Third Time Charm for Volga's E.P. Taylor Win

(from Woodbine report)
Volga, a mare with a history in the E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-I), got the job done on her third try Sunday, winning the $750,000 turf test at Woodbine in a three-horse photo.

Dismissed at 10-1 with Richard Migliore aboard, Volga outbattled a host of challengers down the stretch, hanging on to defeat a flying Tigertail on the outside and Hi Dubai on the rail by a head in a thrilling finish.

Two years ago, Volga finished second, a neck behind longshot Choc Ice. Last year, she finished third, two lengths back of Fraulein, as the even money favorite.

Tigertail, ridden by Brice Blanc, nosed out Hi Dubai for second, while Mer de Corail was only another head further back in fourth. The 2-1 favorite Walzerkoenigin wound up fifth, 1 1/2 lengths from the winner in the blanket finish.

With the turf course listed as soft, the time for the 1 1/4-mile event for fillies and mares was 2:05.68.

It was the first E.P. Taylor win for the horse, his jockey and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Owner Joseph Allen was celebrating a second win in this prestigious stake, having won the 1996 renewal with Wandering Star.

Locals Inish Glora and Heyahohowdy hooked up early and cut out most of the mile, with fractions of :26.13, :50:78 and 1:15.58 for six furlongs. But the field of 10 (reduced from 11 with the morning scratch of Byzantine) began to bunch up swinging off the far turn and into the stretch, completing the mile in 1:40.89.

Hi Dubai and Volga moved together to take command, while behind them, Mer de Corail and Walzerkoenigin appeared ready to threaten in late stretch. Meanwhile, Tigertail was behind a wall of horses and had to be swung out, closing quickly in the final strides.

"Mr. Allen has been a great friend and great owner over the years," said McLaughlin. "She's (Volga) been second and third (in this race), so we talked about it, thought it suited her well and we decided to bring her up. We shipped her from Saratoga yesterday. She arrived safely and in good shape and she obviously loves Canada."

Volga, an Irish-bred 5-year-old, had won her opener this year, the Matchmaker at Monmouth Aug. 17, then was second to Inish Glora at Woodbine in the Canadian Handicap Sept. 14. She was coming off of a fifth-place outing to Breeders' Cup-bound Bien Nicole in the WinStar Galaxy at Keeneland, Oct. 5.

"It was really close. I didn't know if we had won or not," said a relieved Migliore. "I rode with my head down through the wire. I thought maybe the outside horse (Tigertail) had nailed us. But she (Volga) ran very game and fought hard all through the stretch."

Added owner Allen, "It's a wonderful day. I need to really thank Kiaran for this. It was his idea to come up here. She had run only two weeks ago. Maybe I'm a lot more conservative, I don't know. But I'm glad he came. The third time was a charm here."

With the winner's share of $450,000, Volga, a daughter of Caerleon, pushed her career bankroll to $991,759.

To her supporters, Volga returned $22.90, $10.50 and $7.00, combining with Tigertail ($10.90, $5.90) for a $226.10 exacta. Hi Dubai ($3.40) completed a trifecta worth $1,543.20.

(Chart, Equibase)