Sheikha Reika capped off a stellar Saturday afternoon at Woodbine for jockey Andrea Atzeni, winning the 62nd running of the Grade 1, $500,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes for fillies and mares, one race after the rider teamed with Desert Encounter to reign victorious in the Grade 1, $800,000 Pattison Canadian International.
In the 1 1/4-mile E.P. Taylor, Atzeni guided the Roger Varian-trained three-year-old Sheikha Reika to her third win in five starts this season for owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum.
Local fan favourite and Sovereign Award winner Starship Jubilee tussled with Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes champion Santa Monica at the start of the race, before the former assumed control in the nine-horse field.
Under Luis Contreras, Starship Jubilee, Canada’s 2017 Champion Turf Female, took her rivals through an opening-quarter mile in :26.77 and a half-mile timed in :52.68, with a patient Atzeni keeping Sheika Reika in perfect position in fourth spot.
After three-quarters was reached in 1:17.65, Starship Jubilee and Contreras, in front by two lengths, looked to fend off all foes as the field braced for the long stretch run, while Atzeni angled out his charge in an attempt to track down the stubborn leader.
Sheikha Reika, bred in France by Mark Johnston Racing, wouldn’t be denied, going on to post a three-quarter-length victory over another French-bred miss, Golden Legend, who also rallied stoutly. Santa Monica was third and Starship Jubilee held fourth.
The final time over ‘good’ going was 2:05.10.
“It was very important for her to jump out well… it was very important for me to take a good position heading into the first corner and travel nicely,” said Atzeni, who has been aboard for all of Sheikha Reika’s starts. “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.”
Sheikha Reika came into the E.P. Taylor off a splendid 4 1/2-length score in the John Musker Fillies’ Stakes on September 19 at Yarmouth, a race also contested at 1 1/4-miles.
“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.”
The daughter of Shamardal also took Atzeni to his second straight Grade 1 score, less than an hour apart.
Sent off at 6-1, Sheikha Reika returned $14.10, $8.80 and $5.30 and fronted a 4-5 exactor with Golden Legend ($9.90, $5.50) that returned $126. Santa Monica ($3.20) completed a 4-5-2 triactor worth $558.70 and Starship Jubilee completed a $1 superfecta of 4-5-2-7 that came back $1,765.60.
Proctor’s Ledge, Pollara, Sky Full of Stars, Elysea’s World and Summer Luck rounded out the order of finish.