TORONTO, October 7 – THERE have been a number of high-profile horses to make their way over to Woodbine, but none had more of a love affair with the place than Joshua Tree.
Making history in the process, Joshua Tree wormed his way into racegoers hearts, capping it all off with a memorable display in the 2013 renewal of the Pattison Canadian International.
But let us go back to where it all began.
A 360,000gns purchase at Tattersalls back in October of 2008, this son of the late Montjeu was set to run in the famous Coolmore silks of Derrick Smith, Mrs John Magnier and Michael Tabor. He quickly began to pay back some of his hefty price tag with a game win on debut at Gowran on his two-year-old debut for Aidan O’Brien.
It was clear to see from that first performance that this youngster knew how to win. After suffering defeat in a nursery on his second start, Joshua Tree then ran out an authoritative winner of the Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot.
However, he was not seen for nearly a year before finishing a respectable third in the Great Voltigeur Stakes on his reappearance. The three-year-old was now touted as a dangerous contender in the St Leger at Doncaster, but he failed to make an impact and could only manage a running-on fifth.
But that was where Joshua Tree’s Woodbine chapter started.
Another British raider – Redwood – went off the punters’ favourite for the Canadian International. However, 2010 would become the first of Joshua Tree’s three Canadian International wins as a change of tactics proved key.
He would make just two more starts for Aidan O’Brien before being sold to Qatar. This chapter of his career didn’t last long as by July 2011, Joshua Tree had been returned to Britain with Marco Botti.
Botti at once sent him on a globe-trotting mission, heading to Germany before making a return trip back to Woodbine for the 2011 Canadian International.
Oh what might have been! Joshua Tree had the beating of the boys that year but it was the filly Sarah Lynx who ran out an impressive winner of the race. Maybe the result would have been different if our hero had not missed the break? It was still an admirable effort under jockey Adam Kirby as he came home a clear second.
Meydan, France, Italy, Britain then all came and went without victory.
His next triumph came at Deauville in the Prix Kergorlay where he beat a whole host of possible Melbourne Cup hopefuls which included 2010 winner Americain.
A third to champion Japanese performer Orfevre followed before another trip back across the pond. This time Joshua Tree arrived at Woodbine with the services of Frankie Dettori as pilot. It would be a famous win for both horse and jockey, with Dettori deservedly coming in for high praise of his ride on as he sent him to the front from the gates and the pair never let another rival pass them. Joshua Treeheld on narrowly in another tight finish for his second Woodbine success.
There would be just one more start for trainer Marco Botti, as after finishing midfield in the Longines Hong Kong Vase, Ed Dunlop was installed as his new handler. This last chapter in his career may only have yielded one win for Dunlop, but it was the most important. In 2013 Joshua Tree was put on the plane to head back to Woodbine. Settling behind the leaders under Ryan Moore the gap opened perfectly up the rail and Joshua Tree was more than willing to open up a lead on the field up the home straight.
Hyper, Seismos and Now We Can led the chasing pack but they would not deny Joshua Tree his historic third success in the race. In fact, his third success was his ‘easiest’, winning by three quarters of a length compared to his previous two victories of half a length and a head. That would be his last win, and despite running some solid races, he never regained the winning thread.
After disappointing efforts at Epsom and Ascot, connections made the decision to retire the three-time Canadian International winner to stud.
Standing at Haras du Grand Courgeon in France for just 3000 Euros, his first yearlings are due this year. It might not be long before more little Joshua Tree’s are making their way over to Woodbine to follow in their hero father’s hoofprints.
Steeped in tradition, Woodbine’s world-famous turf races have been captured by some of the greats of the sport including recent Woodbine Mile champs Tepin and Wise Dan; the Hall of Fame mare All Along who captured the International in a standout campaign; and the incomparable Secretariat, who concluded his historic career with a runaway score in the 1973 edition of the International. Join us as we profile Titans of the Turf, highlighting those who have triumphed on the Woodbine green.