The final Grade 1 race of the Canadian Thoroughbred racing season takes place on Sunday, when Woodbine hosts the $600,000, Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes.
It’s safe to say the E.P. Taylor will end the top-level portion of the local racing calendar on a high note. The 1 1/4-mile turf test has attracted a deep field of 10 fillies and mares, including half a dozen graded stakes winners.
Let’s take a horse-by-horse look at the entries:
#1 Waliyak: This European shipper is conditioned by Roger Varian, who sent over Sheikha Reika to win the 2018 E.P. Taylor. Waliyak brings a more accomplished resume to the table than Sheikha Reika, having won the Group 3 Prix Bertrand de Tarragon at Chantilly last month. Waliyak hasn’t finished out of the trifecta in six starts this season and can outrun her 8-1 morning line odds at Woodbine.
#2 Etoile: Last year’s E.P. Taylor winner prepped for her repeat bid with a runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes at Woodbine two months ago, where she rallied strongly to finish just half a length away from victory. With three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle, Etoile has the credentials to factor again while sticking to her favorite turf course.
#3 Court Return: Although her 2-for-19 record isn’t overly eye-catching, Court Return occasionally fires a strong shot against tougher competition. She failed by just a neck to catch Etoile in the 2020 E.P. Taylor, and she showed signs of returning to peak form when finishing second with a traffic-filled stretch run in the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes Presented by the Japan Racing Association at Woodbine last month. Don’t count this 15-1 longshot out of the mix.
#4 Kalifornia Queen: Former European campaigner has shown promise against graded stakes company in the U.S., finishing second in the Grade 3 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes and third in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa Stakes while beaten just half a length on each occasion. A stretch runner slated to be ridden by high-percentage jockey Flavien Prat, Kalifornia Queen won going 1 1/4 miles in Germany and may appreciate retuning to this longer trip in the E.P. Taylor.
#5 Family Way: Improving filly enjoyed the European-style turf course at Kentucky Downs when posting a narrow victory in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon Stakes last month. She’d previously run third against males in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Downs TVG Preview Turf Cup Stakes at Ellis Park, but stepping up against Grade 1 competition is unexplored territory for Family Way.
#6 Mutamakina: Winner of multiple graded stakes in North America, Mutamakina displayed an affinity for Woodbine when defeating Etoile by half a length in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes. A versatile mare capable of running well from on or off the pace, Mutamakina figures to work out an ideal trip in the E.P. Taylor and looms as a key contender for trainer Christophe Clement, who has saddled three winners and two runners-up from five starters at Woodbine this year.
#7 Merveilleux: While not a graded stakes winner, Merveilleux did win the 1 1/4-mile Wonder Where Stakes on the Woodbine turf course last fall, showing an affinity for the conditions of the E.P. Taylor. She reiterated her abilities with a gallant effort in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes two starts back, where she came home third by less than a length against Muatamkina and Etoile. On her best day, this 15-1 longshot is capable of producing a competitive rally against quality competition.
#8 Great Island: An improving daughter of Scat Daddy, Great Island demonstrated strong form against tough competition during the summer. The Chad Brown trainee unleashed a powerful rally to win the Grade 3 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth Park, then traveled to Saratoga to finish second in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes, beaten only by the red-hot winning machine War Like Goddess. This effort produced a 102 Brisnet speed rating (the highest figure in the E.P. Taylor field), stamping Great Island as a logical win candidate while sticking to the Grade 1 level.
#9 Keyflower: The second European raider has scored her two career victories at some of France’s smaller racecourses, most recently claiming the 1 3/16-mile Prix Occitanie at La Teste de Buch. Keyflower’s form is improving, but the 3-year-old filly may find the competition tougher at Woodbine.
#10 La Dragontea: Christophe Clement’s second entrant enters off a gutsy victory in the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes Presented by the Japan Racing Association at Woodbine, where she tracked a slow pace before holding off Court Return to win by one length. A versatile 4-year-old capable of winning with multiple running styles, La Dragontea figures to use her speed while breaking from the outside post position under hot jockey Joel Rosario. A top-three finish isn’t out of the question.
It’s hard to eliminate any of the E.P. Taylor entrants from consideration, at least when it comes to exotic wagers like the trifecta or superfecta. That’s why we’ll keep our tickets relatively simple. First off, we’ll favor Great Island with a win bet, since she enters in hot form and has run well against Grade 1 company. Then we’ll key Great Island on top of exacta and/or trifecta wagers (depending on your favored budget) while strongly emphasizing Etoile and Mutamakina underneath.
Wagering Strategy on a $12 Budget
$8 to win on #8 Great Island
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 8th race, $8 to win on 8
$2 exacta: 8 with 2,6 ($4)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 8th race, $2 exacta 8 with 2,6
Wagering Strategy on a $36 Budget
$18 to win on #8 Great Island
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 8th race, $18 to win on 8
$4 exacta: 8 with 2,6 ($8)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 8th race, $4 exacta 8 with 2,6
$1 trifecta: 8 with 2,6 with 1,2,3,4,6,10 ($10)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 8th race, $1 trifecta 8 with 2,6 with 1,2,3,4,6,10
Good luck, and enjoy the race!