Six-year-old mare Tara's Touch, bred in South Africa, captured the CAN$176,800 Royal North Stakes, the Civic Holiday feature Monday at Woodbine.Five of the nine starters in the six-furlong turf event were foreign invaders, including U.S.-based Unbridled Sidney. Tara's Touch was ridden to the half-length win by Robert Landry for trainer Niall O'Callaghan and the ownership team of Team Valor and Margaux Farm.Saint Etienne, an Irish-bred filly, was second, a nose in front of the odds-on favorite, Unbridled Sidney. The running time was 1:09.79 over a course listed as "firm."Landry, who sat third early behind Unbridled Sidney's uncontested sharp early fractions of :21.93 and :44.58., said the E.P. Taylor turf course can be demanding on a pacesetting turf horse."The long stretch can be pretty taxing on a front running horse," Landry figured, when asked if Unbridled Sidney was a vulnerablem favorite. "And my filly was in the game the whole way. (Tara's Touch) is a pretty uncomplicated filly. I was just a passenger. She's the kind you like to ride."Heather Stark, the assistant trainer for the Kentucky-based O'Callaghan, said Tara's Touch was given 2004 off after her acquisition. The Tara's Halls bay had raced 15 times in South Africa before coming west."She shipped in from overseas so we wanted to give her a chance to get used everything (in North America)," she said. "So we took our time with her. We knew she was a good filly."
The Royal North win, worth $102,420, raised her career earnings record to $256,755 from nine wins. It was her first North American stakes
win.Tara's Touch paid $19.40, $9.60, $4.10 across the board and combined with Saint Etienne ($9.80, $3.40) for a $227.80 exactor.