Longshot Decorated Soldier earned his first graded stakes victory upsetting an accomplished field in the $125,000 Seagram Cup (Grade 3) on Sunday afternoon at Woodbine Racetrack.
Norm McKnight trains the five-year-old Proud Citizen-Lakenheath gelding, who was claimed for $20,000 on April 13 at Oaklawn Park, for owners Racer’s Edge Inc. and Maxis Stable. Gary Boulanger was aboard for the gate-to-wire victory over 1-1/16 miles on the main track.
Decorated Soldier led the way through fractions of :23.54, :46.69 and 1:10.77 while pressured by Shakhimat then drew clear off the final turn to win in 1:43.71 by 2-1/4 lengths.
“He’s just been a diamond in the rough, a real treasure,” said McKnight, who has now watched Decorated Solider win three of his four starts since arriving at Woodbine. “We took a look at this horse in Oaklawn when we were down there. We liked everything we saw about him. The reason we were particularly interested is he’d never been on the synthetic and never been on the grass, so I thought they were two angles that he possibly might have a big move, but we never dreamt that he’d be doing what he’s been doing. We just thought he was a nice solid horse at the time, but he’s just kept getting better and better.
“I know Gary’s rode him a few times for us, but right from day one when he rode him, he said ‘this is a serious horse!’ So we’ve just gone with that and until he dropped the ball we were just going to keep being aggressive with him and putting him in spots and let him show us whether he belonged or not.”
The McKnight-trained Florida Won, who won the 2015 edition of the Seagram Cup and was a $40,000 claim by Bruno Schickedanz this spring, was just nosed out by Gigantic Breeze in a photo for place.
“I would have loved to have been second with the other half, but he ran a great race as well,” said McKnight. “Going into the race, I thought we had two different type of horses: one off the pace and one that I knew could go to the front. And I thought if the lead horse weakens, hopefully we’re setting it up for the horse coming off the pace. It almost worked out to perfection, but the head bob got us.”
The favoured millionaire, Are You Kidding Me, finished fourth with defending champion Melmich rounding out the top five as Shakhimat faded to last.
The McKnight trainees were the longest shots on the board at odds of 9-1, respectively. Decorated Soldier paid $21, $10.10 and $6.90. He combined with Gigantic Breeze ($7, $5) for a 5-2 exacta worth $166. Florida Won paid $6.50 to show and completed the 5-2-4 trifecta, which returned $388.10 for a $1 ticket. The $1 superfecta of 5-2-4-3 paid $1,164.55.