Updated on 09/17/2011 11:36PM

Nakatani on the money twice

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Relaxed Gesture, Corey Nakatani up, wins the Canadian International by 4 1/2 lengths.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Corey Nakatani arrived in Toronto at about 6 a.m. Sunday, following an overnight flight from Los Angeles. After heading to his hotel and grabbing a couple of hours of sleep, Nakatani swung over to Woodbine for his afternoon's work. His day proved to be very fruitful, as he rode Relaxed Gesture to victory in the $2 million , five races after guiding home Steel Light in the $500,000 Nearctic.

Nakatani earned his pay in each race, giving both Relaxed Gesture and Steel Light perfect trips.

The wins in the Canadian International and Nearctic were both firsts for Nakatani, but few would trade his big-race resume at Woodbine. He was the only rider to win more than one race when the Breeders' Cup was held here in 1996, scoring with Lit de Justice in the Sprint and Jewel Princess in the Distaff.

Nakatani also won the 1994 Molson Export Million, precursor to the Atto Mile, with Dramatic Gold in 1994.

The only major prize to elude Nakatani and trainer Christophe Clement here Sunday was the $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes, which went to Honey Ryder.

But Honey Ryder's connections, trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez, boast pretty fair histories of their own at Woodbine.

Pletcher has won a dozen stakes here over the years, including the Queen's Plate with Archers Bay in 1998 and the Breeders' Stakes, the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, with Lodge Hill in 2000.

Velazquez has won three major races here for trainer Bobby Frankel, the most recent being this year's $1 million Atto Mile with Leroidesanimaux. The others were the 2000 Atto Mile with Riviera and last year's E.P. Taylor with Commercante.

Velazquez became the first jockey to win the Atto Mile and the E.P. Taylor Stakes in the same season and the first to win back-to-back runnings of the E.P. Taylor.

Honey Ryder, a 4-year-old, earned her first Grade 1 victory for owner John Greathouse in the E.P. Taylor.

"She's beaten a lot of good horses," said Velazquez. "She deserves it."

The E.P. Taylor featured more than its share of tough trips, and only a shade more than a half-length separated the first four finishers.

Ambitious Cat emerged as the best of five locally based runners in the field of 12, finishing third under regular rider Patrick Husbands.

Another local who provided a huge buzz Sunday was Sophia's Prince, who was beaten a neck as the runner-up in the Nearctic.

The handle for this year's International Day program was $5.25 million, up from $4.6 million last year.