Multiple stakes winner and multiple Sovereign Award champion Pink Lloyd, with Rafael Hernandez in the irons, will make his eight-year-old debut in Thursday’s Grade 3, $125,000 Jacques Cartier Stakes, at Woodbine.
Trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Robert Tiller and owned by Entourage Stable, Pink Lloyd, a 22-time winner from 27 starts, chases his fourth straight score in the six-furlong Jacques Cartier.
A victory would put the Ontario-bred son of Old Forester in the record books as the only horse to win four consecutive editions of the race. Pink Lloyd currently shares the mark with Essence Hit Man, an Ontario-bred son of Speightstown, who won the added-money race from 2011-13.
“That would be astronomical,” said Tiller, one win shy of 2,000 for his career. “There’s really no word for it. There are no words for this horse, whether he wins or loses. I know he’s going to run a big one. I’ve got him as ready as I can get him. He’s a legend. If that [stakes record for wins] were to happen, it would be absolutely wonderful.”
While his stature as a fleet-of-foot sprinter and fan favourite remains unchanged, there will be one notable difference when Pink Lloyd takes to the Tapeta on Saturday.
His regular rider, champion jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva, called it a career at the end of the 2019 Woodbine campaign, finishing with 2,286 wins, including 249 stakes triumphs.
The seven-time Sovereign Award-winning rider will be tuning in to watch the Jacques Cartier.
“I will watch the race and I will say to Pink Lloyd, ‘Just give your best, be safe, and I love you.’ That’s what will be in my mind when he loads into the gate,” said Da Silva.
Hernandez will now take over the reins of a horse that went undefeated in eights starts – all stakes – in 2017, en route to three Sovereigns, highlighted by Horse of the Year honours.
“It’s not a new rider, it’s an old rider,” said Tiller, of Hernandez (Da Silva was serving a riding suspension), who teamed with the chestnut to win the 2018 Jacques Cartier while also setting the track standard, 1:08.05, for six furlongs on the Tapeta. “He’s won with the horse. It was a logical choice, a no-brainer to me.”
“For me to ride the horse back is a pleasure,” said Hernandez. “He’s an unbelievable horse. The only time I was on the horse, he broke the track record. I feel good about that.
“I’m always going to do my best and try to win as many as we can. He knows how to run. He’s an old horse and does everything by himself. He just needs somebody on him to make the race official. He’s so good, he doesn’t need anybody on his back. He can do everything. He broke good, he can get himself where he wants, and he knows when it’s time to run. When he turns for home and he switches leads, he knows it’s time to go and the next stop for him is the winner’s circle.
“I appreciate the owners and Bob Tiller giving me the opportunity to ride him back and I’m going to do my best every time I get on the horse. I feel that horse is like Woodbine’s horse. Everybody cheers for that horse every time he runs.”
In May, Pink Lloyd, bred by John Carey, was voted top male sprinter for the third straight year. Unbeaten in six stakes starts in 2019, he also won his second Sovereign as champion older male main track runner.
The gelding’s sizable talent – and trophy haul – is matched by a big personality.
“His personality is ridiculous,” said groom Michelle Gibson, with a laugh. “I guess the best way to describe ‘Pink’ would be a grumpy old man. He is not a mushy, lovey kind of horse, except in his own way. You have to know him to appreciate when he’s lovey-dovey. He is all class every day and extremely smart. He knows when it’s entry day, race day or just a walk day. And he’s very vocal. He lets you know he is the man. The way he comes out of the starting gate is pretty much the same as when he exits his stall to go train in mornings. He loves it. And when he is in his ‘spot,’ chilling, nothing is going make him move – not me or the boss. ‘Pink’ really only does what ‘Pink’ wants and of course we all allow it. So when you see him switch leads in the stretch and come flying down to the wire, you know that’s because ‘Pink’ wants it.”
When asked for two words to describe one of Canada’s most prolific sprint stars, longtime assistant trainer Tom Lottridge responded, “simply awesome.”
“This horse, he has given me more thrills and excitement than any other horse in my career,” said Gibson. “I cry every time he crosses the wire because he just does it with all heart and for the pure love of racing. I am honoured and blessed to be in his company every day. I would do anything for ‘Pink’ and he would do the same for me.”
Tiller is expecting another strong showing from his stable star in his season’s debut.
“He’s doing very, very well right now. I expect a big race. Sometimes he gets too sharp, and he gets goofing off around the gate, but he’s been really good. And he’s had a lot of training on the main track, which I think is going to help him. If he behaves himself, I think he’s going to be very hard to beat.”
The Jacques Cartier is slated as race seven on Thursday’s eight-race card. First post time is 3:45 p.m. ET. Fans can watch and wager on all the action via HPIbet.com and tune into Racing Night Live on TSN3 and TSN5 from 6-8 p.m. for live racing from Woodbine Racetrack and Woodbine Mohawk Park.
$125,000 Jacques Cartier Stakes (Grade 3)
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Malibu Secret – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Martin Drexler
2 – Dixie’s Gamble – Luis Contreras – Josie Carroll
3 – Circle of Friends – Patrick Husbands – Donald MacRae
4 – Not So Quiet – Kazushi Kimura – Mark Casse
5 – Pink Lloyd – Rafael Hernandez – Robert Tiller