Out of the money in five starts this year, Miss Keller woke up in a huge way at Woodbine Oct. 16, taking the $991,288 E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-IT) in heart-pounding style as part of a three-horse blanket finish (VIDEO).
Ridden by John Velazquez, the Irish-bred 5-year-old mare prevailed narrowly from between horses over favored Dream Peace and I'm A Dreamer at odds of 11-1. Over a yielding turf, Miss Keller completed the 1 1/4-mile event in 2:06.98 while winning by a head.
I'm A Dreamer, who led by one length at the eighth pole, nosed out 2-1 choice Dream Peace for second. Irish-breds swept the top three spots.
Owned by Three Chimneys Racing, Lordship Stud, and Clodagh McStay, Miss Keller earned a starting berth in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) as part of the "Win and You're In" challenge series. The daughter of Montjeu also gave Canadian Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield his first win in the Woodbine fixture.
With the winner's share of $594,060, Miss Keller surpassed $1 million in career earnings. Miss Keller ran second in last year's E.P. Taylor, losing by one length to Reggane after leading in the stretch.
“It’s great,” said Attfield of this year's result. “This is the last race that I trained this filly to run in, actually, because she is going to the sale in England. She’s been a little bit of a project this year.
“I just haven’t been able to win this damn thing (the E.P. Taylor)," he added "I am so proud of her. It’s a great thrill.”
Hascombe and Valiant Studs bred Miss Keller, who is out of Ingozi (by Warning).
One of eight European invaders in the field, Irish-bred Dream Peace earned favoritism off a grade II win at Deauville Aug. 23. It was her third win in fives starts this year for trainer Robert Collet. Also well-fancied was Australian-bred Mahbooba and French-bred Adventure Seeker.
Miss Keller, who had lost seven straight races since capturing the Canadian Stakes (Can-IIT) at Woodbine 13 months ago, was stuck on the far outside.
She took back under Velazquez, racing in 10th for the opening six furlongs as Mahbooba, forwardly placed from the outset by Jamie Spencer, took the lead from Strawberrydaiquiri. I'm A Dreamer and Laughing were also prominent as a slow tempo unfolded. Fractions were :25.34, :51.06, and 1:16.07.
I'm A Dreamer, ridden by William Buick, took the lead from Mahbooba at the head of the Woodbine stretch and was driving for the wire as Miss Keller loomed into contention on the outside of the field. Dream Peace, rallying powerfully from far back as well under Gerald Mosse, and Adventure Seeker, battling from mid-pack along the rail for Christophe Soumillon, were also charging through the lane, setting up a tremendous finish.
I'm A Dreamer, toward the inside, proved determined and continued to lead until the final few strides. However, Miss Keller, under strong hand urging in deep stretch from Velazquez, kept coming and got the favorable head bob from between I'm A Dreamer and Dream Peace.
Velazquez rode Miss Keller once before, finishing sixth in he Jeny Wiley Stakes (gr. IIT) at Keeneland in April. He said he felt he waited too long to move on her that day.
“Today, she was far back, but I caught up before the half-mile pole. I was within range, within five, six lengths and I thought, ‘I hope I’m not moving too soon.’”
Buick was disappointed with the result, but thrilled with the effort of I'm A Dreamer.
“It went slow early, they were pulling it up,” said Buick. “I moved up and got first run on the others, and she was really running well, and just on the line she got touched up. I'm gutted for the filly, the owner and the trainer but she ran a great race … a career-best effort."
Velazquez picked up his third win in the E.P. Taylor, tying Sandy Hawley for most wins in the race. Velazquez also won the E.P. Taylor with Commercante for Bobby Frankel in 2004 and Honey Rider for Todd Pletcher in 2005.
For Miss Keller, the victory was her sixth in 24 lifetime starts and boosted her earnings to $1,253,284.
Miss Keller, carrying 124 pounds, paid $25.30, $10.90, and $6.40 as the seventh choice and keyed a $265.30 exacta. I'm A Dreamer, fourth last time out in the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes (Eng-I) at Newmarket, returned $10.20 and $4.50. Dream Peace paid $3.30 to show.
Adventure Seeker was one length farther back in fourth, followed by Sea of Heartbreak, Mahbooba, Laughing, Dyna Waltz, Mekong Melody, Strawberrydaiquiri, and Kinky Afro.