Lightly raced 3-year-old Imperial Monarch leads a group of seven European horses into Sunday's $1.5 million Canadian International at Woodbine. The 1 1/2-mile turf race has drawn a field of 11.
The 75th edition of the International has an approximate post-time of 5:44 p.m. (ET) with the entrants each carrying 126 pounds, except Imperial Monarch at 119, and 4-year-old filly Lay Time with 123.
The winner will be rewarded with $900,000 and an automatic place in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.
Imperial Monarch is trained by Aidan O'Brien who already has two International wins under his belt. He claimed the race in 2002 with Ballingarry and two years ago with Joshua Tree who was second last year and is again entered for Sunday.
The 3-year-old colt, owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, has just four career starts with three victories for $484,493. In spite of his limited experience Imperial Monarch is the 3-1 morning line favorite.
"I think he's had so little racing that he's still learning (about a preferred racing style). The last time, he made it (the pace). It didn't bother him," said T.J. Comerford, assistant trainer for O'Brien. "He's got a great temperament. I just hope we see him at his best on Sunday. He's been off, but at the same time, we're getting him here thinking we've got him spot on. He's got loads of ability. It depends on how competitive a race it is."
Sunday's race will be the colt's first start since July when he captured the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp. He can become the 14th 3-year-old to win the International since it moved to grass in 1958.
Previously ridden by the trainer's son Joseph, Imperial Monarch will get the services of Ryan Moore for his first race in North America and start from post 10.
"Ryan Moore is a very top class rider. That's why Aidan likes him," Comerford noted.
The 4-1 second choice is another European horse, Reliable Man. The 4-year-old colt has drawn post seven with veteran reinsman Olivier Peslier in the saddle.
Reliable Man has earned more than $1.6 million is 11 career starts with four wins. Winless in five starts this year, the colt is coming off a second-place finish in a stakes in France and a pair of fourths at Ascot in England.
Unlike most thoroughbreds in North America, Joshua Tree likes to run often and comes to the International with nine starts this year. The 5-1 third pick will be ridden by Frankie Dettori from post eight.
Dettori can join Robert Watson (1942-44) as the only three-time winning jockeys of the International. Dettori won the race aboard Mutafaweq in 2000 and Sulamani in 2004.
Joshua Tree, now trained by Marco Botti, was third last time out in the Prix Foy in September at Longchamp in Paris. The 5-year-old has won five of 23 lifetime starts for nearly $2.25 million.
"(In the Prix Foy) I thought he was in very good form," said Botti. "He seems to be coming into his best recently. I haven't trained many horses as tough as he is. He loves the traveling. You put him on a plane and he seems to enjoy it."
Here is the field for the International from the rail out: Lay Time, Jimmy Fortune, 20-1; Dandino, Jim Crowley, 8-1; Forte Dei Marmi, John Velazquez, 15-1; Scalo, Andrasch Starke, 12-1; Prince Will I Am, Ramon Dominguez, 20-1; Wigmore Hall, Jamie Spencer, 6-1; Reliable Man, Olivier Peslier, 4-1; Joshua Tree, Frankie Dettori, 5-1; Al Khali, Garrett Gomez, 10-1; Imperial Monarch, Ryan Moore, 3-1 and Air Support, Javier Castellano, 10-1.