02/15/2002 1:00AM

E.P. Taylor - quality stakes, quality man

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The news from Toronto detailing the increase to $750,000 of the purse for Woodbine's E.P. Taylor Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf has considerable significance.

Since its inception in 1981, the

1 1/4-mile Taylor has been a quality stakes in the fall, attracting good fillies and mares from Canada and the United States, and frequently from Europe. There is keen competition among tracks at that time of the year for stars in the filly and mare division. The purse increase makes the E.P. Taylor one of the most attractive distaff features and could have the effect of attracting even more quality runners.

The Taylor is nicely positioned on the calendar to serve as a prep for the Breeders' Cup, and with its new value, may dominate the scene.

The capacity of the Woodbine authority to make such a dramatic enhancement of the E.P. Taylor value also focuses attention on economics.

Woodbine is one of the North American tracks that offers slot machine wagering, in addition to parimutuel wagering on Thoroughbreds. Without exception, these tracks have recorded substantial gains despite the current weakness of the overall economy. Woodbine has enjoyed considerable success, enabling management to strengthen its position in many areas, notably purses.

In selecting the E.P. Taylor for enhancement, the Woodbine people honor one of the outstanding individuals in the history of Thoroughbred racing. We can think of no one who has done more to advance the cause of racing in his country, and had such a good time doing it. A most remarkable man.

After success in the business world, Taylor turned his attention to Canadian racing. He found the sport in dire straits, with permits held by a great many small tracks conducting short race meetings. When he set about building his Carlings beer empire he purchased a number of small breweries and melded them into a giant corporation. He took the same approach with racing. He had the wisdom to purchase a substantial plot of ground in suburban Toronto and, as head of the Ontario Jockey Club, built a state of the art facility to showcase a refurbished product.

Many men have been top-notch executives and administrators, and others have been outstanding horsemen. Few have been accomplished in both areas, like Taylor. First he built a world-class stable for himself, importing mares from notable racing families. He assembled a superb team to direct the stable and produced many memorable horses, including Northern Dancer, the first Canadian-bred to win the Kentucky Derby.

Once his stable and stud was established, Taylor set about to improve the quality of racing in Canada. He organized a celebrated sale, placing all of his young horses on the block for specified prices. When half the horses were sold the sale was over and Taylor would race the half that was left. Northern Dancer was passed over by many prominent horsemen because of his lack of size.

Taylor was a marketing genius, hosting elaborate luncheons at his farms in suburban Toronto to display his stallions and their get. He was involved in every phase of activity and played a key role in planning the kind of racing that the OJC tracks would offer. He was very keen on grass racing and insisted it be part of the Canadian Triple Crown, which he designed.

He built pride in Canadian racing, organizing The Jockey Club of Canada to honor the many who responded to his challenge by devoting their time and fortunes to the betterment of the sport. He arranged visits to Woodbine by Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother, who drew thousands of fans to the track to see the Royals participate in the presentation ceremonies. And on occasion, the honoree was E.P. Taylor, who did it all.