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Homeracing

E.P. Taylor scouting reports: Sheikha Reika, Golden Legend, Pollara, Sky Full of Stars

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

October 13th, 2018

As the companion race to the Canadian International (G1), the E.P. Taylor (G1) has likewise attracted an international contingent to Woodbine on Saturday. Three are strictly speaking invaders, while the one making her North American premiere for Chad Brown also deserves a scouting report.

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SHEIKHA REIKA

Despite being the only runner untested in Group/Graded company, Sheikha Reika has upset potential at 12-1. Her breakout performance for Roger Varian last out, in her first try at this 1 1/4-mile trip, prompts a question: how much better might her resume look if she’d been campaigned differently all along?

The 550,000-guinea ($734,465) Tattersalls October yearling might have her full sister, Lumiere, to blame. That other daughter of Shamardal was all about speed. Lumiere ranked as England’s highweight two-year-old filly after her victory in the 2015 Cheveley Park (G1), and although she added the Sir Henry Cecil at three, she didn’t fulfill her early hopes.

Sheikha Reika has the opposite profile. A filly plagued by seconditis at two, she’s just now coming into her own in the fall of her sophomore campaign. Sheikha Reika bumped into a couple of useful maiden winners last season, especially Soliloquy, the future Nell Gwyn (G3) victress who competed respectably in the 1000 Guineas (G1) (sixth) and Irish equivalent (fourth).

In her Newmarket reappearance, Sheikha Reika finally broke her maiden by three resounding lengths. But her newfound progress was interrupted in a gate mishap at York, forcing her withdrawal from her intended stakes debut in the Michael Seely Memorial. A June 4 conditions race at Leicester should have gotten Sheikha Reika back on track, but she relapsed into second-place syndrome when overturned late by Di Fede. Not seen again for three months, Sheikha Reika proved a moneyburner once more in an Ascot handicap, finishing a one-paced fourth.

Her owner, Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum, realized that the filly needed to stretch out. The September 19 John Musker Fillies’ S. over 1 1/4 miles was the sensible place to try, given Varian’s past successes there, and Sheikha Reika responded with a new career high . Traveling like a dream stalking the disappointing (older) favorite Chain of Daisies, she struck the front still cruising on the bridle and extended on cue.

Third-placer Scottish Jig came back to take Friday’s Pride S. at Newmarket, with Chain of Daisies fourth, if that can count as a modest franking of the form.

Sheikha Reika has hinted of talent that just wasn’t coming together – until now. This represents a significant step up in class, and versus elders. On the other hand, 1 1/4 miles on good ground is her ideal scenario, and we haven’t seen her ceiling yet. Varian’s yet to win at Woodbine, but he’s had North American success with Nahrain in the 2012 Flower Bowl (G1) and Breeders’ Cup placings.

GOLDEN LEGEND

Any filly who beats males at the Group level warrants respect back among fellow distaffers, and that’s the profile Golden Legend brings from her native France – along with a scruple about her requiring some ease in the ground.

Trained by Henri-Francois Devin for his mother, Antonia, the homebred is by Doctor Dino, who stands at the family’s Haras du Mesnil. Golden Legend hopes to inherit the globetrotting flair of her sire, a two-time hero of the Hong Kong Vase (G1) and also successful in the 2007 Man o’ War (G1).

After a near-miss in last summer’s Madame Jean Couturie (named in honor of the Devins’ ancestress) at Vichy, Golden Legend stayed on strongly to post consecutive scores in the Prix de Liancourt and Prix Bertrand de Tarragon (G3) (named for another family connection).

Fifth to Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) star Wuheida in the May 6 Dahlia (G2) on good-to-firm at Newmarket, Golden Legend could make little headway in sixth in the Prix Corrida (G2) at a “good” Saint-Cloud. But she wasn’t beaten far in a bunched-up field, and future Prix Vermeille (G1) winner Kitesurf nosed her out for fifth.

Golden Legend got soft going in the July 18 Grand Prix de Vichy (G3) versus males, and beat all bar Noor Al Hawa. That well-traveled veteran has finished second in the past two runnings of the lucrative Emirs Trophy in Qatar. The third-placer in the 2018 Emirs Trophy was none other Chad Brown’s Money Multiplier, furnishing a neat piece of collateral form for whatever it’s worth.

Although unplaced again on “good” going next time in the Prix Jean Romanet (G1), Golden Legend had an excuse. She was hampered as Rhododendron was being eased out of the race and never recovered. Still, it’s questionable if she would have worked her way much closer than seventh, as a 35-1 shot.

