2018 E. P. Taylor Stakes Preview

In addition to the Canadian International, Saturday's card at Woodbine features another Grade 1 event: the E. P. Taylor Stakes, a $500,000 event for filly and mare turf routers ages three and above.

The race was first run in 1956 as the Nettie Handicap, but was renamed in 1981 after Edward Plunket Taylor.  He started in the brewery business, with a brewery he inherited from his grandfather.  After World War II he diversified his holdings into fields such as food, forestry, broadcasting, and advertising through a holding company he formed, Argus Corporation.  When not wearing his business magnate hat, he participated in horse racing.  In the 1930s he began racing thoroughbreds; he and his wife Winifred began breeding them in the 1950s.  The Taylors' breeding operation, Windfields Farm, is best known for breeding pivotal sire Northern Dancer.  In addition to this race, the turf course at Woodbine is also named after E. P. Taylor.  Taylor himself won this race twice in the days before it was named after him: with Victoria Regina (1961) and Northern Queen (1965).

Al's Gal strolls into the paddock at Woodbine before her victory in the 2016 E. P. Taylor Stakes. (Photo: Nicolle Neulist)

Al's Gal strolls into the paddock at Woodbine before her victory in the 2016 E. P. Taylor Stakes, as assistant trainer Nolan Ramsey looks on. (Photo: Nicolle Neulist)

Like the Canadian International, there are several connections between this race and Chicago.  An Illinois-bred won the E. P. Taylor in 1991: Lady Shirl, an Irish Acres Farm homebred trained by Noel Hickey.  Lady Shirl would go on to a career in the broodmare barn that was as distinguished as her time on the racetrack.  Her best progeny included 2007 Woodbine Mile (G1) winner Shakespeare (Theatrical) and 2011 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) winner Perfect Shirl (Perfect Soul).  Hatoof, the 1994 Beverly D Stakes winner and Arlington Park stakes namesake, won the E. P. Taylor in 1992.  More recently,Just the Judge followed a third-place finish behind Euro Charline in the 2014 Beverly D (G1) at Arlington with a score in the E. P. Taylor, and 2016 winner Al's Gal broke through at the top level in this race after second-place finishes in the Modesty Handicap (G3) and the Beverly D.

Selections are made for turf only.

Race 10: E. P. Taylor Stakes (G1), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and one quarter miles on the turf, post time 6:18pm EDT

This race looks ripe for a price.  Three of the nine in the field hail from the shedrow of formidable turf trainer Chad Brown, but all three like to have a little something to run at -- something they will not get here -- and POLLARA has never tried older horses yet.

The lack of pace in the race inspires confidence in the one most likely to hold the cards in a game of catch-me-if-you-can: SHEIKHA REIKA.  Though she tracked the pace going a mile and a quarter last out -- she prompted early leader and short-priced favourite Chain of Daisies, then let her go, then put her away with utmost confidence -- looking back at her earlier form shows an ability to go to the front if no one else does.  SHEIKHA REIKA should be able to outjump the only horse inside her, SKY FULL OF STARS, and get a comfortable frontrunning spot inside.  Though she is just three years old, her last three starts have come against older, including that romp last-up in a listed race.  That was her first try at a mile and a quarter, and this lightly-raced filly has the ability and upside to move forward off of that.  The condition of the turf should also be okay, no matter what.  That most recent win came over good going, a strong possibility if the forecast as of Thursday holds, but she has been able to hold her own even over ground with more cut in it, should more rain fall.  Even the rider appeals: not only is it a plus that Andrea Atzeni ships across the ocean to ride her, but Atzeni has ridden at Woodbine before, and finished third in the 2013 Canadian International.  All in all, it's the right day to take a shot with SHEIKHA REIKA.

STARSHIP JUBILEE and jockey Luis Contreras united for the 11/1 surprise in the Canadian Stakes, kicking smartly down the lane to mow down the Chad Brown brigade.  (To be fair, it was a different one: New Money Honey and Inflexibility that day, as opposed to SANTA MONICA, ELYSEA'S WORLD, and POLLARA in this race.)  However, STARSHIP JUBILEE is not always as far off the pace as she was in that race -- in fact, she's not typically that far off the pace.  Her more typical style has her stalking just off the pace, sitting a length or two off.  If she runs her more typical style, that puts her (and perhaps SKY FULL OF STARS) sitting closest to SHEIKHA REIKA on the lead.  With a pair of wins leading into the E. P. Taylor, it is safe to say she is in form, and she is the kind of horse who tends to hold her form for a while.  Though this may prove a class test for STARSHIP JUBILEE?  The same could be said of the field she faced last out in the Canadian, and she passed that test.  She also has a right to stretch out to a mile and a quarter; she won the Dance Smartly (G2) over the same course and distance last year.  A return to any of STARSHIP JUBILEE's best few races makes her a win candidate, particularly if she can reprise her stalking style.

To be fair, this is a Grade 1 race over grass in North America, which makes it difficult not to talk about Chad Brown.  All three are late-running types, making them hard to love at a short price.  But, one of them has some appeal anyway, mainly based on her ability to sit a little closer than her stablemates and run on when the pace dawdles: SANTA MONICA.  SANTA MONICA has already answered the question of whether she likes a mile and a quarter on the sweeping Woodbine turf course, as she won the Dance Smartly (G2) earlier this summer.  She may not get all the way there -- after all, Lady Montdore stole the Glens Falls (G2), with SANTA MONICA chasing second much of the way.  That could end up unfolding similarly this time.  But, with her consistency and her win over the course, SANTA MONICA would be no surprise to see in the picture.

Selections:

#4 SHEIKHA REIKA (12/1)

#7 STARSHIP JUBILEE (8/1)

#2 SANTA MONICA (2/1)

Longshot: #6 SUMMER LUCK (20/1) has been all over the place in her career.  She started on the Oaks trail, tried the grass in the middle of her three-year-old year and into the beginning of this year, switched to dirt again for this summer's campaign, and returns to the grass for fall.  SUMMER LUCK's return to turf was a good one, a comfortable length and a half victory at Kentucky Downs.  This race is a clear step forward from the two-other-than bunch she beat last out, but at a massive price, SUMMER LUCK has several points in her favour.  She should be sharper second off a freshening.  Though she loses jockey Jose Ortiz (who rides morning line favourite Santa Monica for trainer Chad Brown) from that first-up victory, the move to Eurico Rosa Da Silva should be just fine.  Da Silva has been strong with the Casse barn recently, and knows Woodbine well.  SUMMER LUCK has tactical versatility, and if she brings her best, she can hold her own against these foes.  Based on her record, SUMMER LUCK can find her best in this distance category.  All in all, she has a lot more going for her than your average boxcar longshot.

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Filed under: horse racing, Woodbine

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