December 7, 2022

Rougir rallies in E. P. Taylor, Cazadero surprises in Nearctic

Rougir gets up in a dramatic E.P. Taylor (Photo by Michael Burns Photography)

A pair of rich turf stakes with possible Breeders’ Cup implications served as the highlights of an action-packed Saturday afternoon at Woodbine.

The pinnacle from grading standpoint was the E. P. Taylor S. (G1) for fillies and mares racing 1 1/4 miles on turf. The conditions of this logical Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) prep suited Rougir, as the 2021 Prix de l’Opera (G1) winner bounced back from three straight defeats to launch a winning rally.

Under the guidance of Kazushi Kimura, Rougir settled in seventh place for the first mile, falling as many as 4 1/2 lengths behind slow fractions of :26.78, :51.39, and 1:15.00 after steadying in traffic. But Rougir unleashed a relentless rally down the homestretch, closing strongly on the outside to defeat Moira and Flirting Bridge by a neck.

The impressive Queen’s Plate S. winner Moira crossed the wire second in her turf and Grade 1 debut, but wound up being disqualified to eighth place for interfering with Lemista. The official order of finish behind Rougir was Flirting Bridge, Fev Rover, Adventuring, Mylady, Henrietta, Lemista, Moira, and Munnyfor Ro.

Rougir reached the finish line in 2:02.62, in the process securing her first victory since taking the Beaugay S. (G3) back in May. The Chad Brown-trained four-year-old filly isn’t the most consistent horse in training, but she occasionally throws down big efforts against tough competition and warrants respect if she heads to the Breeders’ Cup.

Earlier in the afternoon, Cazadero sprang an 8-1 upset in the Nearctic S. (G2), a six-furlong dash that ranks as a stepping stone toward the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Bound for Nowhere was an odds-on favorite after winning Woodbine’s Highlander S. (G2), and the eight-year-old veteran ran well in the Nearctic to finish second.

But no one could withstand the homestretch surge of Cazadero. Running for only the second time on grass, the four-year-old son of Street Sense trailed early splits of :22.93 and :45.29 set by Into the Sunrise, Silent Poet, and Bound for Nowhere before unleashing a terrific turn of foot to swallow the leaders and score by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:09.11.

The victory marked Cazadero’s first win on turf and his first success at the graded level since nabbing the Bashford Manor S. (G3) as a juvenile. Patrick Husbands rode Cazadero on behalf of trainer Brendan Walsh, while Bound for Nowhere, Silent Poet, Ice Chocolat, Roaring Forties, Wedgewood, Noble Emotion, and Into the Sunrise followed the winner home.

Three other stakes took place on Saturday at Woodbine:

  • The Durham Cup (G3) saw Who’s the Star spring a 9-1 surprise for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse. Exiting an eighth-place finish in the 1 1/2-mile Kentucky Turf Cup S. (G2) on grass, Who’s the Star relished switching to 1 1/16 miles on Tapeta for the Durham Cup, producing an explosive rally under Emma-Jayne Wilson to close from last place and win by half a length in the track-record time of 1:40.73. Artie’s Storm and War Bomber completed the trifecta after respectively tracking and pressing early fractions of :23.81, :47.05, and 1:09.93.
  • In the Woodbine Cares S. for two-year-old fillies sprinting five furlongs over the inner turf course, Firing Bullets broke her maiden in determined fashion for Mark Casse. Coming off an eighth-place debut against maiden special weight company at Woodbine, Firing Bullets rallied gamely (despite being carried wide by pacesetter Fearless Angel) to win by a nose in :58.14. Kazushi Kimura rode the winner while Fearless Angel edged No Kay Never by a neck for the runner-up spot.
  • The Ontario Racing S. for two-year-olds dashing five furlongs over the inner turf concluded the stakes action. Bushido was favored off a debut victory at Woodbine and brought his record to 2-for-2 with a sharp performance. Under Antonio Gallardo, the Darwin Banach trainee led by daylight at every call, recording splits of :22.00 and :44.87 on his way to victory by 2 3/4 lengths in :57.52. Chiseler and Ever a Rebel chased Bushido home to secure the minor awards.