Golden Legend rebounded by going last-to-first to topple the useful male Robin of Navan in the La Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte (G3). She traveled conspicuously well buried in the pack, and had a checkered passage, before asserting. The course was listed as good-to-soft, but her time for about 1 1/4 miles – 2:00.36 – implies it was closer to good.

The E.P. Taylor pace scenario doesn’t make that kind of time likely on Saturday, so the closer might find it tough to erase a deficit. But Golden Legend is a resolute trier who will keep chugging every yard.

POLLARA

By Camelot, the same sire as Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) star Athena, Chad Brown’s new recruit has one other point in common: Pollara likewise shortens up from 1 1/2 miles for her North American debut. Only here, she does so while tackling older horses for the first time, instead of fellow sophomores, for new owners Allen Stable and Peter M. Brant.

The two Camelot bluebloods are very different in other respects as well. Pollara, who did not race at two, brings a portfolio of only three starts, none outside France, and none in four months. Unlike the battle-tested Athena, she is an unknown quantity over this trip, or in similarly quick conditions.

Indeed, Pollara has won both of her starts at 1 1/2 miles on degrees of soft going, and her lone loss came at 1 3/8 miles on a good course. Trainer Francis-Henri Graffard unveiled her April 2 at Saint-Cloud, where she skipped over the heavy ground to win emphatically.

Up in class and down in trip a furlong for the Prix de la Seine, Pollara could not catch the Aga Khan’s Shahnaza once that foe stole a march on her. She closed for second from Chipolata, who would go on to finish third in Athena’s Belmont Oaks.

Pollara returned to 1 1/2 miles for the June 3 Prix de Royaumont (G3) at Chantilly, and this time, she got the jump on her unlucky rival Waldlied. Again finding a soft course to her liking, the 8-5 favorite found a gap before Waldlied could, and pounced beyond recall.

Unfortunately we saw Waldlied only once more, stamping her authority on the Prix de Malleret (G2). She might well have continued to uphold Pollara’s form that others have let down.

We’ll learn a lot more about Pollara’s prerequisites here. From a family known for its soft-ground prowess, as exemplified by 2012 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) shocker Solemia, she might appreciate a bit of give while coping with firmer.

Note that Pollara was herself given an early Arc entry prior to export. That’s a sign of her home reputation, the only question being the E.P. Taylor conditions.

SKY FULL OF STARS

Stablemate of Canadian International outsider Khan gives young trainer Henk Grewe another top-flight opportunity at Woodbine. Although not hostage to the ground like Khan, the Gestut Karlshof homebred must likewise step up in a tough assignment.

Sky Full of Stars is by Kendargent and out of a stakes-placed Samum mare from a prolific German family. The gray was twice stakes-placed in German listed company at three, but well beaten in her Group 1 attempts. Fading to 11th after striking the front in last summer’s German Oaks (G1), she never factored as a slow-starting sixth in the Premio Lydia Tesio (G1).

Improved this season at four, Sky Full of Stars benefited from a Leipzig confidence-booster to capture the June 16 Grosser Preis der Sparkasse Hannover over better-fancied stablemate Panthelia. She then took a class hike, versus males, in the Grosser Preis von Lotto Hamburg (G3), and checked in fifth behind front-running Devastar, pride of Poland Va Bank, and Sound Check (now in Australia preparing for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cup [G1].) Sky Full of Stars tried males again, this time over 1 1/2 miles in the Fritz Henkel Stiftung-Rennen (G3). Once more she wound up fifth behind sophomore colts Destino and Salve del Rio (each representing the German Derby form), with Devastar still ahead of her in third.

Sky Full of Stars reverted to 1 1/4 miles, in her own division, for the September 1 T. von Zastrow Stutenpreis (G2), and sprang the 24-1 upset. Under bold midrace move, she established control on the Baden Baden backstretch and kept finding. Favored British shipper Star Rock stormed to challenge, but Sky Full of Stars gamely reached for the wire and just lasted in a photo. Star Rock, a troubled third in the Lillie Langtry (G2) in her prior start, is still looking for her Group laurel after finishing fourth in the September 28 Princess Royal (G3) at Newmarket.

Effective at this trip, and on good ground, Sky Full of Stars deserves credit for her tactical ability and resolve. Yet this is the stiffest female competition she’s seen. New rider Adam Beschizza will try to help her achieve her likely objective, a Grade 1 placing to enhance broodmare value.

Sheikha Reika photo courtesy Varian Stable Facebook page

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