “I think when he sees a plane he comes alive because he’s looking for the next adventure.”

That affinity for Woodbine and the E P Taylor Turf Course will be put to the test again in the G1 $600,000 (£343,000) 1m4f contest in which Joshua Tree, with successes in 2010, 2012, and 2013, interrupted by a second-place finish in 2011, is the only three-time winner. Another European Collier Hill won the race in 2006 as an eight-year-old.

Desert Encounter has been winless in 15 races since his 2019 success but his last- time-out second behind Teona at Windsor enjoyed a boost when the filly won the G1 Prix Vermeille.

“At nine, there’s a lot of younger horses running against him; he’s got a bit of experience next to them,” said Russell. “For as much as he is older, he’s enjoying it, and he’s showing us the signs that he still wants to do it. I think watching him in his last run, when he was second at Windsor, he’s still got a zest for life.

“We couldn’t wholly keep the same pattern, but generally everything is just the same,” he added.

There has been one change with Danny Tudhope set to pilot Desert Encounter, whose previous Canadian International scores came under Andrea Atzeni.

Tudhope will be making his Canadian debut but boasts G1 successes in the US courtesy of Mondialiste in the 2016 Arlington Million and Suedois in the 2017 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.

Simcock enjoyed a trio of stakes winners at the track in 2014 having striking with Trade Storm (Woodbine Mile), Sheikhzayedroad (Northern Dancer), and Caspar Netscher (Nearctic). 

Frankie Dettori, who gained his fourth victory in the race on Joshua Tree in 2012, will seek his fifth win on Godolphin’s Walton Street in an eight runner field.

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