February 28, 2024

Moira tries turf in E. P. Taylor, Bound for Nowhere returns to Woodbine for Nearctic

Moira and Rafael Hernandez winning the Queen’s Plate (Photo by Michael Burns Photo)

Turf stars head to Woodbine this Saturday for a pair of lucrative graded stakes with possible Breeders’ Cup implications.

The feature event on an action-packed afternoon is the $750,000 E. P. Taylor S. (G1) for fillies and mares racing 1 1/4 miles, a perfect steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). The nine-horse field features a blend of Woodbine locals, U.S. challengers, and even a German raider.

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown is known for conditioning high-class grass mares and sends out Rougir and Lemista for the E. P. Taylor. Rougir is the more accomplished of the pair, counting the 2021 Prix de l’Opera (G1) as her signature triumph, but she’s missed the trifecta in three straight races since opening 2022 with a victory in the Beaugay S. (G3). Lemista finished fourth in the Beaugay but subsequently improved to win the Matchmaker S. (G3) at Monmouth Park during the summer.

Among the locals, Fev Rover warrants respect off a tenacious nose triumph in the Canadian S. (G2) racing about 1 1/8 miles at Woodbine last month. The former European campaigner has tactical speed and achieved a classic placing in last year’s 1000 Guineas (G1) in England, stamping the four-year-old filly as a win threat in her third run for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse.

The wildcard in the E. P. Taylor field is undoubtedly Moira, a sophomore with a near-perfect 4-for-5 resume. She set a track record when smashing the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate S. by seven lengths over the Woodbine Tapeta track, but she has yet to race on grass, so the surface switch is a question mark.

Shipping in from Germany is Mylady, a three-year-old filly exiting a close third-place finish in the German Oaks (G1). Her form is improving, and European raiders have historically enjoyed strong success in the E. P. Taylor, suggesting Mylady is well-spotted to challenge at Woodbine.

The E. P. Taylor field also attracted 2021 Woodbine Oaks winner Munnyfor Ro, recent Ladies Marathon S. (G3) heroine Adventuring, Centennial Distaff Turf Mile S. winner Henrietta Topham, and Canadian S. third-place finisher Flirting Bridge.

The $250,000 Nearctic S. (G2) is the other major grass stakes on the Saturday agenda. The six-furlong sprint features a nine-horse field led by Bound for Nowhere, whose 2-for-2 record this year includes a victory in the Highlander S. (G2) over this course and distance. The eight-year-old veteran has placed twice at the Grade 1 or Group 1 level and is versatile in terms of running style, giving hot jockey Kazushi Kimura options for working out a perfect trip.

Silent Poet won this race two years ago and further burnished his 10-for-20 Woodbine resume with a victory in the 2021 Highlander S. (G1) dashing six furlongs. He’s 0-for-3 this year and finished fourth behind Bound for Nowhere in the 2022 Highlander, but on his best day Silent Poet is a sprinter to reckon with.

Recent allowance winners Noble Emotion, Ice Chocolat, and Roaring Forties all enter in encouraging form, but must prove they can compete against Saturday’s caliber of competition.

Cazadero has only run once on grass, but nabbed the 2020 Bashford Manor S. (G3) on dirt as a juvenile, demonstrating promising form against graded stakes competition.

Wedgewood exits a narrow defeat in the Vice Regent S. sprinting five furlongs over the Woodbine lawn, while the graded stakes-placed Fauci and 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) participant Into the Sunrise round out the field.

The Nearctic is the seventh race of the afternoon with post time schedule for 4:32 p.m. ET. The E. P. Taylor comes in as the ninth race at 5:39 p.m.