The smash hit of a chart-topping year for Pink Lloyd came on June 10 at Woodbine Racetrack when the five-year-old gelding trashed the starting gate like it was a hotel room.
“He literally broke the gate when he broke through it,” said part-owner Frank Di Giulio, Jr. “They had to take that gate out and get a new one. From what I understand, he broke the latch off.”
A wise old punter told Pink Lloyd’s trainer, Bob Tiller, that, “99 times out of 100,” a horse will lose after bursting through the gate early and forcing a restart. What that bettor didn’t know was that for Di Giulio and Tiller and the other connections, Pink Lloyd was what Di Giulio calls that, “1 in 1,000 horse. He’s the best sprinter we’ve ever owned.”
Bursting free of the gate the second time that day, jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva set the early pace with Pink Lloyd, saved ground, rebuffed a challenge on the turn and blew the field away in the stretch to win the six-furlong, $125,000 Achievement Stakes by 5 ¼ lengths.
It was third stakes victory in a row for the chestnut son of Old Forester out of the Great Gladiator mare Gladiator Queen in a year in which he would stretch that undefeated streak through seven stakes — all at Woodbine. More importantly, the gate-trashing, open-lengths victory in the Achievement was the kind of statement win that proved nothing would stop Pink Lloyd from becoming a rock star.
Through more than 220 days from Opening Day on April 15 through late-November, Pink Lloyd has been money. He remained unbeaten through every kind of weather situation imaginable while also carrying extra weight. He won the $113,000 Jacques Cartier Stakes on Opening Day and was preparing for the Grade 2 Kennedy Road Stakes on Nov. 28 as this issue went to press.
“It’s been a long year with him, but we’re still undefeated, which is hard to do, especially through cold weather, hot weather, warm weather, rain, snow in the spring and all the things that come along the way that stop horses from carrying on and racing well. He’s done it all, so far,” Tiller said.
“He’s carried the weight all year. He’s carried 126 pounds,” Tiller said. “He also ripped his foot open in the second last start when he came up with a quarter crack and ran around there on three shoes, but still won. He’s overcome all the obstacles.”
Pink Lloyd won the Jacques Cartier by three-quarters of a length, the $125,000 New Providence on May 6 by 3 ¼ lengths, followed by the Achievement, the Grade 3 $140,000 Vigil on July 16 by 2 ¼ lengths, the $125,000 Shepperton on Aug. 12 by 1 ¼ lengths, the $125,000 Kenora on Aug. 30 by three-quarters of a length and the $125,400 Overskate on Oct. 29 by 4 lengths.
Apart from being seven-for-seven this year with earnings of $413,524, Pink Lloyd is 10-1-0 in 12 career starts with earnings of $551,752. Pink Lloyd has never missed a cheque.
“He’s just been very dominant,” Di Giulio said. “It’s amazing, really. It’s hard to describe what he’s done. There’s so many ways you can lose a race. He’s been able to avoid that.”
Tiller said in the 43 years he’s been a trainer he can’t remember a horse of his that won seven stakes in a row.
“There haven’t been too many in Canada. If there have, I would like to know who the last one was. He’s special, very special,” Tiller said, knocking on wood. “We’ve had many good horses, but this horse is starting to become the best sprinter I’ve ever had by a mile.
“He’s got natural speed or if speed outruns him, he’ll run horses down. He loves to go after horses and that’s a deadly combination. He can win either way. Up to seven furlongs, from six to seven furlongs, he actually prefers to go six-and-a-half, seven. He doesn’t have to be on the lead, this horse. He can rate and run by a horse. He actually loves that.”
Considering Pink Lloyd was a $30,000 yearling purchase that didn’t race until mid-way through his 4-year-old season, it is an improbable story.
Tiller said he discovered Pink Lloyd at the 2013 CTHS Canadian Premier Yearling Sale where the yearling had been consigned by his breeder, John Carney, the man that stands Old Forester at his T.C. Westmeath Stud Farm.
Di Giulio signed the ticket on behalf of the Entourage Stable named for the hit HBO series. Entourage is Di Giulio, his cousin, Victor Mele, along with friends Ed Longo, John Peri and John Lucato.
Though Di Giulio has been known for his creative horse names, he said Longo was the person who came up with the name Pink Lloyd.
