One of the stars of the Woodbine racing season in 2023, PATCHES O’HOULIHAN, popular for his fun name and talent on the track, will try to stay unbeaten this year in the Kennedy Road Stakes (G3) on Saturday, November 17. The fast Ontario-sired and bred son of Reload – Maythefourthbwithu by Silent Name (Jpn) is six for six in his three-year-old season (he only lost once in two races in 2022) and his exploits have had some mention his name in the same sentence as the great sprinter Pink Lloyd, coincidentally from the same owner-and-trainer team of Frank DiGiulio, Jr. and Robert Tiller.

“It’s crazy,” said DiGiulio, who owned Pink Lloyd with some friends under Entourage Stable. “I never saw this coming. You never know where good horses are going to come from.”

Now, Patches has quite a way to go to realistically be compared to Pinkie, who now welcomes his fans as a resident of LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement in Hillsburgh. Pink Lloyd won numerous Sovereign Awards, 29 of 37 races and $1.8 million (US).

Patches O’Houlihan is a pleasant surprise for DiGiulio and Tiller and unlike Pink Lloyd, who was bred by John Carey, Patches was bred by DiGiulio, who purchased the gelding’s dam Maythefourthbwithu as a yearling for just $3,500 at the 2021 CTHS Ontario sale.

“She was raised by Mike Colterjohn of Paradox Farm and was from an early [Ontario] crop of Silent Name (Jpn) who Mike was standing at Gardiner Farms,” said DiGiulio.

“She toed in fairly badly but had a beautiful hind end. She was a five-furlong horse, that was it.”

Maythefourthbwithu (yes, she was born on May 4, 2011) was quite a good little runner with six wins in 15 races and earnings of over $260,000.

DiGiulio bred her to American sprinter Successful Appeal and that first foal was Five Days In May, a multiple winner. After two foals that did not race, Maythefourthbwithu produced Patches.

“He’s really well put together,” said DiGiulio. “He has flashy marks and a bit of a wall eye.”

The gelding won his career debut as a juvenile last year by more than four lengths, but was injured in the Bull Page Stakes in his only other outing.

When he won his season debut by 9 3/4 lengths in May of this year with a huge 93 Beyer Speed Figure, DiGiulio and Tiller were quietly excited. The gelding won his next outing and then headed to the Ontario Sire Heritage Series in July.

“He ran in a non-winners of two and then a non-winners of three, which seemed like the obvious thing to do. When he won the Lake Superior Stakes by 8 1/2 lengths, and did it so easily, I thought we could enter him in the Bold Venture Stakes (G3).”

Tiller wasn’t overly keen on the idea, but the gelding led all the way through the 6 1/2 furlongs and won in 1:15.20 for another 93 Beyer Figure. DiGiulio wasn’t on hand that day as he took his family to Del Mar Racetrack in San Diego, a trip that had been quashed a couple of years ago due to COVID.

Patches won the Grade 3 Vigil Stakes at 6 furlongs by inches over longshot Last American Exit, coincidentally, a horse bred by DiGiulio.

“It was raining at Del Mar that day so we were stuck in the hotel room. We watched the race from there and did a lot of yelling.”

There has not been a main track sprint stakes race on the Woodbine calendar since the Vigil, so Patches meets nine rivals off a two-month break. The field is the toughest he has faced.

Among his rivals are Grade 1 placed Ice Chocolat (Brz), who was a close second in the Kennedy Road in 2022 but winless since October of last year, and American shipper Dream Shake, winner of the Connaught Cup (G2) on turf and recently a troubled fifth by a neck in the Nearctic Stakes (G2). The winner of the Nearctic was Big Invasion, who was a close second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita earlier this month.

Whether or not Patches goes on to have a career similar to Pinkie’s, DiGiulio is grateful to have a star in his barn. “Horses like him, they keep you going in this industry.”