Patrick Husbands guides Conquest Panthera (pink silks) to victory in the Play the King Stakes

Patrick Husbands guides Conquest Panthera (pink silks) to victory in the Play the King Stakes

Michael Burns

Conquest Panthera Takes Play the King

Race marred by the death of Calgary Cat.

Before the gates opened for the $175,000 Play the King Stakes (G2T) at Woodbine Aug. 19, it was clear that pace, or a lack thereof, was going to be a major factor in the outcome. 

Video: Play the King S. (G2T)

Brad Cox trainee Dowse's Beach showed up in the seven-furlong dance off two frontrunning wins at Belmont Park with speedy fractions and a lack of early speed to counter him, and it seemed the closers would have their work cut out for them.

But Conquest Panthera showed determination to catch a loose-on-the-lead Dowse's Beach in deep stretch to earn his first graded victory.

The 5-year-old gelding by Kitten's Joy  fired off a devastating late kick under jockey Patrick Husbands to reel in Dowse's Beach, who had the race seemingly wrapped up at the top of the stretch. Just as he appeared to be galloping away from the field in the middle of the stretch, Dowse's Beach tired just enough to be caught in the final stages amid some light bumping with the winner. 

Dowse's Beach spurted away from the field out of the gate and opened up a commanding lead before he took some pressure by the Wesley Ward-trained Hootenanny through fractions of :23.15 and :45.75 for a half-mile. After he put Hootenanny away, Husbands sailed Conquest Panthera into the stretch as six furlongs went in 1:08.90.

Conquest Panthera, who exited a third-place finish in the Wise Dan Stakes (G2T) at Churchill Downs and placed in the Maker's 46 Mile (G1T) in April at Keeneland for trainer Mark Casse, used his back class to pick off the leader after he made a three-wide move into the lane and finished the distance in a time of 1:21.20.

"By the time the gates fly, he was relaxing. He was just taking me for a nice little journey, so I was happy," Husbands said.

The winner paid $18.20, $9.40, and $5.20 across the board. Dowse's Beach paid $6.20 and $4.20.

Glenville Gardens, trained by Sid Attard, picked up the pieces to get third, and paid $6.50 to show. 

Roger Attfield's Tower of Texas finished close behind in fourth.

The race was marred by the death of Calgary Cat, the 2014 Canadian champion sprinter and most accomplished horse in the field.  Calgary Cat, who ran fourth in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1T), settled near the back of the pack on Saturday, and finally to the rear, before he uncorked a wide move before tiring to seventh. After the race, while walking near the clubhouse turn, the 7-year-old son of Cowtown Cat collapsed and died, Woodbine communications director Keith McCalmont said. McCalmont said a necropsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. Trained by Kevin Attard, the gelding earned $964,953 over his career with 12 wins from 32 starts.  

Conquest Panthera is owned by Gary Barber and was bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey in Kentucky. Out of the Sky Mesa  mare Lastofthsummerwine, he was purchased by Casse out of the 2016 Keeneland November sale for $100,000 from Lane's End as agent for the complete dispersal of Conquest Stables. He has gone through the auction ring two more times, as a yearling and 2-year-old. He sold for $475,000 at the 2014 Ocala Breeders' Sales March selected sale of 2-year-olds in training to Conquest Stables, out of the Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds consignment, and was a $125,000 purchase by Hartley/De Renzo from Taylor Made Sales Agency's consignment to the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga 2013 select yearling sale.

The victory by Conquest Panthera brought his record to 4-0-3 in 10 starts and raised his earnings to $250,016.