The powerhouse jockey/trainer tandem of John Velazquez and Todd Pletcher shipped Honey Ryder to Woodbine Sunday to take the $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-I) in game fashion.
Honey Ryder won her fifth stakes race in her last six starts.
In a thrilling finish – four rivals hit the wire within a length – Honey Ryder was in an all out drive to defeat Latice by half-length. After being bottled up on the inside for most of the 1 1/4-mile trip, Latice split rivals in the stretch under Jose Santos and led for most of the final furlong. But Honey Ryder, always in contention, fought back on the outside and edged away in the final yards.
"Once they get to her and they come closer, she gives you a little more," Velazquez said of the classy 4-year-old filly. She always seems to find a little more and fight on."
For Honey Ryder, the victory is the eighth of her 20-start career and her first group I score. On Sept. 5, she defeated Breeders' Cup entrant Film Maker by a neck in the Glens Falls Handicap (gr. IIIT)at Saratoga.
"She's beaten a lot of good horses," says Velazquez. "She beat a whole lot of tougher horses today. She deserves it."
Eleventh early, but just six lengths off tepid fractions of :26.64, :51.02 and 1:15.88, Velazquez and Honey Ryder won the race in a time of 2:06.70 over a course rated 'yielding.'
Velazquez, who won the Atto Mile (Can-I) earlier this year aboard Leroidesanimaux, had an eventful trip guiding the daughter of Lasting Approval to the Woodbine winner's circle.
"I kind of got shut off going to the turn and to the three-eighths pole. There was a whole wall of horses. Going to the quarter-pole, I said 'I'm not going to try to go between them since I got stopped once already.' Once I pulled her out at the quarter pole, she responded very well. It was a little bit of a rough trip but she overcame that."
Velazquez says the soft turf didn't seem to faze racing's newest millionaire, who increased her earnings to $1,149,850. "It's very soft. She's small and light. She handled it very well. Once she got her momentum and her stride together, she went on, so it didn't really cost us very much."
Owner John Greathouse expressed his satisfaction graphically.
"It's biggest the race we've won ourselves, owning racehorses," says Greathouse. "This is as much fun as you can have with your clothes on."
Honey Ryder, the second choice, returned $10.90, $5.60, $4.70, and teamed with Irish-bred Latice ($7.00, $6.50) to complete a $93.50 exacta. Ambitious Cat ($8.50) rounded out a $1,406.60 trifecta.
French-bred Barancella, starting for the first time since May, finished a close fourth and capped a $5,796.75 superfecta.
Then came Finery, Noble Stella, Mona Rose, Iota, Classic Stamp, Punctilious (the 8-5 favorite), Cassydora and early pacesetter Stunning Rose.
Punctilious, ridden by Frankie Dettori, stalked three wide and came under pressure on the final turn before tiring.