10/17/2011 1:05PM

Woodbine: Miss Keller gets a perfect ride to win E.P. Taylor

Michael Burns
Miss Keller (center), under John Velazquez, wins a photo finish in Sunday’s Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario — Miss Keller was coming off an impressive win here at Woodbine in the Grade 2 Canadian when she finished a strong second at 3-1 for trainer Roger Attfield in last year’s Grade 1 E.P. Taylor.

But with a fourth-place finish her best showing in six subsequent starts, Miss Keller was sent off at 11-1 in Sunday’s $1 million E.P. Taylor, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares in which eight of the 11 entrants were European invaders.

Miss Keller delivered in unexpected fashion, however, as she benefited from a strong ride by John Velazquez to prevail by a head in a tight three-horse finish.

“She’s very tricky to train,” said Attfield, who won the E.P. Taylor for the first time. “At the beginning of the summer this year, she was having some female issues, and that made her even more difficult, but we got around all that.

“I always say she’s a filly, you don’t tell what to do; you ask her. And, that’s exactly how you have to ride her.”

Although Miss Keller finished fifth in this year’s Canadian, Attfield had been encouraged by the performance.

“She ran a very good race; she just got too far out of it,” said Attfield, who had given jockey Garrett Gomez a leg up that day.

Attfield had planned to bring in jockey Javier Castellano, who had ridden Miss Keller to her three North American victories and in her first E.P. Taylor.

But when Castellano was not available, he substituted Velazquez, who was coming in to ride Musketier for Attfield in the Canadian International.

“I have a good rapport with John Velazquez,” said Attfield. “I told him you can’t hit this filly, and he didn’t. He rode her perfectly, perfectly.”

Miss Keller, who raced last year for Three Chimneys LLC, sold for $700,000 at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, but was purchased by a group that included some of the original partners. She remained in training with Attfield.

Now, however, it would appear that Miss Keller may have run her last race for Attfield, who reports that she has been entered in an upcoming sale in England.

“It’s a difficult decision,” Attfield said Monday morning, noting that Miss Keller would have a fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf via her E.P. Taylor win but also could go out on the perfect note with her first Grade 1 victory.

“Right now, they’re leaning toward taking her down to Three Chimneys on Tuesday, then putting her in quarantine and preparing her for the sale.”

Attfield also sent out Mekong Melody to finish ninth in the E.P. Taylor and watched Musketier and Simmard run sixth and 13th, respectively, in the 16-horse field for the Canadian International.

“It was kind of interesting,” Attfield said. “I really wanted to put Mekong Melody and Simmard on the lead, and it didn’t really work out. I don’t think they handled the racetrack.”

Musketier, who was beaten a total of 10 1/4 lengths, was the top North American finisher in a race in which the nine-horse European contingent included the first five past the wire.

The second- through seventh-place finishers in the E.P. Taylor were among the eight Europeans entered there.

Gypsy Ring eyes Kennedy Road

Regally Ready, trained by Steve Asmussen, earned a fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with his victory in the Grade 1, $500,000 Nearctic over six furlongs of turf.

Bated Breath, one of three Europeans in the Nearctic, was beaten just a neck over ground much softer than he prefers, and locally based Gypsy Ring ran the race of his career to finish another head back in third place.

Gypsy Ring, an Ontario-sired 5-year-old who races for his owner, breeder, and trainer Paul Buttigieg, had been nominated to the Nearctic but was slated to run in last Wednesday’s Mt. Sassafras.

But when that overnight stakes for Ontario foals over seven furlongs of Polytrack failed to fill, Buttigieg took a shot in the Nearctic.

“I’m kind of glad it didn’t go,” said Buttigieg, who was rewarded with the Nearctic’s third prize of $60,000, which would have been the winner’s share of the Mt. Sassafras.

“I knew he was a better turf horse, and I didn’t have to make a decision. And this is better for the mare.”

Buttigieg said Gypsy Ring’s next target is the Kennedy Road, a six-furlong Polytrack stakes that offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $150,000 here Nov. 19..

“I’m not taking him out of town,” Buttigieg said. “I never think about that.”

Grand Adventure also ran well to finish fourth in the Nearctic for local trainer Mark Frostad after a less than ideal journey.

“The horse is at his very best,” Frostad said. “All in all, I’ve been happy with his performances. He just seems to be getting a lot of unlucky trips.”