Barry Irwin knows exactly what he has in Keyflower (FR).
The founder and CEO of Team Valor, one of thoroughbred racing’s most successful and respected operations, has no shortage of high praise for the three-year-old filly he co-owns with Gary Barber, the one who will be making her North American racing debut in this Sunday’s Grade 1 $600,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine.
“She is all heart,” said Irwin, of Keyflower, a daughter of Kheleyf-Heather Flower (IRE) who brings a record of 2-2-2 from eight starts into the 1 ¼-mile E.P. Taylor.
The man who has worn many hats throughout his distinguished racing career, a list that includes writer, bloodstock agent, breeder and owner, is hopeful his sophomore can duplicate the effort that landed her in the winner’s circle in her most recent start.
On September 4 at Bordeaux, Keyflower notched a three-quarter length win at 7-1 over firm ground in the 1 3/16-mile Prix Occitanie.
(To watch the Prix Occitanie replay, click on the link: https://www.thoroughbreddailynews.com/race-replays/2/5103/)
It was a well-earned and hard-fought victory, one that earned kudos from Irwin.
“Her moxie [stands out]. She is a fighter. Last time out when she won the black-type race in France she was forced to bull her way between horses, and she relished the task.”
Keyflower launched her career on December 18, 2020, recording a one-length win in her debut at Lyon La Soie.
Second in her next start, the dark bay rebounded from a ninth-place finish and a sixth-place result on April 11 and 26, respectively, with a third at Saint-Cloud in June.
In her past three starts, Keyflower is 1-1-1, including a runner-up result at Vichy on July 22.
Trained by Mauricio Delcher Sanchez, and bred by Haras De Magouet, Keyflower will look to keep her strong form intact as she tackles the world-renowned E.P. Taylor turf for the first time.
“The longer the stretch the better, so it should suit her well,” said Irwin, a founding director with the equine-related charity Race for Education, which raises money to provide college scholarships to the offspring of backstretch and farm workers.
For the man who gave up fiction writing in 1969 and left his native California to pursue a career in non-fiction as a staff writer for The Blood-Horse in Kentucky, he’s hoping to add another chapter to his Woodbine success stories, which includes a 2006 Pattison Canadian International victory with Becrux, a horse he also owned with Barber.
One of thoroughbred racing’s bona fide good guys – he’s established numerous industry-related awards and scholarships – has a good chance to accomplish that goal with a tough-as-nails filly.
A win in the E.P. Taylor would be one more reason for Irwin, owner and breeder of the 2011 Kentucky Derby and 2013 Dubai World Cup winner, Animal Kingdom, to enjoy the Woodbine experience, on and off the racetrack.
“Besides the buffet for owners upstairs, I have always enjoyed racing at Woodbine because of its European-style course and general overall attitude. We have won some of the big races and they have always meant a lot to us.”
Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications