“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball,” is the famous line delivered by three-year-old gelding Patches O’Houlihan’s namesake character in the movie Dodgeball.

Frank Di Giulio Jr. doesn’t know if his homebred can dodge a wrench, but he definitely knows he can run. The son of Reload has four wins in 2023, including the first two legs of the Ontario Sires Heritage Series.

“He’s just blossomed as a three-year-old. I don’t think (trainer Robert Tiller), or I expected him to be as good as he is so it’s a nice surprise for sure,” said Di Giulio Jr.

His most recent victory was on Sunday, July 30 at Woodbine Racetrack in the $100,000 Lake Superior Stakes for three-year-old colts and geldings.

Originally scheduled for six furlongs on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, it was moved to the tapeta main track after heavy rain on Saturday.

‘Patches’ won at five furlongs on the Inner Turf in the Lake Huron Stakes on July 8, and the extra eighth of a mile was no issue. He used his trademark early speed to win gate to wire by five lengths.

“It was a little nerve-wracking the day before not knowing whether it was going to stay on the grass or not,” said Di Giulio Jr. “We would’ve run if it was firm I think, but it being a little softer we were just a little nervous about it. It’s a lot easier to run him on the main track where we knew he had already won before. Then the fact that he won like that was very rewarding and very exciting.”

Established in 2021 by Ontario Racing’s Thoroughbred Improvement Program Committee, the Heritage Series is comprised of three $100,000 legs and a $100,000 final, with separate divisions for three-year-old males and females by registered Ontario Sires.

There is also $70,000 in bonus money distributed to the top three series finishers in each gender.

Di Giulio Jr., an Ontario owner and breeder for nearly 40 years, is a strong believer in the Ontario Sire Heritage Series, and the type of racing opportunities it provides Ontario-sired three-year-olds.

“These races are hugely important and beneficial. It gives owners an opportunity to run their horses and get black type and encourages people to breed in Ontario,” said Di Giulio Jr. “It’s important to support the local industry and breed Ontario sires, and it’s just another reason to do that having these opportunities. It’s very important in my opinion.”

As an Ontario-based owner and breeder, it’s no surprise that Di Giulio Jr. has a history with Patches O’Houlihan’s family.

He originally purchased his dam Maythefourthbwithu at the 2012 CTHS Ontario Mixed Sale, and campaigned her for three seasons where she earned over $260,000 USD.

Patches is her fourth foal since retiring to the breeding shed, and it was a marriage of convenience that led to his breeding.

“(Maythefourthbwithu) is boarded at Northern Dawn Stables with Sherry MacLean, and Reload was on the same farm,” said Di Giulio Jr. “He’s a big strong horse, and I thought he would suit her physically, and we would give him a try since he was right there in her own backyard.”

Di Giulio Jr. and Tiller are pointing Patches O’Houlihan towards the Lake Erie Stakes on September 12 at Fort Erie Race Track, the third leg of the Ontario Sire Heritage Series, which will be contested over six-and-one-half furlongs on dirt.

Another strong result would go a long way towards Patches locking up the $20,000 first place prize awarded to the top finisher in the four Heritage Series races.

“We are taking it one race at a time, and don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves,” said Di Giulio Jr. “but that race is an obvious spot for him, and it is one we have our eye on.”