The major Breeders’ Cup World Championships preps races are now in the record books and there’s a lull in top-level racing until the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup – with a few exceptions.
One of them is Sunday’s E.P. Taylor Stakes that will bring together 10 highly competitive fillies and mares at Woodbine with Grade 1 honors on the line, not to mention $600,000 in purse money.
1. Waliyak (8-1): One of two European entries, she’s the more accomplished of the two with a Group 3 stakes win in her most recent start. She’s finished in the top three in 12 of 14 starts and should feel right at home at Woodbine. The 1 ¼-mile distance may not be optimal for her — the two unplaced efforts were at this distance — and that may be the main source of concern.
JOCKEY: Jack Mitchell; TRAINER: Roger Varian
2. Etoile (5-2): The first of three Chad Brown-trained starters figures to be a main threat since she won this race last year. Finished a fast-closing second to Mutamakina in the Dance Smartly Stakes on this course at today’s distance. On the plus side for her, she gave away three pounds to that one and they will meet at level weights here, plus she may get a better pace scenario to close into.
JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.; TRAINER: Chad Brown
3. Court Return (15-1): Canadian-bred and -based filly cannot be ignored off a second to Etoile in this race last year at 41.80-1 odds. She will not be anywhere near that price this year as she was fourth in the Dance Smartly, beaten a little more than a length, and then second to La Dragontea in the Canadian Stakes Presented by the Japan Racing Association. She’s lost her last nine starts so winning might be a dubious request, but she belongs in the exotics at the very least.
JOCKEY: Luis Contreras; TRAINER: Josie Carroll
4. Kalifornia Queen (6-1): Another Chad Brown starter and there’s not much to choose between her and stablemate Great Island. She was only a half-length behind Great Island in the WinStar Matchmaker Stakes and was third by a half-length in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa Stakes. In looking over her and Great Island, let the toteboard and the prospect of better odds with one of them be your guide.
JOCKEY: Flavien Prat; TRAINER: Chad Brown
5. Family Way (15-1): Exits a nice stakes win on a demanding Kentucky Downs course that should have her in excellent condition for this one. Only drawback is that her one weak effort in five U.S. starts came in her lone race outside of Kentucky. Your move.
JOCKEY: Kazushi Kimura; TRAINER: Brendan Walsh
6. Mutamakina (5-1): Won the Dance Smartly here at this distance, so she’s a legit threat. The distance should not pose a problem and she could work out a nice, tactical trip. Definitely a main contender in an evenly matched field.
JOCKEY: Dylan Davis; TRAINER: Christophe Clement
7. Merveilleux (15-1): Like Court Return, she turned in some competitive efforts in the Canadian and Dance Smartly, finishing fourth and third, respectively. Of the two of them, she may be better suited by the distance, giving her a slight edge.
JOCKEY: Antonio Gallardo; TRAINER: Kevin Attard
8. Great Island (3-1): As mentioned earlier, she beat Kalifornia Queen by a half-length in the Matchmaker and then was a game second in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes. She’s never been worse than third and this distance may be perfect for her. Would not discount her chances.
JOCKEY: Rafael Manuel Hernandez; TRAINER: Chad Brown
9. Keyflower (20-1): Another European shipper, she hails from smart connections. Her credentials seem to be lacking, but this was a long ship unless they believed it will be worth the time and effort. Would not be a huge shock if she lands in the superfecta, and the odds should be attractive.
JOCKEY: Eddy Hardouin; TRAINER: Mauricio Delcher Sanchez
10. La Dragontea (8-1): Comes off a nice win in the Canadian and the added distance should not pose a problem. The outside post could be troublesome but she has an excellent jockey in Joel Rosario who can help to overcome that. She’s surely another option in a race where there are no obvious tossouts.
JOCKEY: Joel Rosario; TRAINER: Christophe Clement
THE PICK: Etoile
LIVE LONGSHOT: Keyflower