Pender Harbour became the first horse in six years to capture two-thirds of Canada’s Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing when he out-nodded Celtic Conviction at the wire in the 121st edition of the Breeders’ Stakes, Sunday at Woodbine.
The son of Philanthropist was ridden to the nose victory by Luis Contreras, who made history becoming the first jockey to sweep the Triple Crown with two horses.
Pender Harbour, who was making his turf debut, added the Breeders’ to his Triple Crown resume after the chestnut gelding captured the Prince of Wales, second jewel of the three-race series, three weeks ago at Fort Erie. Inglorious took the Queen’s Plate, the first race in the Triple Crown, in late June, but was ridden by Contreras.
(The Triple Crown sweep) is the best thing that’s happened to me,” Contreras said. “I was excited before but this is absolutely amazing.”
A Bit O’ Gold, who also won the Prince of Wales and Breeders’ Stakes, was the last horse to capture two legs of the Triple Crown in 2004.
Celtic Conviction was brave in defeat but was disqualified for interference in the lane and relegated to third. Crown’s Path, at 24-1, was placed second. Hippolytus was fourth.
The final time over a soft turf, softened by heavy early morning rains, was 2:36.31.
Pender Harbour sat mid-pack early in the 1 1/2-mile race through fractions of :24.28, :48.75, 1:14.64, set by dual pacesetters Born to Boogie and Delawana, who were several lengths clear of the field. Still in mid-pack after a mile in 1:41.64 and 10 furlongs in 2:09.77, Pender Harbour began making his bid for the lead into the stretch and finally seized it 50 yards from the wire, holding off a persistent Celtic Conviction at the wire.
“He was comfortable the whole way,” Contreras said. “I just tried to keep him in the race. I was in a good position, and I tried to keep my position. Turning for home, when I put my horse outside and really asked him, he gave me everything. He was a little tired at the end, but I was tired too.”
Contreras, also won six races, including the first five, on the Woodbine card. He was the first jockey at Woodbine to do so since David Clark turned the feat on July 17, 1998. He reflected upon his accomplishment. “I have to thank everybody for their support. The trainers, the owners; they made me do this.”
Mike DePaulo continues his masterful training job with Pender Harbour, who’ll get a rest from racing after a busy two months in which he raced four times, including a third-place finish in the Queen’s Plate.
“I wasn’t sure,” DePaulo said of the head bob finish in the race. “For a second there, I thought we got beat, but Luis rode him great. He’s a great horse. He’s tough. He’s a real nice horse. I walked the course this morning and I thought the rail was pretty good. The turf was actually pretty good, surprisingly. I just thought, stick on the fence as long as you can, and on the turn for home angle him out and get a clear run. That’s what he did.”
Crown’s Path, the eventual runner-up ran well, according to his jockey, Jesse Campbell. “I couldn’t have drawn up a better trip, except for the little infraction down the lane. Celtic Conviction was getting tired and was on his wrong lead and he drifted out.”
Campbell gave credit where credit was due. “(Pender Harbour) ran a tremendous race. He handled the course, he handled the distance. I’m happy I was second.”
For the victory, Pender Harbour collected $300,000 and now has $832,020 for his career.
Pender Harbour paid $6.20, $4.50, $3.20 combining with Crown’s Path ($18.30, $10) for a $127.10 exactor. Celtic Conviction ($4), the 6-1 third choice, rounded out the $1,129.90 triactor. Hippolytus, at 8-1, was fourth and rounded out a $3,710 superfecta.