Entourage Stable’s Pink Lloyd, Canada’s reigning Horse of the Year, returned to form with a powerful stretch run to defend his title in Sunday’s $150,000 Grade 3 Vigil Stakes, at Woodbine.
Trained by Robert Tiller, the six-year-old Old Forester-Gladiator Queen chestnut reeled off a remarkable 11-race win streak at Woodbine that spanned from April 15, 2017 with a score in the Jacques Cartier Stakes through June 3, 2018 when taking the Achievement Stakes. Graded stakes wins through that period came in the Grade 3 Vigil and Grade 2 Kennedy Road as Pink Lloyd picked up year-end honours as champion Sprinter, Older Horse and Horse of the Year.
However, last time out, Pink Lloyd burst quickly out of the gate and got caught up in a speed duel with Boreal Spirit before fading to third in the 6 1/2-furlong Shepperton Stakes won by a last-to-first Kingsport. In the days following that effort, Tiller noted that Pink Lloyd spiked a temperature.
On Sunday, Pink Lloyd showed remarkable constitution, digging in gamely late in the turn to reel in a front-running Yorkton with powerful strides.
“Last time, I take the blame. I made a bad decision,” noted da Silva. “He broke so sharp and I was very confused if he broke through the door or not. In that split second, I lost my focus. I told Bob (Tiller) I take full responsibility. I went to the lead with a horse that was a speed ball.”
On Sunday, a professional Pink Lloyd relaxed behind rivals as the multiple stakes winner and graded stakes placed Yorkton set a strong pace of :22.11 and :44.93 with Jacks Escarpment stalking from second position.
Pink Lloyd, travelling well from the outside post in a field of six, was urged into contention late in the turn and swept by the field for a two-length win. Yorkton held second by 2 1/4-lengths over Jacks Escarpment. Pink Lloyd covered six furlongs in 1:09.26.
“This horse, he’s a super horse. He was running relaxed. In the turn, it was over. When you need him, he’s there for you,” said da Silva. “The post position really helped. But, he was very quiet inside the gate today. He was very relaxed. I want to thank the gate crew, they are wonderful people and always do their best for us.”
Tiller considered skipping the Vigil Stakes following Pink Lloyd’s post-Shepperton illness.
“Two days after the race he hit 102.1 and a normal temperature for a horse is 99.9,” noted Tiller. “We weren’t really going to run him in this race, but he was so good this week that we had to run him.
“He’s a joy and we’re blessed to have him. He’s a great gift from God,” continued Tiller. “We love him, and I want to thank my barn and Rafael Sanchez (exercise rider). We changed his training this week and I believe that had a lot to do with his gate antics. He was more relaxed today.”
Pink Lloyd, bred in Ontario by John Carey, banked $90,000 in victory while improving his record to 15-1-1 from 18 career starts.
He paid $2.80 and $2.10, combining with Yorkton ($5.40) for a $12.60 (6-1) exactor. A 6-1-4 trifecta (Jacks Escarpment) was worth $37.60, while a $1 Superfecta [6-1-4-3 (Circle of Friends)] came back $55.05.
Live racing resumes on Wednesday at Woodbine with a seven-race card. First post time is 6:45PM.