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Ellis Starr (@Ubercapper) handicaps Woodbine’s Saturday graded stakes

October 6, 2022

Race 7 – Nearctic Stakes – Grade 2 – Post Time 4:32 

Top contenders with minimum odds for considering win bets: 

#8 Bound for Nowhere – 6 to 5 

#1 Noble Emotion – 2 to 1 

#9 Cazadero – 5 to 1 

How I would wager $20: 

$7 exactas: 8 over 1 and 8 over 9 

$1 exacta box: 1, 8, 9 

Considering Bound for Nowhere will likely be heavily favoured, this two “exacta key” wagers can result in a bigger return than wagering $14 to win. 

Trainer Wesley Ward shipped Bound for Nowhere to Woodbine from his home base in Kentucky in July to run in the Highlander Stakes, which the 8-year-old won in spite of being blocked and wide on the far turn. Not only was that a Grade 2 stakes race on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course just like the Nearctic, it allowed the trainer to see if the horse liked the course in his first try over it, and evidently he did. Now with nine wins in 19 career races, seven on the grass, and earnings of $1.1 million, this lightly raced horse continues to fire every time. With 107 and 109 Equibase Speed Figures in his two most recent races, both off layoffs like the one he’s coming off today, Bound for Nowhere appears likely to repeat his Highlander effort and win the Nearctic. 

However, there’s never a sure thing in racing and with that in mind both Noble Emotion and Cazadero can be considered for wagers, particularly as they will offer decent returns for win bets as neither is a stakes winner on grass. Noble Emotion earned a 108 Equibase Speed Figure winning at Saratoga at the end of August when last seen, that being about as fast as Bound for Nowhere has run in his last two starts, and that effort wasn’t a fluke as the horse earned a 109 figure winning a similar turf sprint one year earlier at Saratoga. He’s making his fourth start off a layoff and could improve further. Cazadero was returning from seven months off in the same race and broke slowly to be away last of eight, but closed very fast to finish third with a 104 figure he can improve upon second off the layoff. The fact that top jockey Patrick Husbands signs on to ride is notable. 


Race 8 – Durham Cup Stakes – Grade 3 – Post Time 5:05 

Top contenders with minimum odds for considering win bets: 

#7 Hombre – 2 to 1 

#3 War Bomber – 5 to 2 

#5 Artie’s Storm – 5 to 2 

How I’d wager $20: 

$8 to win on #7 Hombre 

$2 exacta box: 3, 5, 7 

Hombre has won four of 10 career races, all on turf, including at Woodbine on September 9. He has every right to transfer that top form to the main track today and win the Durham Cup because he’s been working sensationally over the surface. He was transferred to the barn of Roger Attfield prior to that last race and it was a career-best effort with a 106 Equibase Speed Figure under Declan Carroll, who rides again. Attfield has a fantastic record of 5 for 19 (better than 25%) over the past year moving horses from turf to the all-weather surface and he keeps his horses in top form, having won with seven of 20 horses back-to-back over the same period. 

War Bomber and Artie’s Storm finished first and second, respectively, in the nearly identical Seagram Cup Stakes in August, separated by less than a length. They earned 109 and 108 Equibase Speed Figures which are more than good enough to win this race if Hombre doesn’t improve a bit. War Bomber tried turf and much tougher in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile since then and that race can be ignored so the race most representative of what he can do today is the Seagram Cup, with Sahin Civaci in the saddle today as for that win. Artie’s Storm won the Eclipse Stakes in May at this distance on the main track, then finished second in the Dominion Day Stakes in July. Similar to War Bomber, he tried tougher and turf in the Connaught Cup Stakes and that’s an irrelevant effort, particularly as he rebounded to excellent form in the Seagram Cup.  


Race 9 – E. Pl Taylor Stakes – Grade 1 – Post Time 5:39 

Top contenders with minimum odds for considering win bets: 

#4 Rougir/#7 Lemista – 3 to 1 (uncoupled entry – see below for details) 

#8 Mylady – 3 to 1 

How I’d wager $20: 

$10 to win on #4 Rougir and #7 Lemista

Optional additional wager 

$1 exacta: 4, 7, 8 over 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 

At the $1 level this bet has a cost of $15. 

#2 is Adventuring, #3 is Moira and #9 is Fev Rover 

This year’s edition of the E. P. Taylor Stakes lives up to its billing one of the best races of the season at Woodbine.

Although not one of the top win contenders, we have to mention Moira, who beat males handily in the Queen’s Plate at the distance on the main track. She faces older horses and runs on turf for the first time but is bred to run as well on grass as she has on the main track and there is no question she can get the 10 furlong distance. Still, she’s less experienced than many others here and her career-best 103 Equibase Speed Figure earned in the Queen’s Plate, which logically can be improved upon, is well behind a few others in this field Adventuring just won the Ladie’s Marathon Stakes at Kentucky Downs at a similar distance and she has earned 101 and 103 figures in her last two, so gets about the same comment as Moira in terms of being a cut below the top contenders. Fev Rover won the Canadian Stakes on the course at nine furlongs in August in only her second start off an eight month layoff and second since importing to North America but she has never run 10 furlongs since importing and her 105 and 107 figure efforts, though strong, may not be good enough to win.

North American leading trainer Chad Brown ships both Rougir and Lemista from his home base in New York and they form an uncoupled entry which I feel has a strong chance to win, and to be in the money as well. Rougir won the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera Longines Stakes at this 10-furlong trip one year ago this week then imported to the States and to the Brown barn, making her U.S. debut in May winning the Beaugay Stakes. She hasn’t come close to winning since but is back at the 10-furlong trip and getting Lasix for the first time. With top jockey Kazushi Kimura riding I think Rougir can return to her form from one year ago, with a very strong 121 Equibase Speed Figure the best of any horse in this field and win the E. P. Taylor Stakes.

That being said, Brown’s other runner, Lemista can’t be disregarded, particularly as she gets Luis Contreras. Brown and Contreras have teamed up just five times in the past couple of years but have won twice, and it must be noted Brown won the 2020 E.P. Taylor with Etoile (which also applies to Rougir) so when he enters a horse in this race we must take note. Lemista also gets Lasix, but she’s raced with it before, when winning the Matchmaker Stakes one before last in July. She only managed a fourth-place finish in the Ballston Spa Stakes after that, but the mile and one-sixteenth distance may have been too short as both her big wins in Ireland in 2020 came at nine furlongs. The Matchmaker effort yielded a 110 figure and if she can run back to that race, Lemista has as much of a chance to succeed as her stablemate Rougir.

Mylady imports from Germany off a huge effort when third of thirteen in the Group 1 German Oaks, beaten just three-quarters of a length for the win. That effort came at a mile and three-eighths, so the cut back to 10 furlongs will serve her well. Top jockey Andrasch Starke comes over from Europe to ride and has a win and a runner-up finish in three tries so knows how to get her to run her best. In her last two starts versus fillies she has neared strong 110 Equibase Speed Figures on par with those Lemista and Rougir have earned in North America and so Mylady has to be considered to round out a trio of top fillies and mares in this field.

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