Entourage Stable's newly minted Canadian 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 debut April 21 at Woodbine.
Following an eight-for-eight stakes campaign in 2017 that earned him three 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. The former record of 1:08.16 was set by Essence Hit Man in 2011
Jockey Rafael Hernandez was aboard for one of his five wins on the 10-race opening day card, subbing in for Pink Lloyd's regular rider Eurico Rosa da Silva, who is serving a 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," Hernandez said.
Leaving from the inside post for the first time in his career for Canadian Hall of Fame trainer Robert Tiller, Pink Lloyd raced inside Conquest Enforcer, who established a two-length lead through a quarter-mile in :21.96. After a half in :44.58, Pink Lloyd launched his attack and swept to victory by three-quarters of a length, with Extravagant Kid chasing him to the wire. 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," Hernandez said of the 1-2 favorite. "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."
"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," Tiller said. "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 (layoff), 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 6-year-old Old Forester —Gladiator Queen gelding has now won a dozen of his 14 starts and more than $700,000.
"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," Tiller said.