Joshua Tree rounding into form

Joshua Tree will look for success similar to 2010 at the Canadian International at Woodbine....

Joshua Tree will look for success similar to 2010 at the Canadian International at Woodbine. (Michael Burns/Photo)

RICHARD MAUNTAH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:42 PM ET

It’s almost as though we’ve seen Joshua Tree grow up in front of our eyes.

Named for the classic U2 album, he certainly made it a beautiful day for his backers when in his sixth career start, he captured the 2010 Canadian International.

Seven more starts, including an unimpressive run in the Japan Cup and a four-race stint in Qatar brought him back to Woodbine for last year’s run in less-than-stellar form. But he put in a great performance, rallying from 12th to finish second. Only a sensational rail trip from filly Sarah Lynx prevented him from repeating as champ.

So here comes the five-year-old version to Sunday’s $1.5 million race and while the Irish-bred son of Montjeu only has one win in the nine races since his last visit, a Group 2 event at Deauville, France in August, he has shown himself to be a top-class runner.

His most-impressive run came when he finished second in the two-mile Dubai Gold Cup, part of the Dubai World Cup undercard back in March, which he accomplished despite two mediocre performances earlier in the month in the desert.

“He takes a lot of work and he needs a couple of races to get him fit,” trainer Marco Botti said. “You could see every time he was running, he was coming back better. We finally got him right that night.”

He did manage a second-place finish at Newmarket prior to his win in France. But he really gave a good account of himself in his most recent start, where he finished third to Orfevre in the Prix Foy at Longchamp. Orfevre finished second to Solemia in last Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

“I thought he was in very good form,” Botti said, “He seems to be coming into his best recently.”

“He seems to enjoy racing. I haven’t trained many horses as tough as he is. Every time he comes back after a race, he’s full of life. He seems to be getting better and better.”

He is a 5-1 chance in the morning line behind 3-1 favourite Imperial Monarch, the promising Aidan O’Brien-trained three-year-old who comes into the race with three wins in his first four lifetime starts. Ironically enough, O’Brien trained the then-as-inexperienced Joshua Tree to that 2010 International triumph.

He also has to get by Reliable Man, who won the Prix du Jockey Club (the French Derby) in 2011.

But with the services of the legendary Frankie Dettori, who is no stranger to being full of life himself, a strong, improved, and happy Joshua Tree could make it a Sunday, bloody Sunday for the 10 horses who will line up in the starting gate to oppose him.

Prince Will I Am Looks To Make A Splash

Prince Will I Am will look to make headlines in Sunday’s Canadian International, but you may recall the headlines he made two years ago.

The son of Victory Gallop crossed the line second in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Marathon. But after that race, jockey Calvin Borel thought Prince Will I Am’s rider Javier Castellano had just crossed the line.

Castellano swung his mount wide around the turn, impeding with Borel’s mount, A U Miner, among others. As Castellano weighed out, words were exchanged between the two and before long, they were lunging at each other.

Had it not been for some quick work by those surrounding the combatants, they could have staged the greatest MMA fight in horse racing history.

Since that day, though, we haven’t heard much from this runner. He won a couple of graded stakes in Florida that winter but when spring came, he lost his edge. After a last-place finish in the 2011 Manhattan, he was given a rest ... for 15 months.

“We decided that he’s such a good horse, and he always tries, that there was something compelling,” trainer Michelle Nihei said. “So we thought we’d pull the plug for a while and let him come back on his own.”

Nihei brought him back to the races in the Bernard Baruch at Saratoga last month but the 1 1/16-mile distance was too short for him and he ended sixth, though Nihei was pleased with his run in what was a fast race.

A winner of five of 17 lifetime starts, Prince Will I Am may be pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Turf or Marathon should he show an improved performance on Sunday. Ramon Dominguez will have the riding duties.


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