TORONTO, ON – Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum’s Sheikha Reika rallied strongly down the front stretch and shrieked past her foes late to win Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 E. P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine.
Breaking from post 4 under Andrea Atzeni at 6/1 odds, Sheikha Reika bumped with Golden Legend before settling into midpack. Meanwhile, Starship Jubilee set a multi-length lead and posted passive fractions of :26.77, :52.68, 1:17.65, and 1:41.66. Running three-wide through the far turn, Sheikha Reika commenced a strong rally down the stretch and overtook the pacesetter inside the final furlong. Continuing to run on strongly through to the wire, the Roger Varian trainee crossed with a 3/4-length advantage in a final time of 2:05.10 for the 10-furlong event over the good turf course.
“It was very important for her to jump out well,” said Atzeni, who one race earlier won the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International Stakes. “It was very important for me to take a good position heading into the first corner and travel nicely. The pace was a bit slow, but it turned into a little bit of a sprint, that’s why she sort of took her time to hit top gear, but when she hit top gear, she went on to win in the end. She is a big mare and the ground is probably slow – a little bit ‘dead’ for her. She’s a better filly over fast ground, but she got the job done today, which is the main thing.”
Golden Legend necked out second over the 5/2 favorite Santa Monica, who in turn was a 1/2-length ahead of the weakened Starship Jubilee. Proctor’s Ledge was fifth over Pollara, while Sky Full of Stars was seventh over Elysea’s World and Summer Luck to complete the order of finish.
Sheikha Reika’s came in her North American debut and improved her overall record to 8-3-4-0. The 3-year-old daughter of Shamardal increased her earnings to $287,753 since being purchased for $735,100 as a yearling.
“I think she would’ve won a bit more comfortable if the race had gone a bit faster,” said assistant trainer Michael McGowan. “The ground was a bit loose, which doesn’t suit her – she likes fast ground, so I was a bit worried because the leaders went slow enough to stay where they were. The last 50 yards, she really picked up and took off.”
Sheikha Reika returned $14.10 to win, $8.80 to place, and $5.30 to show. Golden Legend brought back $9.90 to place and $5.50 to show, while Santa Monica paid $3.20 to show.