December 4, 2021

Etoile mounts title defense in E.P. Taylor; Town Cruise bids to follow up in Nearctic

Etoile winning the E. P. Taylor (G1) - Michael Burns Photo
Etoile winning the E. P. Taylor (G1) - Michael Burns Photo

Reigning E.P. Taylor (G1) heroine Etoile leads a three-pronged Chad Brown entry in Sunday’s C$600,000 renewal at Woodbine. Later on the card, Woodbine Mile (G1) upsetter Town Cruise turns back in trip for the C$250,000 Nearctic (G2).

E.P. Taylor – Race 8 (4:37 p.m. ET)

Etoile will try to become the first two-time winner of the race in its turf incarnation. The daughter of Siyouni enters in similar fashion, having finished a close runner-up in the Aug. 22 Dance Smartly (G2) in just her second start of the season. Irad Ortiz stays aboard.

Brown stablemates Great Island and Kalifornia Queen furnished the exacta in the July 17 Matchmaker (G3) at Monmouth. Both have placed in their follow-ups at Saratoga, Great Island taking second in the Flower Bowl (G1) and Kalifornia Queen a close third in the Ballston Spa (G2). Flavien Prat maintains his partnership with Kalifornia Queen, while Rafael Hernandez teams up with Great Island.

Dance Smartly winner Mutamakina prevailed under a heady ride by Dylan Davis, who has the return call for Christophe Clement. Also from the Clement barn is La Dragontea, victorious in the most recent prep over the course, the Sept. 18 Canadian (G2), with Joel Rosario.

Court Return, who came within a neck of a 41-1 upset in last year’s E.P. Taylor, is rounding back into form. Fourth in the Dance Smartly, the Josie Carroll mare was beaten only a length as the Canadian runner-up. Merveilleux was a nearer third in the Dance Smartly than her fourth in the about 1 1/8-mile Canadian, but the return to 1 1/4 miles puts her in a better light.

Last-out Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon winner Family Way looks to keep progressing, as do international shippers Waliyak and Keyflower who likewise arrive from career highs. The Roger Varian-trained Waliyak, runner-up to Saffron Beach two back in the Atalanta (G3), broke through in the Sept. 17 Prix Bertrand de Tarragon (G3) at Chantilly. Keyflower takes a bigger class hike following her listed tally in Bordeaux’s Prix Occitanie for Mauricio Delcher Sanchez.

Nearctic S. (G2) – Race 10 (5:44 p.m. ET)

After a back-and-forth on whether to use his Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) ticket, Town Cruise instead remains home for the final graded turf race of the Woodbine season. The Ontario-bred controlled the pace to spring a Woodbine Mile surprise, but a more challenging dynamic is in store on the cutback to six furlongs.

Also reverting from the Woodbine Mile are the respective eighth and ninth, Olympic Runner and Avie’s Flatter. Olympic Runner ran down Town Cruise two back in the King Edward (G2), where Avie’s Flatter was fourth. But in their prior meeting in the seven-furlong Connaught Cup (G2), Avie’s Flatter staved off Olympic Runner, suggesting that Carroll’s former Sovereign Award champion could appreciate a shorter trip.

That point applies with even greater force to Avie’s Flatter’s stablemate, Jolie Olimpica. The erstwhile Brazilian Horse of the Year made an initial splash in Southern California turf sprints while finding two turns a tad beyond her. Switched to Carroll, Jolie Olimpica prospered over Woodbine’s one-turn mile in the July 24 Nassau (G2), but flopped in the King Edward. The Fox Hill Farm runner is entitled to fire off the freshening back in a sprint, and Rosario picks up the mount.

Former Canadian champion Admiralty Pier might have found a new lease on life as a sprinter, judging by his fast-closing second in the course-and-distance Highlander (G1). Veteran White Flag, third in the 2017 Nearctic and 2019 Highlander, recently made a winning comeback for new trainer Roger Attfield. The speedy Momos was just denied in the Allied Forces at Belmont Park, his first start for Mike Trombetta.

Olympic Runner’s trainer, Mark Casse, has two other chances with Lucky Curlin, coming off a second to Pink Lloyd in the Bold Venture (G3) on Tapeta, and Grade 3 winner Turned Aside, looking to rebound from an eighth in the Highlander.