English shipper Cannock Chase has long promised to have a big one in him, and his moment came in Sunday’s $815,494 Canadian International (G1) at Woodbine. The 5-2 favorite deployed a sparkling turn of foot down the stretch to cap a quick Grade 1 double for all-world rider Ryan Moore, who had just guided Curvy to victory in the E.P. Taylor one race earlier. Moore was also winning the Canadian International for the third straight year, following Joshua Tree (2013) and Hillstar (2014).
Like Hillstar, Cannock Chase is also trained by Sir Michael Stoute. The two had some points in common earlier in their careers: during their sophomore seasons, both competed in a Newbury handicap billed as the “London Gold Cup” before making a splash in their stakes debuts at Royal Ascot. And before coming to Woodbine as four-year-olds, each benefited from a bit of class relief in their respective preps.
Otherwise, Cannock Chase is a different type from Hillstar in that he has an exceptional turn of foot. While Hillstar is essentially a 1 1/2-mile performer, Cannock Chase has spent the bulk of his career at about 1 1/4 miles. He stretched out to this 1 1/2-mile distance for the first time in the September 25 Godolphin Stakes at Newmarket, where he outclassed his foes in a taking display. His ability to quicken served him well in a paceless Canadian International that turned into a sprint for home.
Unexpected pacesetter Triple Threat went forward through fractions of :25.41 and :50:95 (fairly comparable to the E.P. Taylor) before it got positively glacial — 1:16.54, 1:41.46 and 2:05.76. Cannock Chase was initially five lengths back in seventh, but lost position and found himself in 10th of 11 as they rounded the far turn. Favorite backers had just cause to furrow the brow as Cannock Chase had nearly the whole field in front of him upon straightening, just as the real running started.
Up With the Birds and Kaigun pounced on Triple Threat at about midstretch. Canada’s Horse of the Year of 2013 who’s found life tougher ever since, Up With the Birds grabbed the lead between calls in a bid for a 10-1 upset.
By that point, however, a cool-headed Moore had threaded his way through aboard Cannock Chase. He was briefly pocketed, but when the gap came, his mount made no mistake. Bursting through in a few strides, he flew past Up With the Birds and won going away by 1 1/2 lengths despite drifting out. Cannock Chase stopped the clock in 2:29.26, a time weighed down by the pace. But his last quarter must have been sub-23.
Another rocketing home was fellow Rabbah Bloodstock colorbearer Sheikhzayedroad, who totally flubbed the start and was last for the opening mile. The David Simcock charge gained ground fast on the outside in deep stretch to finish third. With a halfway decent break, he would have been closer. Last year’s Northern Dancer Turf (G1) winner is bound to return to Woodbine during his travels in 2016, and it’s worth remembering how well he goes on this course.
Kaigun was a creditable fourth in his first try at this trip. Best known as a miler, he might have found the abrupt jump up to 1 1/2 miles a bit too far. But in the summer of 2014, he was second in the 1 1/4-mile Manhattan (G1) and a close fifth in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations (G1). Ten furlongs might be his ideal at this point. On the other hand, he might be worth trying over 1 1/2 miles again in an easier spot. This was a big ask off a fourth in the Woodbine Mile (G1) last out, and he could show more with this under his belt.
The major disappointment of the race was Second Step, the morning-line favorite who went off as the 3-1 second choice. Always well back, the Luca Cumani trainee wasn’t traveling with any enthusiasm as he retreated to last turning for home. He crossed the wire ninth only because Interpol and Habibi faded worse, not because he was actually advancing. Stay tuned for possible news about how Second Step comes out of this — he just wasn’t himself at all.
But at least Cannock Chase was at his best after some physical issues had retarded his progress. Unlike Hillstar, who was second in the aforementioned London Gold Cup, Cannock Chase prevailed in that 1 1/4-mile handicap. Also in contrast to Hillstar, who captured the 1 1/2-mile King Edward VII (G2) at Royal Ascot, Cannock Chase was a decisive winner of the 1 1/4-mile Tercentenary (G3) at the Royal meeting in 2014.
Off the course until this year, Cannock Chase encountered unsuitably soft ground in his first two starts back. He was third to Western Hymn and Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1)-bound Postponed in the April 24 Gordon Richards (G3) on an overwatered course at Sandown. Next time in the Huxley (G3) at Chester, he looked on the verge of pulling away, only to have Maverick Wave come again and deny him. Cannock Chase was a somewhat troubled seventh in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) back at Royal Ascot. Dropped into Group 3 company off a two-month holiday to address his “niggles,” he finished second to Godolphin’s well-regarded Racing History in the Winter Hill (G3) at Windsor. Stoute had already earmarked the Canadian International as his major objective, and the Godolphin at Newmarket turned out to be the perfect tune-up for his Woodbine venture.
Bred by Hascombe Stud in Kentucky, Cannock Chase brought 310,000 guineas as a Tattersalls October yearling (the same sale responsible for E.P. Taylor winner Curvy). The bay is by Lemon Drop Kid and out of the Horse Chestnut mare Lynnwood Chase, making him a full brother to Group 2 scorer Pisco Sour. The mare is in turn a half-sister globetrotting millionaire Lord Admiral.
Maybe a healthy Cannock Chase can now take after his “uncle” and enjoy a lucrative career as a jet-setter.
Photo courtesy of WEG/Michael Burns Photography.