TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA -- All week, the weather reports threatened rain. All morning, the skies were grey. Intermittent rain fell, and puddles dotted the grounds at Woodbine.
Through the afternoon, the storms continued to avoid Woodbine Racecourse. Lovers of firm turf, shippers who came to North America for better ground, got exactly what they wanted.
One of those horses who has relished better ground, ERUPT, took home the most prestigious prize of the day.
Canadian International (GI): ERUPT finds his racing luck once again
Like so many of his foes in today's Pattison Canadian International, ERUPT was a Group I winner before loading into the gate today. However, his sole victory at the top level came in July 2015, in the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris (GI - FR)). He had not won in seven starts since, though he had shown class. ERUPT came second behind the classy Silverwave in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (GI - FR), and last year he was a creditable fifth behind Golden Horn in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (GI - FR). He has always shown talent, but
Today the public figured that ERUPT would once again fall short against top-class company, sending him off at 12/1. IDAHO took the lion's share of the money throughout, sitting at 3/5 in early stages of the betting before drifting up to 7/5 by post time. DARTMOUTH, trained by recent Canadian International ruler Sir Michael Stoute and owned by actual British ruler Her Majesty the Queen, also took solid interest at 7/2.
The gates opened. Heavily favoured IDAHO, a bit fractious in the gate, appeared to stumble and came slowly into stride. Just as in the local prep last month, WORLD APPROVAL sent to the front early and walked the field through slow early fractions: 26.66 for the quarter, 52.79 for the half, and 1:44.21 for the mile. THE PIZZA MAN and DARTMOUTH tracked directly behind the grey pacesetter, with ERUPT and WAKE FOREST in the next flight.
Down the backstretch, DANISH DYNAFORMER commenced an early run up the hedge, improving his position all the way to fourth before the rest of the field started to quicken. Into the far turn, DARTMOUTH mounted a challenge to pacesetter WORLD APPROVAL, inching ever closer approaching the head of the stretch. DARTMOUTH edged forward, and WAKE FOREST improved position on the outside.
But, once the field turned for home, it was ERUPT who unleashed a powerful turn of foot. DARTMOUTH tried to chase, but ERUPT had escaped. He crossed the wire a length clear of DARTMOUTH, with WAKE FOREST another half-length back in third. THE PIZZA MAN finished a stubborn fourth, another half-length back. IDAHO, DANISH DYNAFORMER, TAGHLEEB, WORLD APPROVAL, and PROTECTIONIST completed the order of finish. Though ERUPT won with authority, the winning margins were a testament to the race's quality: just four lengths separated first place from ninth and last.
ERUPT is a four-year-old Irish-bred colt by Dubawi out of the British-bred Caerleon mare Mare Nostrum. A Niarchos Family homebred, he runs in the silks of their Flaxman Holdings, Ltd. ERUPT is trained by Francis-Henri Graffard, and jockey Stephane Pasquier had the call. The victory was ERUPT's fifth in twelve career starts, and his third in graded or group company. The $600,000 (CAN) winner's share of the $1,002,400 (CAN) purse brought ERUPT's career earnings up to $1,257,485 (US).
Rider Stephane Pasquier noted after the race, "I was right behind the leader and when I asked him, he gave a very good turn of foot. I didn't have to ask him so much. I was a bit worried about my draw number outside, but voilà! When you have luck, it is easy to win." Pasquier, who has ridden ERUPT for all twelve of his career starts, further reflected, "We won a Group I in France at three years old, but it was a difficult start to this year. Today he came back very easily and I'm very happy to have found my horse again."
Electra Niarchos further expounded on ERUPT's racing fortunes. "Like all horses, you have bad luck, and you have good luck. We were unlucky this year, and now he's proven today that he's back in himself."
As for future plans, Niarchos stated that they have not selected a next race for ERUPT, and are considering many options once they see how he comes out of the race. She did not rule out the Breeders' Cup Turf (GI), nor did she rule out a return to the Japan Cup (GI - JPN), a race in which ERUPT finished sixth beaten two lengths by Shonan Pandora last year.
ERUPT stopped the timer in 2:30.87 for a mile and a half over firm turf, and paid his backers $26.30. The $1 exacta with DARTMOUTH second (8-5) paid $38.80. A trifecta with WAKE FOREST third (8-5-6) returned $59.37 for each $0.20 base bet. The $0.20 superfecta with THE PIZZA MAN in the lowest rung (8-5-6-4) came back with $59.37.
E. P. Taylor Stakes (GI): AL'S GAL does her Beverly D finish one better
In February of last year, trainer Mike Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey picked up AL'S GAL from a conditioned $35,000 claimer in which she finished third. Well in line Mike Maker's record of improving horses off the claim, she moved forward into allowance company last year, and hit the board in a Pennsylvania-bred stakes race. This year, she has blossomed in longer turf routes. She showed that in her two trips to Arlington this summer, finishing second in both the Modesty (GIII) and the Beverly D (GI).
