Sunday, October 16, 2011
Miss Keller wins close finish
By Kellie Reilly
Although North American-based distaffers were outnumbered by European shippers eight to three in Sunday's Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine, reigning Canadian champion turf female Miss Keller got up late to defend her home turf in a rousing three-way finish. Besides ending a string of six straight unplaced efforts since her runner-up performance in this race one year ago, she handed Canadian Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield his first-ever E.P. Taylor trophy.
In the post-race interview, Attfield admitted that Miss Keller had been "a little bit of a project this year."
Miss Keller didn't appear to enter the 2011 edition in as sharp a form as last year, and was accordingly overlooked at odds of 11-1. Under John Velazquez, the five-year-old mare just edged British shipper I'm a Dreamer by a head, with French invader and 2-1 favorite Dream Peace another nose away in third. The pulsating conclusion echoed the Grade 1 Nearctic earlier on the card, which also served up a three-way tussle to the line.
In the early stages, Laughing and Strawberrydaiquiri vied for the lead, but the gray Strawberrydaiquiri won that scrimmage and established an opening quarter in :25 1/5 on the yielding turf. Mahbooba then emerged from the pack and took control, carving out fractions of :51, 1:16 and 1:41. For the first six furlongs, Miss Keller was settled in 10th in the 11-horse field by a patient Velazquez.
On the final turn, I'm a Dreamer commenced her move, and she swept past a tiring Mahbooba in the stretch. But Miss Keller was also advancing smartly. As the Sovereign Award winner ranged into contention, Dream Peace began to unwind widest of all, and her compatriot Adventure Seeker was inching forward on the fence.
Although I'm a Dreamer stuck her neck out in a last-ditch attempt to hang on, Miss Keller's thrust would not be denied. She took 2:06 4/5 to finish the soggy 1 1/4 miles, rewarding her loyalists with $25.30, $10.90 and $6.40.
The narrowly-beaten third Dream Peace had a length to spare over Adventure Seeker. Sea of Heartbreak closed from last to take fifth. Mahbooba, Laughing, Dyna Waltz, Attfield's other runner Mekong Melody, Strawberrydaiquiri and the tailed-off Kinky Afro rounded out the order of finish.
Miss Keller's first Grade 1 coup also made her a millionaire with $1,253,284 in earnings from her 24-6-3-2 record. She is campaigned by Three Chimneys Racing, Lordship Stud and Clodagh McStay.
Runner-up in a division of the Grade 3 Valley View in 2009, Miss Keller captured the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes and the De La Rose Stakes in 2010. Her championship campaign also featured placings in the E.P. Taylor and a trio of Grade 2 events -- the Nassau, Ballston Spa and Churchill Distaff Turf Mile. Following her ninth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, she was listed as sold for $700,000 at Keeneland last November.
Miss Keller resurfaced with Attfield this spring. Sixth in both the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley and the Nassau, she was fourth in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly, sixth in the De La Rose and fifth in the Canadian last time out.
Bred by Hascombe and Valiant Studs in Ireland, Miss Keller is by Montjeu and out of the English stakes-winning Ingozi, by Warning. She is a half-sister to the Group 2-placed Kotsi, the multiple Group 3-placed Sir George Turner, and to the dams of Grade/Group 2 winners Fantastic Pick and Hatta Fort.