Sam-Son Farm homebred El Tormenta moved up the rail at final odds of 44-1 to defeat the 7-5 favorite in filly Got Stormy by a half-length in Saturday's Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile, earning the first top-level score of his career. The Ontario-bred 4-year-old by Stormy Atlantic was piloted by Eurico Rosa da Silva and trained by Gail Cox to complete the mile over Woodbine's “good” turf in 1:32.60. The victory earns El Tormenta an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Mile this November at Santa Anita Park.
“This was my last opportunity to win this race – it was the only one left,” said Da Silva, who has announced that he will be retiring from the saddle at the end of this season.
“And this was my opportunity, and here we are. I was fully focused. It was a little tough with Pink Lloyd (declared a non-starter in the Grade 3 Bold Venture, earlier in the card) when he broke from the gate today, but I keep talking to myself, 'Just focus on what you need to focus on, and keep faith in your horse. And never give up.'”
“This horse ran so beautifully,” added Da Silva, before closing with his signature phrase, “Good luck to everybody!”
There was a three-way battle for the lead all the way down the backstretch in the Woodbine Mile, with Silent Poet at the rail, Awesometank between horses and Admiralty Pier on the outside. Those three sped through early fractions of :22.84 and :44.43 while being closely tracked by both Got Stormy and El Tormenta.
El Tormenta was down on the rail, while Got Stormy went around the leaders four-wide in the far turn when the pair made their challenge. Tyler Gaffalione rode Got Stormy confidently in the lane, looking around for his rivals before asking the Grade 1-winning filly for her best run. By that time, the ever-patient da Silva had found a seam for El Tormenta and was up to challenge the now-leading Got Stormy in the final eighth of a mile.
The battle was over quickly, but Got Stormy never quit trying all the way through the wire as El Tormenta crossed it a half-length in front. Lucullan finished in third, but an inquiry into his erratic stretch run moved him down to fourth as the late-running Raging Bull was elevated to third.
Got Stormy, a 4-year-old, performed nobly in defeat when looking to give trainer Mark Casse his third win in the last four runnings of the Woodbine Mile, following Tepin in 2016 and World Approval in 2017. Racing just off the early leaders, Got Stormy had hit the front when they reached the six-furlong mark in 1:08.33 and maintained a half-length lead with a furlong to run before coming up just short.
“I was proud of her,” said Casse. “I knew, this is a tough place to win. There is a huge home field advantage.
“I was just a little worried that they weren't going to carry her far enough and that she'd make the lead. But the winner ran very well, showed a lot of guts down inside. I was proud of our filly. I've lost no respect for her and I feel extremely confident that we'll be right there in the Breeders' Cup.”
Regular rider Tyler Gaffalione also believes his charge lost no lustre in defeat.
“Mark and I were just walking around the rail and it's rock hard, it seems like it might be the best spot on the track,” said Gaffalione.
“The post position (No. 5) was good, we got a beautiful trip. She ran her heart out. She gave us everything she had. She's an incredible filly.”
“I'm looking forward to her in the Breeders' Cup. I think she'll be dynamite out there. This track is a one-turn mile, it's a long course. She has a lot of quickness to her and I think Santa Anita will fit her perfectly. She laid it all out there today. Congratulations to the winner, they ran a big race. It took a nice horse to beat her today.”
Bred in Ontario by his owner, El Tormenta is a fifth-generation homebred out of the winning El Prado mare Torreadora. His lineage traces back to the 1984 Canadian 3-year-old filly champion Classy N' Smart, as well as to No Class, foundation mare by Nodouble from which the late Ernie Samuel built his world-class operation. No Class produced Sky Classic, Dance Smartly, among others, and is one of the breed's great broodmares.
The gelding required three starts to break his maiden, but has found his best stride on the Woodbine lawn this season to win the G2 Connaught Cup and finish fourth in both the G1 Highlander and the G2 Play the King. Overall, El Tormenta's record stands at four wins and three seconds from 13 starts for earnings over $800,000.
El Tormenta was giving his trainer, Gail Cox, the biggest win of her career.
“Oh, it's huge. It's a Grade 1 win and it's a 'Win and You're In,' so it's huge,” Cox said. “I was a little worried with the one-hole and being on the rail because if you've seen his past three starts, they've been troubled. I just think he was laying closer and really bullied his way through a little bit. He's a very, very nice horse, and was probably overlooked here.
“Last year, I thought he was a sprinter. He ran shorter and he ran a different style. This year, every start, we thought he'd probably like to go a little farther.”
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