Sealy Hill, Canada's reigning Horse of the Year, makes her final start over her home track at Woodbine as part of a strong field in the $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes (gr. IT) on the grass Oct. 4.
Eugene Melnyk's Ontario homebred daughter of Point Given nearly won last year's E.P. Taylor as a 3-year-old when she gave way to the European invader Mrs. Lindsay in the final strides after she had opened up a clear advantage down the lane. In spite of the loss, the Mark Casse trainee won four of her eight starts in 2007, including the Canadian Triple Tiara, and earned $988,022 to bring home top honors in Canada. She was also named top 3-year-old filly and leading female turf runner.
Things haven't gone quite as smoothly for Sealy Hill this season, with only an allowance win from five starts, and she'll head into the E.P. Taylor as the fifth choice in the field at 8-1 on the morning line.
Nine fillies and mares will go postward in the 1 1/4-mile E.P. Taylor, which is a Breeders' Cup Challenge Series race guaranteeing the winner a place in the Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Oct. 24. The Todd Pletcher-trained J’ray, winner of the Canadian (Can-II) at Woodbine last month over yielding turf, is the lukewarm 5-2 favorite.
Several others will vie for the public's attention. French-based Toque de Queda (7-2), owned by Gary Tanaka and trained by Mikel Delzangles, makes her first start since finishing third in the Beverly D. (gr. IT) at Arlington Park in her U.S. debut Aug. 9. Godolphin's Irish-bred Folk Opera (4-1), a group II winner at Deauville Aug. 24, makes her initial American start. And multiple graded stakes winner Hostess (6-1) defeated the highly regarded Mauralakana this year and is coming off a neck victory in Saratoga's Glens Falls Handicap (gr. IIIT) Sept. 1.
"Obviously, there’re some tough horses in there, but when you run for $1 million in a grade I, it’s supposed to be tough," Casse said. "It definitely wouldn’t shock me for her to win. I feel like it’s been great (training her throughout her career), but it’s time for her to go on to a new career. I’ll miss her, but she deserves to call it a day.”
Casse said a big effort could earn Sealy Hill one more start before she heads to the breeding shed.
“If she runs a big race, we’re looking at taking her to the Breeders’ Cup (Filly & Mare Turf)," he said. "But if she doesn’t, this is going to be her last start. We’re just hoping the real Sealy Hill shows up.”
Most of the time, the conditioner notes, Sealy Hill is her own worst enemy, such as in last year's E.P. Taylor.
“She did (get in front) and we felt like she just pulled herself up that day, which is just one of many antics that she does,” he said.
Casse is hoping she's in the mood this time, something he said, that changes "from minute to minute."
"You just never know which direction she is going to go, what she is going to do, and (that) makes it an exciting race to watch, for me at least."
Now a career earner of $1,259,142, Sealy Hill faded to fourth in the Sept. 7 Canadian, finishing almost six lengths behind J'ray after making a bold move in the stretch.
“(Jockey) Patrick (Husbands) thought he was sitting on a winner, but he said as she moved to the lead, she was more concerned with running over the competition than actually running by them," Casse said. "We’re making some changes. We’re going to put full cup blinkers on her, so she can’t see the competition at all. She’s had blinkers before, but not full cup. And we’re going to run her in a different type of bit. Then, it’s going to be up to Patrick.”
They'll break from the inside post, with Lawrence Golchman's J'ray, sporting back-to-back graded wins following her Canadian triumph, directly to her outside.
There does not appear to be any speed in this lineup. As a result, the Roger Attfield trainee Callwood Dancer (10-1), winner of the Nassau (Can-II) at Woodbine in May and second in the Canadian last time out, could be in a position to dictate the pace under Eurico Rosa da Silva.
$1 Million E.P. Taylor Stakes (gr. IT, Race 9, 5:16 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, ML Odds
1. Sealy Hill (ON), Patrick Husbands, 8/1
2. J'ray (NY), Joe Bravo, 5/2
3. Classy Landlady (ON), Tyler Pizarro, 20/1
4. Folk Opera (IRE), Lanfranco Dettori, 4/1
5. Toque de Queda (GB), Garrett K. Gomez, 7/2
6. Green Lyons (IRE), Jimmy Fortune, 15/1
7. Callwood Dancer (IRE), Eurico Rosa Da Silva, 10/1
8. Royal Pleasure (PA), Rosemary B. Homeister, Jr., 15/1
9. Hostess (KY), Javier Castellano, 6/1
Each assigned 123 pounds.