Joshua Tree held off a late charge from Mores Wells and favourite Redwood to win the $2 million Pattison Canadian International at Woodbine on Saturday afternoon.
He was one of the two entrants with Secretariat in his family tree. His mother’s grandson is Chief Crown, who is a grandson of Secretariat. In total, he was a fifth generation descendant of the famous American racehorse.
He won it for trainer Aiden O’Brien by stalking the leader and waiting for the stretch, where he found a hole and exploited it, surging through to win by a head over Mores Wells. With it came a winning purse of $1,200,000 and an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup mile and a half race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky in November.
For a near perfect trip over the E.P Taylor turf course, it was an imperfect beginning for the three-year-old Irish bred horse of Montjeu.
He lost a shoe in the paddock and Bernadette Ryan, agent for co-owner Khalifa Bin Hamad Al Attyah, was more than a little concerned how that would affect the horse.
“We were scared for a few minutes before the race,” Ryan said. “The horse had lost a shoe and the race was delayed. My husband [Tom Ryan] said that on a day like today you want everything to go perfectly.
“Our jockey did a great job and they had the race planned perfectly.”
The track for Joshua Tree couldn’t have been better. At no point was he more than three lengths off the lead, sitting back in a pack that included Redwood, Al Khali and Mores Wells.
He was fifth, three lengths out at the mile pole, running a brisk 1:43:97 but by the top of the stretch he had closed the gap 1½ lengths.
Jockey Colm O’Donoghue, dressed in purple and white silks, with black riding boots called the horses number in the middle of the 1,440-foot back stretch and off he went through hole on the inside part of the track.
He grabbed the lead and withstood a furious charge by Mores Wells and Redwood at the wire, finishing in a time of 2:32:72.
“Obviously, he was prepared for today, he was trained perfectly for this race,” O’Donoghue said. “He was the right horse for this race and I have to give credit to all the owners involved.”
“We talked to the jockey and trainer and we wanted to give him a clean run,” Tom Ryan, agent for Hamad Al Attyah said. “He’s only three but we thought this was a good race for him.”
Heading into the Pattison he had raced only twice in 2010 and the results weren’t good.
He finished third in the Grade 1 Great Voltigeur Stakes on Aug. 17 and less than month later he was fifth in the Grade 2 St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster, England.
“He was one of our better two-year-olds,” O’Brien said. “He had a few hold ups in the spring, nothing major, just little problems, so he got a late start.”
But today the track and the turf were to his liking.
“It’s amazing,” O’Donoghue said of the win. “It’s very important to me and I owe a lot of gratitude to the owners who put their trust in me to come here to Canada and win this race for them is amazing.
The lone Canadian hopeful was Fifty Proof. He jumped out of the gate and took the lead at the quarter mile pole and led before fading down the stretch and finishing fifth, five lengths out.