Choc Ice, Volga Renew E.P. Taylor Rivalry

(From track report)
Defending champion Choc Ice and last year's runner-up Volga will renew their rivalry Sunday at Woodbine in the $750,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes (gr. IT).

As one of the co-features on the undercard of Canadian International day, the E.P. Taylor, over 1 1/4 miles on the turf, has attracted a compact field of six fillies and mares for its richest renewal ever.

Irish-bred Choc Ice scored a stunning upset in last year's E.P. Taylor, hanging on in the late stages to beat a charging Volga by a neck, at 31-1. The daughter of Kahyasi closed out her season by competing in the Hong Kong Cup Dec. 16 at Sha Tin Racecourse, where she finished ninth, but only five lengths behind winner Agnes Digital in the Group I classic.

This year, the 4-year-old bay filly, owned by Micheline Vidal, has a single win in three starts, taking a listed stake at Longchamp in her latest. The 5-2 morning line second choice, to be ridden by Davy Bonilla, is conditioned by Robert Collet, who also won the 1994 E.P. Taylor with Truly A Dream. Choc Ice is the leading money winner in the field, with career earnings of $415,095.

The Christophe Clement-trained Volga will have the services of jockey Jerry Bailey and has been listed as the 9-5 morning line favorite. The 4-year-old daughter of Caerleon also has a single win in three starts this year. Most recently, she finished a closing fourth to Golden Apples, Astra and England's Legend in the Beverly D (gr. IT) at Arlington Park, Aug. 17.

Last year, after her rousing finish in the E.P. Taylor, the Irish-bred Volga, owned by Joseph Allen, tried the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Belmont Park, but finished fifth to Banks Hill. She's earned $317,179 to date.

Nadia, trained by Neil Drysdale for Gainsborough Farm, is the third choice at 7-2, with Corey Nakatani aboard. The 4-year-old British-bred daughter of Nashwan has raced only once this season, finishing fifth in an optional claiming allowance contest at Del Mar.

However, in 2001, the chestnut filly scored a huge win in the Group I Prix Saint- Alary at Longchamp in May, defeating, amongst others, Choc Ice. She also hooked some of the best fillies in the world in several Group I events, finishing second to Aquarelliste in the French Oaks and fourth to Terre a Terre in the Prix de l'Opera.

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Alasha, a daughter of 1994 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner Barathea, finished third earlier in the year to the well-regarded Kazzia in the Group I 1000 Guineas at Newmarket. Jockey Johnny Murtagh, who won the E.P. Taylor last year aboard Choc Ice, will pilot the H H Aga Khan-owned 3-year-old Irish-bred filly. Stoute won the 1986 edition with Ivor's Image.

Fraulein, trained by Ed Dunlop for Cliveden Stud, is a listed stakes winner in England and has placed in a Group II. As one of two three-year-olds in the race, the British-bred bay will carry 117 pounds, while the older fillies and mares tote 123. Kevin Darley will ride.

Completing the lineup is Inish Glora, a Canadian (Ontario)-bred 4-year-old daughter of Regal Classic, to be ridden by Hastings Park regular Fernando Serna. Raced mostly in Western Canada, the bay filly, trained by Kathy Bremner for owner Robert Costigan, has a single win in five 2002 trips, all on dirt. She's only raced twice on the grass, but did finish fourth at Woodbine to Sweetest Thing in last fall's 1 1/4-mile Wonder Where Stakes. She later was third to the speedy Heliotrope in a seven-furlong allowance contest.

The E.P. Taylor, which has been contested since 1956, was switched from the main track to turf in 1968 and with recent purse increases, is now the fourth richest race in Canada, behind only the Canadian International, Atto Mile and Queen's Plate. Over the years, it has been won by such prominent fillies as Belle Geste, Momigi, Hatoof, Timarida and Zomaradah.

$750,000 E.P.Taylor Stakes, 1 1/4 mile, E.P. Taylor Turf Course, Fillies & Mares, 3 & Up
PP/Horse/Trainer/Jockey/Morning line odds
1/Fraulein/Edward Dunlop/Kevin Darley/8-1
2/Inish Glora/Kathy Bremner/Fernando Serna/15-1
3/Nadia/Neil Drysdale/Corey Nakatani/7-2
4/Choc Ice/Robert Collet/Davy Bonilla/5-2
5/Volga/Christophe Clement/Jerry Bailey/9-5
6/Alasha/Sir Michael Stoute/Johnny Murtagh/9-2