It’s a race that always brings out the best in the son of Halling.
On Saturday at Woodbine, Desert Encounter will look to notch his third straight victory in the Grade 1, $600,000 Pattison Canadian International. Should he be successful, he would join Joshua Tree (2010, 2012, 2013) as the only three-time winners of the race.
Run over the world-renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course, the race for three-year-olds and up has lured back the 2018 and 2019 champion.
After the worldwide pandemic caused the International to be postponed last year, the 1 ½-mile turf event, a race won by some of the greatest names in the sport, including the legendary Secretariat, is now back on track.
David Simcock, who trains Desert Encounter for Abdulla Al Mansoori, is hoping his nine-year-old veteran can conjure up some of his past Woodbine magic to get back into winning form.
The Irish-bred, whose last win came in the 2019 running of the International, has gone 15 races without a victory. The gelding has posted six runner-up finishes and a pair of thirds over that stretch.
In his most recent start, on August 28 at Royal Windsor, Desert Encounter rallied to finish second in the 1 7/16-mile August Stakes.
“He seems in great order,” said Simcock. “I was really pleased with his last run at Windsor at the end of August and hopefully that sets him up for Saturday.”
After a fourth, second and third to launch his career, Desert Encounter reeled off four straight victories. From October of 2015 to July of 2017, he went 5-2-2 from nine engagements.
Bred by Tally-Ho Stud, he has assembled a 12-10-9 mark from 46 career starts.
What is Simock most proud of when it comes to his veteran campaigner?
“I think just his longevity and consistency is testament to him. He is a kind horse. He is very straightforward to deal with.”
Desert Encounter isn’t the only one on his team that enjoys competing at Woodbine.
In 2014, Simock sent out Sheikhzayeroad to win the Grade 1 Northern Dancer, Trade Storm to take the Ricoh Woodbine Mile, and Caspar Netscher to capture the Grade 2 Nearctic.
“I have really enjoyed my trips to Woodbine, but I’m very happy to just let the horse do the talking,” he quipped.
This Saturday, Simcock hopes Desert Encounter speaks volumes about his affinity for the Canadian International.
Although it’s been a long time in between drinks for the bay, the Woodbine turf has always been an oasis for the hard-knocking horse.
“The second half of the season is always when this horse comes into himself and the flat track with a good straight helps his style of running.”
Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications