TORONTO, October 11 – A star-studded field of nine fillies and mares will contest the $500,000 E.P. Taylor (Grade 1) Stakes, just prior to Sunday’s featured Pattison Canadian International at Woodbine Racetrack.
The richest mare in the field with almost $780,000 banked in purses, five-year-old Blond Me is a two-time Group 2 winner campaigned by trainer Andrew Balding and owner Barbara M. Keller.
The Tamayuz daughter’s latest Group 2 success in the Betfred Middleton Stakes over 1-5/16 miles at York, Great Britian and a second behind the talented Winter in Goodwood’s Group 1 Nassau Stakes over 1-1/4 miles are her top performances this year. A subsequent start, which came in the Group 1 Qatar Prix Vermeille at Chantilly, France is best ignored according to handler Leanne Masterton, who said, “She was hampered badly, and he [jockey Oisin Murphy] pulled her up.”
Following a 2015 victory in the Taylor aboard Curvy, jockey Ryan Moore will sport the colours of Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith once again in the 71st renewal of the race as three-year-old filly Rain Goddess looks to up her game.
A two-time Group 1 runner-up earlier in the season, the Galileo miss was a half-length winner in the Group 3 Snow Fair Stakes at Curragh, Ireland at the end of August and finished third in her next assignment there, the Group 2 Moyglare Jewels Blandford Stakes on September 10.
Rain Goddess is trained by Aidan O’Brien, who also campaigns Idaho, the Pattison Canadian International morning line favourite, for the same connections.
Returning Taylor contender Nezwaah, who was seventh but just two lengths off the 2016 winner, beat Rain Goddess for her first Group 1 stakes win in the Pretty Polly over 1-1/4 miles on the turf at Ireland’s Curragh two starts ago with regular jockey Andrea Atzeni aboard. A winner in half of her 10 career starts, the four-year-old filly by Dubawi is trained by Roger Varien and owned by Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum.
Graham Motion trains two Pattison Canadian International contenders (Erupt, Messi) and will have a shot at the E.P. Taylor too with the highly-regarded four-year-old filly Quidura. Since winning her North American debut last September, Gestut Faehrhof’s homebred daughter of Dubawi and Group 1 stakes winner Quetena has finished no worse than third facing graded stakes company in five subsequent starts.
“They had very high expectations of her in Germany when came to me; they thought very highly of her,” said Motion. “Her being a Dubawi, she’s beautifully bred. The Dubawis are phenomenal. She hasn’t done a whole lot wrong since she’s been with me really.”
This summer, Quidura earned the Taylor field’s best 102 Beyer’s Speed Figure in the Diana (Grade 1) Stakes at Saratoga after being caught at the wire by Lady Eli then won the Canadian (Grade 2) Stakes last time out on September 16 at Woodbine. Both events were contested over 1-1/8 miles on the turf.
Junior Alvarado, who has been aboard for five or her six starts in North America including her three wins, will retain the mount in the Taylor.
Fourstar Crook will attempt to steal the glory in her Canadian debut for trainer Chad Brown and owners Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables LLC and Gary Aisquith. The five-year-old Freud mare boasts the most wins (nine of her last 10 starts) among the Taylor contenders. Among her victories are four New York-bred stakes, including a last-out score in the John Hettiner at Belmont Park on September 24, plus she’s won the Grade 3 Dr. James Penny Memorial at Parx Racing.
“She’s a very consistent horse,” said Brown. “She’s very good, and I think the mile and a quarter will suit her just fine.”
Javier Castellano retains the mount on Fourstar Crook.
Brown also brings Lael Stable’s Rainha Da Bateria back for another shot at the Taylor after her 1-1/4 length loss as the fifth-place finisher last year. The daughter of Broken Vow has since won (in a dead-heat) over the same distance and course in Woodbine’s Dance Smartly (Grade 2) Stakes then closed gamely from last to fourth in the Beverly D (Grade 1) Stakes at Arlington Park in her last outing on August 12.
"She always runs really well there at Woodbine; that’s one reason why we’re coming,” said Brown of the five-year-old mare, who also won last year’s Canadian (Grade 2) Stakes at Woodbine and will be reunited with jockey Julien Leparoux.
Trainer Michael Maker and owners Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey will be seeking a repeat victory in the afternoon’s 1-1/4 mile supporting turf feature. Kitten’s Roar will be looking to follow in the hoofprints of stablemate Al’s Gal, who won the 2016 edition of the E.P. Taylor Stakes for the same connections.
Kitten’s Roar enters the Taylor off a fitting victory in the $330,000 Ramsey Farm Stakes over 1-5/16 miles on the turf at Kentucky Downs. The five-year-old Kitten’s Joy mare will be paired with Jose Ortiz, who was aboard for her latest September 14 win.
“She’s been a great filly,” said Maker. “She’s been on a steady upward swing. We’ve been looking at this race since the summer.”
Maker will also send out a pair of Pattison Canadian International hopefuls on Sunday, including the Ramseys’ Kitten’s Joy ridgling Oscar Nominated.
Sassy Little Lila will be looking to break through for her first stakes win following runner-up efforts in three graded events for trainer Brad Cox and owners Sheep Pond Partners and Michael Ryan. This summer, she ended up fifth behind World Approval while competing with the boys in the one-mile Fourstardave (Grade 1) Handicap at Saratoga before that gelding went on to win the Ricoh Woodbine Mile here. Sassy Little Lila enters the Taylor off her latest second-place finish in the Noble Damsel (Grade 3) Stakes at Belmont last month. Jockey Florent Geroux will be seeking his second straight victory in the Taylor as he picks up the mount on the four-year-old Artie Schiller filly.
Fresh off a stakes victory in the one-mile Steve Pini Memorial at Suffolk Downs last month, Puca completes the Taylor line-up for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and Donegal Racing. Jockey Joel Rosario, who won the 2013 Taylor aboard Tannery, is listed to ride the five-year-old Big Brown mare.
Here is the complete field for the E.P. Taylor Stakes, scheduled as race nine (approximate post time 5:28 p.m. ET) on Sunday’s stakes-filled card:
$500,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes (Grade 1)
Post – Horse – Trainer – Jockey
1. Kitten’s Roar – Michael Maker – Jose Ortiz
2. Fourstar Crook – Chad Brown – Javier Castellano
3. Quidura – H. Graham Motion – Junior Alvarado
4. Rainha Da Bateria – Chad Brown – Julien Leparoux
5. Sassy Little Lila – Brad Cox – Florent Geroux
6. Nezwaah – Roger Varian – Andrea Atzeni
7. Rain Goddess – Aidan O’Brien – Ryan Moore
8. Blond Me – Andrew Balding – Oisin Murphy
9. Puca – William Mott – Joel Rosario