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2023 E.P. Taylor Stakes Preview | With The Moonlight Has Strong Chance At Woodbine
With The Moonlight (NYRA / Janet Garaguso)

2023 E.P. Taylor Stakes Preview | With The Moonlight Has Strong Chance At Woodbine

With The Moonlight looks to continue the remarkable local success of trainer Charlie Appleby and owner/breeder Godolphin when the Irish-bred 4-year-old faces nine other fillies and mares in the E.P. Taylor Stakes, Sunday at Woodbine.

The E.P. Taylor, run over 1 ¼ miles on the eponymous turf course, offers Grade 1 status and a purse of $750,000.

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With The Moonlight will be the first E.P. Taylor starter for Appleby, whose eight Grade 1 wins from 11 starters here include the two most recent Woodbine Miles with Master of The Seas (IRE) and Modern Games (IRE). All those successes came for owner Godolphin and included six homebreds.

“Woodbine is a fair track, and this filly has shown she adapts well to training and racing away from home in the U.K.,” said Appleby.

With The Moonlight will be making her fifth appearance in North America, having recorded a win in the Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational and seconds there in the Lake Placid and the Belmont Oaks Invitational. The daughter of the spectacular Frankel (GB) was the runner-up behind the very talented In Italian in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland this spring.

Appleby considered the Saratoga Oaks the most impressive of those efforts.

“She got warm in the preliminaries, but managed to overcome that, getting a good position in the race and reversing form with the filly (McKulick) who had beaten her in the Belmont Oaks.”

With The Moonlight has been away from the races since finishing sixth over “soft” going in the Group 2 Dahlia at Newmarket on May 7.

Slated to start in the Grade 1 New York Stakes at Belmont on June 7, the filly missed that engagement due to what was described at the time as a “poor scope” and was sent home.

“We have been happy with her training over the summer,” said Appleby.

With The Moonlight will be looking for her first Grade 1 victory in the E.P. Taylor but numbers Grade 2 runner-up finishes in the Cape Verdi and Balanchine in Dubai this winter among her six overall successes.

“She settled well that day too, showing maturity,” said Appleby, of the latter effort.

William Buick, successful here with Master of The Seas (IRE) and Modern Games (IRE) and also an E.P. Taylor winner in 2009 with Lahaleeb (IRE), retains the mount on With The Moonlight.

Locally-based Moira and Fev Rover comprise a solid local team for the E.P. Taylor.

Moira, a 4-year-old trained by Kevin Attard, who was facing older rivals and trying turf for the first time in last fall’s E.P. Taylor, is coming off a smashing 6 ¼-length victory in the Grade 2 Canadian over 1 1/8 miles of turf here September 9.

“She’s doing well,” said Attard, who sent out Starship Jubilee to win the E.P. Taylor in 2019. “She’s coming off a big win, obviously, and she’s had some good works since then.”

Winner of Sovereign Awards as Canada’s Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old filly last year, Moira had finished second in each of her first three starts this season.

Fev Rover (IRE) defeated Moira on one of those occasions, leaving that rival 4 ¼ lengths back when making her seasonal bow over one mile of turf in the Grade 2 Nassau.

Returning to action two weeks later in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Diana Stakes, Fev Rover was a close and unlucky third but got her Grade 1 victory next time out in the Beverly D. at Colonial Downs.

In the Canadian, however, the Mark Casse-trained 5-year-old was fourth as the odds-on favourite.

“It was disappointing, but I was using the race as a prep for the E.P. Taylor and the Breeders’ Cup (Filly and Mare Turf),” said Casse. “We’re just hoping it works out. She’s training really good into this race. We’re expecting a big effort.”

Chad Brown, who won last year’s E.P. Taylor with Rougir (FR) and the 2020 renewal with Etoile (FR), will be represented this year by Saratoga shippers Consumer Spending, Rocky Sky (IRE) and Kalifornia Queen (GER).

Christophe Clement, who took the 2021 E.P. Taylor with Mutamakina (GB), will be looking to emulate that feat with Amazing Grace (GER) and Atomic Blonde (GER).

Skims (GB), conditioned by Shug McGaughey, was in town for a runner-up effort in the Canadian, with Atomic Blonde just behind in third.

Aspen Grove (IRE) trained by Jack Sisterson, joins Fev Rover (IRE) as the only Grade 1 winners in the field. The daughter of Justify captured this year’s Belmont Oaks Invitational.

Field for the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor

Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer

1 – Fev Rover (IRE) – Javier Castellano – Mark Casse

2 – Amazing Grace (GER) – Dylan Davis – Christophe Clement

3 – Skims (GB) – Sahin Civaci – Shug McGaughey

4 – With The Moonlight (IRE) – William Buick – Charlie Appleby

5 – Aspen Grove (IRE) – Oisin Murphy – Jack Sisterson

6 – Moira – Rafael Hernandez – Kevin Attard

7 – Consumer Spending – Kazushi Kimura – Chad Brown

8 – Atomic Blonde (GER) – Trevor McCarthy – Christophe Clement

9 – Rocky Sky (IRE) – Declan Carroll – Chad Brown

10 – Kalifornia Queen (GER) – Patrick Husbands – Chad Brown