Less than two years after being claimed by her current connections, AL'S GAL has become a Grade I winner.
AL'S GAL was live on the board, going off at 6/1 off her 10/1 morning line. However, as expected, it was BEST IN THE WORLD who went off most fancied by the bettors. A full sister to Found and herself a Group III winner two starts back, the Aidan O'Brien/Ryan Moore production went off at 3/1. RAINHA DA BATERIA and SWISS RANGE both went off 5/1; AL'S GAL was the public's fourth choice.
PARVANEH set early fractions of 26.05 for the quarter and 49.83 for the half, with token pressure from AL'S GAL on her outside. TUTTIPAESI tracked keenly in third, even farther outside, with BEST IN THE WORLD and SUFFUSED in the next flight.
Coming into the far turn, BEST IN THE WORLD and SUFFUSED edged closer, with BANZARI kicking on from farther back. PARVANEH kept the lead, ticking off a mile in 1:37.93, but the field was closing in.
AL'S GAL had that tactical spot, and she got her neck in front of PARVANEH in shallow stretch. SUFFUSED found room to make a menacing run between AL'S GAL and the rallying BANZARI. AL'S GAL and SUFFUSED bobbed heads in the last several strides, with AL'S GAL landing on the wire a nose in front of SUFFUSED. BANZARI's outside run was good enough for third, half a length back. GUAPAZA, who made a belated rally down the centre of the track, finished fourth, a head behind BANZARI. RAINHA DA BATERIA, SWISS RANGE, NEZWAAH, PARVANEH, TUTTIPAESI, STRUT THE COURSE, AIM TO PLEASE, and BEST IN THE WORLD completed the order of finish. UCHENNA was a stewards' scratch.
AL'S GAL is a five-year-old bay mare by English Channel out of the Chilean-bred Dans La Ville (Winning). She was bred in Pennsylvania by Malone Racing LLC. She is owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, trained by Mike Maker, and was ridden to victory by Florent Geroux. The victory was AL'S GAL's eighth win in 26 career starts. She had two stakes wins before today, in the 2016 Keertana S. at Churchill Downs and the 2016 Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon; Geroux rode for both of those victories as well. The E. P. Taylor was her first graded stakes win. The $300,000 (CAN) victor's share of the $501,600 (CAN) purse takes AL'S GAL's career earnings up to $749,775 (US).
Jockey Florent Geroux acknowledged the excellent trip he got with his mare. "There was no traffic for me today,” said Geroux. “When we broke from the gate I was right there, second position all the way and when I asked her turning from home she just gave me a nice turn of foot and was very brave."
AL'S GAL has been cataloged as hip 103 at the Fasig-Tipton November sale. Consigned by Taylor Made Farm, she will sell as a racing or broodmare prospect.
AL'S GAL stopped the clock in 2:01.60 for a mile and a quarter over firm turf, and paid $14.30 to win. The $1 exacta with SUFFUSED in second returned $39.10. The trifecta with BANZARI in third (7-4-6) paid $180.40 for each $0.20 base bet. The $0.20 superfecta with GUAPAZA in the lowest rung returned $877.06.
CALGARY CAT, SOUTHERN RING capture undercard stakes
Earlier in the day, 2014 Canadian champion sprinter CALGARY CAT ($33.90) proved in the $307,800 (CAN) Nearctic Stakes (GII) that his best days were not behind him after all. The six-year-old gelded son of Cowtown Cat was dismissed at 15/1 by the public, who instead threw their backing behind 9/5 CONQUEST ENFORCER and 2/1 FULL MAST.
Longshot EXPECTED RULER shot out to the lead early, and clicked off an opening quarter in 22.39. STACKED DECK was inching up on the outside, and had drawn to lead by half a length when he hit the half in 45.20. CONQUEST ENFORCER, up from his tracking spot, engaged STACKED DECK into the final furlong. They duelled, but another threat ranged in. CALGARY CAT, bringing up the rear early, made up ground on the far outside. STACKED DECK fought gamely, but CALGARY CAT swept up to win by a head over STACKED DECK. CONQUEST ENFORCER, in between, was another head back in third. FULL MAST, SPRINGHOUSE, DIVINE, PASSION FOR ACTION, and EXPECTED RULER completed the order of finish.
The stakes portion of the day began in the $173,700 (CAN) Ontario Fashion Stakes, a six-furlong filly and mare sprint over Tapeta. In the Ontario Fashion, four-year-old Speightstown filly SOUTHERN RING ($7.00) denied 2/1 favourite CACTUS KRIS a repeat in the race.
SOUTHERN RING tracked in third early behind a contested pace set by GREEN DOCTOR and pressed by VEAISHA, and looked loaded turning for home. Looks did not deceive. She cruised past that pair in shallow stretch, opened up daylight, and held off the late run from CACTUS KRIS to win by three quarters of a length. RIVER MAID, who CACTUS KRIS outfinished late, was another half-length back in third. VEAISHA, SHE'S EXPLOSIVE, and GREEN DOCTOR completed the order of finish.