Entourage Stables' reigning Horse of the Year Pink Lloyd turned in a show-stopping track record performance to win the $100,000 Jacques Cartier Stakes in his season's debut on Saturday afternoon as the 2018 Thoroughbred meet kicked off at Woodbine.
Following a perfect eight-for-eight stakes campaign in 2017 that earned him Canadian Horse of the Year honours at Thursday's Sovereign Awards, Pink Lloyd extended his win streak to nine in Saturday's six-furlong sprint for older horses and lowered the track record to 1:08.05 for Hall of Fame trainer Robert Tiller. The former record of 1:08.16 was set by Essence Hit Man in April, 17 2011.
Jockey Rafael Hernandez was aboard for one of his five wins on the Opening Day's 10-race card, subbing in for Pink Lloyd's regular reinsman Eurico Rosa Da Silva as he serves a riding suspension.
“I've ridden against him and every time he's beat me. He beat me eight times. I finally get on him and I won the race,” said Hernandez.
Leaving from the inside post for the first time in his career, Pink Lloyd raced inside of Conquest Enforcer, who established a two-length lead past the :21.96 quarter mark. After a half in :44.58, Pink Lloyd launched his attack and swept to victory with Extravagant Kid chasing him to the wire, finishing three-quarters of a length behind. Conquest Enforcer settled for third, with Majestic Slew, Tale of the Nile and Ikerrin Road completing the order of finish.
“The main thing was to get him relaxed,” said Hernandez. “We broke out of the gate real sharp and I just wanted to take him back and relax. As soon as he saw [Conquest Enforcer] in front of the pack, I was loaded all the way and just waited to let him go.”
Starting a new season, with a new post and new jockey while carrying a field-high weight of 124 pounds, Pink Lloyd overcame those factors to defend his Jacques Cartier Stakes title.
“I was certainly worried. I worry every time, but at the end of the day that's nine stakes wins in a row. It's really amazing,” said Tiller. “To winter here at [Paul] Buttigieg's farm and start on him in January, this horse, he's magic. He's a beautiful animal and I don't think that's his best race you saw here today.
“I want to thank Rafael for the way he rode him here today. He got him off the fence when he had the opportunity. He had everything against him today – the weight, the lay up, the new rider. I texted my son last night about all the things I was worried about and he texted me back and said, 'Dad, he's a champion and champions run.'”
Bred in Ontario by John Carey, the six-year-old Old Forester-Gladiator Queen gelding has now won a dozen of his 14 career starts and more than $700,000 in purse earnings.
“He's an Ontario horse, an Ontario-sired horse, a Canadian-bred and he deserves to run at Woodbine as long as there's races for him and we're certainly not going to miss those opportunities,” said Tiller. “We love Canada and we love Woodbine and we love Ontario.”
Sent postward as the heavy 1-2 favourite, Pink Lloyd paid $3.10 to win and $2.10 to place. There was no show wagering. He combined with Extravagent Kid ($6) for a 1-2 exacta worth $21.60. A $1 trifecta of 1-2-5 (Conquest Enforcer) paid $24.85 and a $1 superfecta of 1-2-5-4 (Majestic Slew) returned $74.05.
The new Thoroughbred racing season opened under sunny skies with Hernandez winning the first race of the 133-day meet in rein to Chiefswood Stables' homebred Houdini Affair for trainer Stuart Simon.
While Pink Lloyd stole the show in the Jacques Cartier, Bruno Schickedanz's Inge was promoted to winner in an eventful opening act, the $100,000 Wando Stakes for three-year-olds over 1-1/16 miles. Woodbine's 2017 leading trainer Norm McKnight earned his first stakes win of the meet with Gary Boulanger aboard. McKnight also teamed up with Hernandez for wins with Kapellmeister and Danzig Rainbow.
Opening Weekend continues at Woodbine on Sunday afternoon, with post time for the first race at 1 p.m.
For more information, visit Woodbine.com.
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