Ten fillies and mares, including a pair of starters who have recorded high-profile victories at Woodbine, will contest the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes (with an increased purse to $600,000), on Pattison Canadian International day, Saturday at Woodbine.
Holy Helena, an eight-time winner from 19 starts, counts the 2017 Queen’s Plate, two editions of Grade 3 The Very One, and the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay among her stakes triumphs.
A five-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper, the Stronach Stables’ homebred has had her past two engagements at Woodbine. She took the Grade 2 Dance Smartly on June 29, and was fourth in the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes on September 14.
The James Jerkens trainee will be ridden by Woodbine-based Rafael Hernandez in Saturday’s 1 ¼-mile turf event.
“I think the extra distance will suit her well,” said Hernandez. “Her works are awesome, as usual.”
Blue Heaven Farm’s Starship Jubilee, trained by locally based Kevin Attard, arrives at the E.P. Taylor off an outstanding repeat score in the Canadian.
Under Luis Contreras, the ultra-consistent six-year-old daughter of Indy Wind romped to a 4 ¼-length triumph in the Canadian, an ‘about’ 1 1/8-mile test over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
The win pushed Starship Jubilee’s record to 13-4-3 from 30 lifetime starts. In her past nine starts, the Florida-bred (William P. Sorren) has four wins, two seconds, a third, and two fourth-place finishes.
“She has been a wonderful mare,” said Attard, who also trains Pattison Canadian International contender Pumpkin Rumble. “She gives it her all each time you lead her over to the post. She’s not a big horse, but she has the heart of a lion. It’s been a real privilege to train her.”
A. A. Azula’s Arch gives Attard another shot at E.P. Taylor glory. A & A Farms’ four-year-old daughter of Arch has three wins and three seconds from 14 starts. The Kentucky-bred took last year’s running of the Grade 3 Maple Leaf Stakes, eking out a neck score at 16-1.
Trainer Graham Motion is represented by Secret Message, a four-year-old daughter of Hat Trick, and Si Que Es Buena, a six-year-old daughter of Equal Stripes.
The Kentucky-bred (Allen Tennenbaum) Secret Message sports five wins and two seconds from 13 lifetime starts.
She’s endured a pair of troubled trips in her past two starts, both at Saratoga, which yielded a fourth in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes on July 13, and an eighth in the Ballston Spa Stakes on August 24.
“I don’t think she had the ideal trip in the Diana,” said Motion. “I thought with maybe a little better trip she might have hit the board in what’s obviously one of the better Grade 1’s of the year. She wasn’t that far behind those horses.
“And last time, again, she didn’t get the best of trips. We know she likes it up there (Woodbine), she ran very well up there. I don’t think the distance is an issue. If anything, it might help her, I like to think.”
Prior to those performances, the dark bay reeled off consecutive trips to the winner’s circle, including a victory in the Grade 2 Nassau Stakes on May 26 at Woodbine.
“I feel like I’ve run her all over (different types of turf), and I think she’s been fairly consistent. I do think that day at Woodbine, there was a little give in the ground, and I think she kind of appreciated that. She certainly didn’t mind it.”
Si Que Es Buena has won her past two starts, including the Grade 3 La Prevoyante Stakes (at Gulfstream) on January 26.
The E.P. Taylor will be the Argentinian-bred’s first start since that score. She boasts a 7-3-1 record from 15 starts.
“We were getting quite excited about her in the spring,” offered Motion. “She was a little sore after that last race, and we decided to give her a break. I do like to have these mares around for the big races in the fall. It’s important to have them fresh for the fall for these nice races.
“She hasn’t done much wrong, really. Even when she ran in the (Grade 3) Long Island (fourth, last November at Aqueduct), it was a pretty respectable effort. She gets a little wound up, but she’s pretty straightforward, really.”
Motion understands it’s a tall task off an extended layoff, but believes the Haras Abolengo-bred bay will put in another strong showing on Saturday.
“This (E.P. Taylor) has very much been our plan with Si Que Es Buena. I shouldn’t jinx myself, but I can’t believe we’re kind of getting her there because when you say in the spring that you’re going to point her to the E.P. Taylor, it’s a pretty loft thing to say. But she’s kind of had an uninterrupted schedule to get back here, which is great.”
Durance, a three-year-old daughter of Champs Elysees, has four wins, a second and a third from eight efforts for trainer Peter Schiergen. She won the Group 3 Mehl Mülhens Trophy on July 6.
Juddmonte Farm’s homebred Gaining, a five-year-old daughter of American Post, brings a record of 3-2-3 from 16 starts into the E.P. Taylor. The Brad Cox trainee won a Group 3 race last November at Toulouse.
A three-year-old daughter of Dubawi, Imperial Charm, owned by Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum and trained by Simon Crisford, has a record of 1-1-5 in eight lifetime starts. Her lone victory came last November at Newmarket.
Platane, trained by Carlos Laffon-Parias and owned by Wertheimer & Frere, has two wins and a third from six career races. The daughter of Le Havre won back-to-back races earlier this season, one at Chantilly and the other at Longchamp.
“She won a Group 3 (at Longchamp, in April),” noted Laffon-Parias, who will also send out Ziyad, also owned by Wertheimer & Frere, in Saturday’s Canadian International. “She was maybe a little bit tired after that, but her last race, at Deauville, was not a bad race. She raced against some good horses there.”
In a race steeped in tradition, six-year-old Red Tea will look to bag her ninth career win. She sports a record of 8-4-8 from 35 starts for owner Capel Street Syndicate. The daughter of Sakhee won the Group 2 Kilboy Estate Stakes this July.
The E.P. Taylor serves as the final leg of Woodbine’s new Ladies of the Lawn Series, which offers $75,000 in bonuses to the top performers based on points accumulated in the designated graded turf routes for fillies and mares.
The series includes the Grade 2 $175,000 Nassau Stakes (won by Secret Message), the Grade 2 $175,000 Dance Smartly Stakes (won by Holy Helena) and the Grade 2 $250,000 Canadian Stakes (won by Starship Jubilee).
Currently, Starship Jubilee (24 points), Holy Helena (13) and Secret Message (10) occupy the first three spots in the standings.
By virtue of her lead – the winner of each designated race receives 10 points – Starship Jubilee’s connections are the recipients of the $50,000 first-place bonus.
Sheikha Reika, ridden by Andrea Atzeni, won last year’s edition of the E.P. Taylor in a time of 2:05.10.
The E.P. Taylor is slated as the eighth race, prior to the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International, on Saturday’s 12-race card. First post time is 1:05 p.m. Fans can also watch and wager on all the action via HPIbet.com.
$600,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes (Grade 1)
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Gaining (GB) – Jose Valdivia Jr. – Brad Cox
2 – Red Tea (GB) – Eurico Rosa Da Silva – Joseph O’Brien
3 – A. A. Azula’s Arch – Kazushi Kimura – Kevin Attard
4 – Si Que Es Buena (ARG) – Chris Landeros – Graham Motion
5 – Holy Helena – Rafael Hernandez – James Jerkens
6 – Durance (GER) – Lukas Delozier – Peter Schiergen
7 – Imperial Charm (GB) – Andrea Atzeni – Simon Crisford
8 – Starship Jubilee – Luis Contreras – Kevin Attard
9 – Platane (GB) – Maxime Guyon – Carlos Laffon-Parias
10 – Secret Message – Trevor McCarthy – Graham Motion