Not all of the best horses will be at next Saturday's Breeders' Cup at Lone Star Park in Texas. The Happy Handicapper is looking forward to watching one of the world's best turf runners in Toronto on Sunday.
His name is Sulamani, a 5-year-old Irish-bred bay who is expected to be the star of the show, and the probable favorite, in the 67th edition of the country's richest thoroughbred race, the $1.5 million Canadian International.
Sulamani (the name means "Crowning Jewel" in Burmese), is not exactly a Funny Cide or Smarty Jones-like rags-to-riches story. He's owned by Godolphin, the nom-de-course of one of the richest men in the world, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai.
Still, you've got admire the credentials Sulamani brings to the ninth race (post time 5:07 p.m.) on the 11-race card that starts at 12:55 p.m.
In 16 starts over three seasons, Sulamani has won more than $4.35 million. He's won eight races, including five Grade 1 races at five different tracks in France, Dubai, the United States and England.
In 2002 he won the French Derby, finished second (by less than a length) in the Arc de Triomphe and was named France's champion 3-year-old.
Last year he won the $2 million Dubai Sheema Classic in March and then came to the United States to win the Arlington Million (by disqualification) and Belmont's Turf Classic. He then ran fifth (as the 3-1 second choice) in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita, where he had traffic problems and might not have liked the firm turf. English racing publications say he is best on "soft going."
This year, Sulamani has raced only four times. His last start was an August victory in the $840,700 Juddmonte International at York in England under Sunday's jockey, English champion Frankie Dettori.
"He's a great horse," Dettori told reporters after that race. "He deserved a big one and today was a big one. He took a bit of time to get into full stride, but when he did he went whoosh."
"He's a very classy horse; he's got tremendous acceleration," added Simon Crisford, Godolphin racing manager, after the Aug. 17 victory.
Yes, his last race was Aug. 17. And that's the reason why Sulamani may not be favored at Woodbine.
After his victory over the "Knavesmire" course at York, British bookmakers quickly cut Sulamani's odds for the Oct. 3 Arc de Triomphe in Paris from 12-1 to 6-1. And Godolphin management started planning for what Liverpool Daily Post reporter William Hayler called "a globetrotting campaign which could involve a trip to Texas for the Breeders' Cup Turf, followed by Hong Kong or Japan."
But those plans went awry when Sulamani didn't train as well as expected and was not entered in the Arc. Instead, the Canadian International -- where Sulamani will find the soft grass more to his liking than the firm turf of Lone Star Park -- was chosen as his next target.
"He came back a little bit sore," assistant trainer Tony Howarth told the Daily Racing Form's Bill Tallon last week. "It was a slight setback, nothing too dramatic."
Sulamani is one of two European millionaires in the 1 1/2 -mile International, which is most famous for being the great Secretariat's career finale in 1973.
Also crossing the Atlantic is Brian Boru, a 4-year-old (named for Ireland's legendary king) who has earned $1.05 million for Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien.
In last year's Canadian International, Brian Boru rallied from 10th and last to finish a close third as the 7-5 favorite under Irish jockey Jamie Spencer, who will be up again Sunday. Brian Boru, 1 for 7 this year, tuned up a month ago with a runner-up finish in the 1 3/4 -mile Irish St. Leger.
Breeders' Cup horses to watch
Followers of the H.H.'s "Hall of Fame trainer" angle will find 16 horses entered in seven of the eight big races next Saturday.
Two horses (D. Wayne Lukas' Azeri and H. Allen Jerkens' Bowman's Band), are cross-entered in two races, with a final decision due on Wednesday.
The list: Distaff -- Azeri, Society Selection (Jerkens), Stellar Jayne (Lukas) and Storm Flag Flying (Shug McGaughey). Mile -- Nothing to Lose (Bobby Frankel), Silver Tree (Bill Mott), Musical Chimes (Neil Drysdale) and Bowman's Band. Sprint -- Midas Eyes and Cajun Beat (both Frankel). Filly & Mare Turf -- Light Jig and Megahertz (both Frankel). Juvenile -- Consolidator (Lukas). Turf: Sarafan (Drysdale). Classic: Azeri, Bowman's Band, Ghostzapper (Frankel) and Pleasantly Perfect (Richard Mandella).
CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL FIELD
At Toronto, Sunday, 5:07 p.m.
$1.5 million, 1 1/2 miles, turf
1Mubtaker Richard Hills6-1
2King's DramaJohn Velazquez4-1
3Sulamani Frankie Dettori2-1
4Lenny the LenderChantal Sutherland30-1
5Brian Boru Jamie Spencer9-2
6Senor Swinger Edgar Prado12-1
7Colorful JudgementTodd Kabel15-1
8Ecomium Mick Kinane30-1
9Burst of Fire Slade Callaghan30-1
10Simonas Kieren Fallon20-1
11Sabiango Brice Blanc12-1