Saturday, October 14, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: E.P. Taylor Stakes (G1)

Quidura Ready for Spotlight in E.P. Taylor Stakes

By: Nicolle Neulist, Blinkers-Off

Race 9: E. P. Taylor Stakes (G1), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and one quarter miles on the turf, post time 5:28pm EDT

The E. P. Taylor Stakes is a $500,000, Grade 1 event for filly and mare turf routers ages three and above.  The race was first run in 1956 as the Nettie Handicap, but was renamed in 1981 after Edward Plunket Taylor.  He started in the brewery business, with a brewery he inherited from his grandfather.  After World War II he diversified his holdings into fields such as food, forestry, broadcasting, and advertising through a holding company he formed, Argus Corporation.  When not wearing his business magnate hat, he participated in horse racing.  In the 1930s he began racing thoroughbreds; he and his wife Winifred began breeding them in the 1950s.  His breeding operation, Windfields Farm, is best known for breeding pivotal sire Northern Dancer. 

In addition to this race, the turf course at Woodbine is also named after E. P. Taylor.  Taylor himself won this race twice in the days before it was named after him: with Victoria Regina (1961) and Northern Queen (1965).  From a Chicago racing perspective, the winner of the 1992 E. P. Taylor Stakes is particularly notable: Hatoof, the 1994 Beverly D Stakes winner and onetime Arlington Park stakes namesake.

In a competitive rendition of the E. P. Taylor, local prep winner Quidura gets the nod by a nose.  She handled the Woodbine course well, and even if the going gets softer than that (a possibility with the weather), her score in a soft Valley View (G3) at Keeneland last year suggests she can handle some cut in the ground.  She has the pedigree to adore a mile and a quarter, being by Dubawi with stamina-rich German blood under.  Quidura did get one try at the distance earlier this year, finishing second in the New York Stakes (G2) at Belmont earlier this year.  But, that day, frontrunning Hawksmoor had a tactical edge.  Here, with the anticipated scratch of Sassy Little Lila?  Either Quidura sits right off the overmatched Puca (and possibly Kitten's Roar, who has some back form up front thought has more recently come from a bit off of things), or she herself becomes the one with the pace advantage.  In both cases, she should be well set to break through at the top level. 

Trainer Chad Brown sends a pair up here, Rainha Da Bateria and Fourstar Crook.  Rainha Da Bateria may get the greater attention of the pair, with years of graded stakes experience and a pair of victories at Woodbine. 

But?  It speaks volumes that Javier Castellano -- who rode Rainha Da Bateria to her Dance Smartly (G2) win earlier this meet -- instead takes the call on Fourstar Crook here.  The daughter of Freud gets a class test here, as most of her stakes experience has come against New York-breds.  But, her best races make her a factor here.  Her one graded outing was a good one: a win in the Dr. James Penny Memorial (G3) at Parx, where she beat sharp next-out Yellow Ribbon (G2) winner Cambodia by daylight.  Though Fourstar Crook is an off-pace type, she does not need to rally from the clouds, and she does not need a fiery pace in front of her to show her late-running flair. 

Nezwaah was seventh in this race last year, but she was just a three-year-old at the time.  Given a long winter break after that, she returned in the spring to win easily in handicap company first off the bench, and then left Rain Goddess and everyone else watching her tail in the Group 1 Pretty Polly at Newmarket.  That race was the same distance as today, a mile and a quarter.  She next stretched out to a mile and a half for the Yorkshire Oaks (G1), and though she was beaten five and three quarters lengths, she was only three quarters of a length out of second.  Five lengths behind genuine freak and eventual Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner Enable is not a bad place to be.  Though the ship is the question, she has looked good in the morning, and demands defensive use as the class of the field.


#3 Quidura (3/1)

#2 Fourstar Crook (8/1)

#6 Nezwaah (5/2)

Longshot:  Trainer Mike Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey sprung the upset in last year's E. P. Taylor with Al's Gal.  This year, they have another live upset candidate in #1 Kitten's Roar (12/1).   

The daughter of Kitten's Joy steps back up in class after her easy win in the Ramsey Farm Stakes (named after her owners' operation) at Kentucky Downs last out.  That was a class break for her; she has been holding her own in graded stakes company all spring and summer, including a third-place finish in the New York Stakes (G2) behind Hawksmoor and Quidura.  Kitten's Roar also finished less than two lengths beaten in each of the two Grade 1 races she has tried, the Jenny Wiley and the Beverly D.  She has tactical versatility, able to contest the pace or rally from further back, a positive given that this race has a decent amount of possible speed, but no one-way speed with Sassy Little Lila expected to scratch.  One of her best races puts her right in the picture, and she has been consistent enough and enough different tracks to suggest she will bring her best north of the border.

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