Stronach Stables' homebred Silent Poet turned in a track record performance under jockey Gary Boulanger, winning the $175,000 Play The King Stakes (Grade 2) on Saturday at Woodbine Racetrack.
Trained by Nicholas Gonzalez, the four-year-old Silent Name-Cara Bella gelding set a new E.P. Taylor Turf Course record of 1:19.22 for seven furlongs. Soaring Free's former record of 1:19.38 stood for 15 years.
With the impressive victory in the prep for the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile, Silent Poet stamped his ticket to next month's million-dollar affair set for September 14.
Silent Poet tracked the leaders Sable Island (Emma-Jayne Wilson) and Carmenootz (Leo Salles) along the rail through a quarter in :22.65 and half-mile in :44.11. He then slipped through between those rivals off the turn and kicked nearly two lengths clear down the stretch for the record-setting victory.
“We thought that Emma's horse and Carmenootz would definitely be up there and I thought I'd just be tracking and it came out exactly like that,” said Boulanger of his racing strategy. “I had a little seam about the 3/16th pole and he shot right through there and he played all the way down the lane. There's another gear there, unbelievably.”
Silent Poet has been a model of consistency with six wins from 11 career starts including the 2018 Vice Regent Stakes over one mile of turf. He's banked more than $370,000 lifetime and has missed the board on just one occasion when competing in last year's Queen's Plate.
Stepping up for his first graded stakes win, Silent Poet has shown his connections considerable progress since his sophomore campaign and seemingly has much more to offer.
“He showed a lot of try last year. This year, he's so focused on his job,” said Boulanger. “He's just been a lot of fun to be around. Nick's done a tremendous job with him, I'm just grateful I get to ride him.”
“To me, there's lots of room for improvement,” said Gonzalez, who was impressed by his trainee's last race as a three-year-old when he ran second to Kingsport in the Sir Barton Stakes going long. “They do such a great job over there in the Stronach barns. He was in Ocala over the winter, got gelded and came back a happy gelding.”
Silent Poet entered the Play The King following a victory in his July 21 season's debut over 6-1/2 furlongs on the turf.
“That first win was just a tune up and it just proved to us that he was going to another elevation and you heard the way Gary talked about him. He's just a special horse and we're just so lucky to have him.”
Sent postward at odds of 5-1, Silent Poet paid $13.10, $5.90 and $3.30. Sable Island ($9.70, $4.20) held on for second and completed the exacta worth $85.90 as a 10-1 shot. Curlin's Honor ($2.40), the 8-5 favourite, closed from the back and just missed the runner-up spot. The trifecta was worth $133.20 for a $1 ticket. El Tormenta, the 9-5 second choice, rounded out the winning superfecta combination that paid $271.65 for a $1 ticket. Admiralty Pier and Carmenootz completed the finish order.
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