“One of the characters in Entourage is named Lloyd and I think (Longo) tried to do something that went along with Lloyd. You’re not going to get Pink Floyd, but Pink Lloyd is sort of a combination of the show and the rock group. We had a horse in Entourage named Gianni Drama. We tried to get Johnny Drama, another one of the characters, but that was taken so we used the Italian form of Johnny and named him Gianni. We just try to go along that route as far as naming horses under the stable. We haven’t really bought that many yearlings under the stable. We’ve mostly claimed, but when we have had the opportunity to name them we’ve sort of gone along that route.”
Pink Lloyd was no overnight sensation. It took him nearly three years to get to the races. Tiller said the gelding had “quite a few nagging injuries” as a young horse, but the trainer saw plenty of raw talent that allowed him to be patient.
“He overcame obstacles as a yearling, he overcame obstacles as a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old. We sent him back to the farm four or five times when we had him almost ready to run,” Tiller said. “We were going to give him the time. The owners, especially Frank Di Giulio, Jr., have been in this game for a long time. Every time I said ‘stop’ they stopped. It’s paid off for us before with other horses. Be patient. I knew from day one that he could run. He always showed he could run. He always wanted to go after horses and run by horses. If you put a horse two, three lengths in front of him, he wants to go after them, wants to go by them.”
To go from three years on injured reserve to become something of an iron horse that casts off all challengers is a remarkable transformation.
“Maybe he got everything over with early on before he started running,” Di Giulio said. “To go from Opening Day to almost the last month of the season and stay at the top of the game like that, Bob Tiller deserves a lot of credit. He always he puts his heart and soul into them to the point where he almost makes himself sick with worry about them.”
The challenge was compounded by the fact Pink Lloyd is so competitive he needs to train when the fewest horses are on the track.
“He doesn’t train until 10:25 in the morning, which is five minutes before the training track closes. The reason for that is to make sure there’s not many horses out there,” Tiller said. “He’s great as long as he’s walking. He’ll stand on the outside rail and look forever at what’s going on, but as soon as you turn him around and you get a horse that gallops by he wants to go after them like crazy. So, we don’t train him until late in the morning so we can keep him away from other horses. He’s quite a guy.”
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Pink Lloyd is an entirely different horse in the barn.
“He’s very kind in the barn,” Tiller said. “You wouldn’t know it was him. The only time he’s all business is when he’s out on the racetrack and there’s other horses out there. Then he’s very, very tough to gallop. But he’s been a great joy to us. He’s very loved. I buy him three apples every day. He loves his apples.”
Pink Lloyd also loves his caretaker, third-generation horseman Kris Pion. The feeling is mutual.
“He gets pretty emotional,” Di Giulio said of Pion. “I went to give him a hug after the last race and congratulate him and I could see his eyes welling up a little bit. I think he spoils him pretty well. He loves all his horses, (but)… I’m sure he’s got a closer bond with him than any other horse. I know he loves him and does a great job with him.”
Tiller said Pink Lloyd’s success has been a team effort and the year has been, “A whole lot of fun, tremendous fun. (Pink Lloyd has) been a joy and a thrill for us. No question about that.”
Us and Them
Tiller and Di Giulio also said there is no question Pink Lloyd is the favourite for the Sovereign Award for Horse of the Year.
“Right now, in my eyes, we’re number one,” Tiller said. “If the other people don’t see it that way, that’s fine, but, to me, he’s won more stakes than anybody and run faster Beyers than anybody and he’s carrying more weight than anybody else.”
Di Giulio acknowledged he was biased, “but even if I put that aside I really believe he is (the Horse of the Year) because he’s done more. Not only this year, but compare him to horses in other years. Has anybody done this? I’ve asked a bunch of people. Nobody can put a finger on the last horse to win seven stakes… When you factor in the weight he’s had to carry, doing it from day one of the season right until two weeks until the end of the season, hopefully, I don’t know what else a horse could do to not win Horse of the Year.”
Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Before that happens, Pink Lloyd, his entourage in tow, will attempt to win an eighth straight stakes race when he goes to the gate for the Kennedy Road (Grade 2). Coincidentally, the Kennedy Road is the last race Pink Lloyd lost. He finished second by a length to Stacked Deck in it on Nov. 25, 2016.
“We’re going for eight, but if it doesn’t happen, the sun will come up somewhere,” Tiller said, laughing.
“I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be disappointed (if he lost the Kennedy Road),” Di Giulio said, “but I’d almost be ashamed of myself… It’s incredible what he’s done, so far. He’s been a blessing, really.”
Regardless of where Pink Lloyd finishes in the Kennedy Road, health willing, the gelding will be back at Woodbine in 2018 trying to start or extend his stakes winning streak.
His Entourage couldn’t be happier.
“He’s been a gem, a gem in the ocean,” Tiller said.