Dragon Bay wins the Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine

Dragon Bay wins the Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine

Michael Burns

Dragon Bay Speeds to Nijinsky Victory

Favored Can'thelpbelieving found trouble in the stretch and finished second.

Dragon Bay and jockey Gary Boulanger led from gate to wire to defeat heavy favorite Can'thelpbelieving in the $175,000 Nijinsky Stakes (G2T) at Woodbine July 29.

Sent off at odds of 5-1, the Stuart Simon-trained Dragon Bay established the lead from post 2 and clocked opening fractions of :26.10 and :51.22 through a half-mile, with Pumpkin Rumble and Jesse Campbell racing just to their outside in the 1 1/4-mile test. Can'thelpbelieving and jockey James Graham tracked from third.

Pumpkin Rumble pressured the leader past three-quarters in 1:15.81, while Tour de Force and Patrick Husbands moved up three-wide before weakening late.

Dragon Bay fought off Pumpkin Rumble past the mile mark in 1:38.68 and drew 1 1/2 lengths clear to win in 2:02.10. Unable to secure racing room between horses in the stretch, Can'thelpbelieving maneuvered outside and finished second, ahead of Pumpkin Rumble. Bangkok and Tour de Force completed the order of finish. 

Video: Nijinsky S. (G2T)

Can'thelpbelieving was the heavy 1-2 favorite following a close runner-up finish in the United Nations Stakes (G1T) July 1 at Monmouth Park, but second choice Dragon Bay stole the show and paid $12.50 to win and $3.50 to place. There was no show wagering.

"Stu has obviously done a great job with him and we talked about it, and we thought he's a little bit better when he's forwardly placed," Boulanger said after the victory. "We didn't see a whole lot of speed. I thought I had the speed of the speed. If there was any, maybe Jesse might challenge me, Patrick's horse maybe. But he's a really manageable horse and when he gets out there, his ears are up the whole way and he's just waiting on me to ask him. He kind of clocks horses. Jesse had come to him and he'd pin an ear and he made my job really easy."

The 4-year-old chestnut gelding earned his second stakes win this year, following an 18-1 neck victory in the Eclipse Stakes (G2) May 20. He entered the Nijinsky off a sixth-place finish, defeated by two lengths, in the King Edward Stakes (G2T) July 2.

 "He kind of was in a scramble (in the King Edward)," Boulanger said. "He's got that speed that he's kind of in between. He really never got comfortable and into that big rhythm that he has. We didn't get beat that far, but he didn't really fire the way he's been firing when we go two turns."

Dragon Bay now boasts five wins from 18 starts with earnings of $356,554 for Simon and his longtime partners Brent and Russell McLellan.

"I've trained for their family now for over 25 years, so it's been a long time and they're great people, and it couldn't happen to nicer people," Simon said.

Together they purchased Dragon Bay privately from Cary Brooks, who paid $6,000 for the son of Parading at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale.

 "We gave considerably more than $6,000 for him, but Cary did a good job picking him out," Simon said. "We noticed him when he ran the first time and I went over to his barn and we made a deal, so I'm happy. It was a good deal for both people."

The versatile multiple graded stakes winner has been a dream horse for his connections.

"We kind of get caught between distance and surfaces. He'll do just about anything you ask of him to be honest," Simon said. "He's just a dream horse. He really is. He's been a gift to us and we're just happy to have him."