June 13, 2024

Moira meets familiar faces in E.P. Taylor; Nations Pride heads Canadian International

Moira at Woodbine in the Canadian Stakes (Photo by Michael Burns Photo)

Although not an official Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep, Sunday’s C$750,000 E.P. Taylor (G1) at Woodbine is sure to produce some candidates for the Filly and Mare Turf (G1) at Santa Anita, which will be run over the same 1 1/4-mile distance as the Taylor.

The protagonists are rather familiar with each other. Reigning Canadian Horse of the Year Moira won the Sept. 9 Canadian (G2) for fun, defeating Skims, Atomic Blonde, and Fev Rover. The latter was the odds-on Canadian favorite, but ran far below the form that saw her take the Nassau (G2) and Beverly D. (G1) earlier in the season.

“It was disappointing, but I was using the race as a prep for the E.P. Taylor and the Breeders’ Cup,” trainer Mark Casse said of Fev Rover’s performance. “We’re just hoping it works out. She’s training really good into this race. We’re expecting a big effort.”

Trainer Chad Brown has won two of the past three editions of the Taylor, and on Sunday will be represented by Consumer Spending and Rocky Sky. Consumer Spending captured the Eatontown (G3) and Matchmaker (G3) at Monmouth Park over the summer, though she settled for sixth in the Ballston Spa (G2) last time after lacking room near the wire. Grade 3 winner Rocky Sky has started only once since last November, finishing second to Kalifornia Queen in her allowance comeback on Aug. 11.

The Godolphin homebred With the Moonlight didn’t handle soft ground particularly well when last seen in the Dahlia (G2) at Newmarket in May, but her prior form in Dubai and the U.S. point her out as a logical contender, perhaps the one to beat if ready off a long layoff. Belmont Oaks (G1) upsetter Aspen Grove takes on older rivals for the first time here, while Amazing Grace looks to halt a four-race losing streak dating to the Orchid (G3) in April.

The C$750,000 Canadian International (G1), which has been run only once since 2019, was reduced in distance this year from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/4 miles. The marquee name is Nations Pride, winner last season of the Saratoga Derby (G1) and Jockey Club Derby (G3), though only fifth as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).

Nations Pride has raced sporadically this season, but has won two of three. The latest was a three-length triumph in a Group 1 in Munich, Germany, where he defeated the German Derby (G1) winner Fantastic Moon over this distance.

“He beat a solid field of horses that day on ground which was softer than he would prefer,” trainer Charlie Appleby said.

The other European raider is Royal Champion, who scored in the Wolferton H. at Royal Ascot and then ran third in the York (G2) when last seen in late July.

The North American contingent is led by Grade 1 veteran Adhamo, third in the Arlington Million (G1) last out; Singspiel (G3) hero Palazzi; and recent Colonial Cup winner Starting Over.

The C$250,000 Nearctic (G2), a six-furlong dash on the turf for older horses, includes Dream Shake, Lucky Score, and War Bomber, the respective winners of the Connaught Cup (G2), Highlander (G2), and King Edward (G2). Grade 3 victor Masen is another logical contender, though the Juddmonte homebred has not raced in a year.

The stakes action Sunday kicks off with the C$200,000 Algonquin S., a five-furlong sprint on the inner turf which might have implications for next month’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1).