Crusade Charges to Victory in Middle Park

Crusade held off Lilbourne Lad to win the Emaar Middle Park Stakes (Eng-I) Oct. 8.

Longshot Crusade benefitted from a strong ride by jockey Seamie Heffernan as he charged between horses to capture the $234,000 Emaar Middle Park Stakes (Eng-I) at Newmarket Oct. 8.

Dismissed at odds of 25-1, the 2-year-old son of Mr. Greeley provided trainer Aidan O’Brien with his fourth winner of the Middle Park, following the victories of Minardi (2000), Johannesburg (2001), and Ad Valorem (2004).

Crusade was forwardly placed by Heffernan as B Fifty Two went to the front to set the pace. Hot on his heels was West Leake Dimon, with the majority of the 16-runner field being tightly bunched with only a few lengths separating first from last. The lone exception was the 40-1 shot Balty Boys, who raced alone along the far side rails under jockey Michael Hills.

With just over a furlong left it was anyone’s race, as Reply, under Ryan Moore, edged to the front to gain a short lead. Lilbourne Lad came up to challenge, as Crusade rallied between those two. The three colts battled it out to the wire, with Crusade prevailing by three-quarters of a length over Lilbourne Lad. Reply, the other O’Brien-trained runner in the field, was just a head back in third, with Balty Boys another head back in fourth.

The final time for the six furlongs was 1:10.75 over the good to firm going.

The lightly-raced Crusade, who prior to the Middle Park only sported a maiden win on his resume, now has improved his record to two wins from four starts for owners Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Susan Magnier.

Regardless of the long odds, Heffernan always had faith in his colt. After the race he said, “He’s improved from run to run. I’m never surprised (when outsiders win) any more. We have to make them good. It’s grand.”

There are several options available for Crusade, including a possible start in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. When discussing his options O’Brien said, “The boys will speak about if he runs again but he could be a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile horse on the dirt. He’s got speed and travels and gets the six well, but that will be discussed.”

Crusade was bred in Kentucky by the La Traviata Syndicate. He is the first foal out of La Traviata, a daughter of Johannesburg who captured the 2007 Victory Ride Stakes (gr. III).