Entourage Stables’ reigning Horse of the Year Pink Lloyd turned in a show-stopping track record performance to win the $100,000 Jacques Cartier Stakes in his season’s debut on Saturday afternoon as the 2018 Thoroughbred meet kicked off.

Following a perfect eight-for-eight stakes campaign in 2017 that earned him Canadian Horse of the Year honours at Thursday’s Sovereign Awards, Pink Lloyd extended his win streak to nine in Saturday’s six-furlong sprint for older horses and lowered the track record to 1:08.05 for Hall of Fame trainer Robert Tiller. The former record of 1:08.16 was set by Essence Hit Man in April, 17 2011.

Jockey Rafael Hernandez was aboard for one of his five wins on the Opening Day’s 10-race card, subbing in for Pink Lloyd’s regular reinsman Eurico Rosa Da Silva as he serves a riding suspension.

“I’ve ridden against him and every time he’s beat me. He beat me eight times. I finally get on him and I won the race,” said Hernandez.

Leaving from the inside post for the first time in his career, Pink Lloyd raced inside of Conquest Enforcer, who established a two-length lead past the :21.96 quarter mark. After a half in :44.58, Pink Lloyd launched his attack and swept to victory with Extravagant Kid chasing him to the wire, finishing three-quarters of a length behind. Conquest Enforcer settled for third, with Majestic Slew, Tale of the Nile and Ikerrin Road completing the order of finish.

“The main thing was to get him relaxed,” said Hernandez. “We broke out of the gate real sharp and I just wanted to take him back and relax. As soon as he saw [Conquest Enforcer] in front of the pack, I was loaded all the way and just waited to let him go.”

Starting a new season, with a new post and new jockey while carrying a field-high weight of 124 pounds, Pink Lloyd overcame those factors to defend his Jacques Cartier Stakes title.

“I was certainly worried. I worry every time, but at the end of the day that’s nine stakes wins in a row. It’s really amazing,” said Tiller. “To winter here at [Paul] Buttigieg’s farm and start on him in January, this horse, he’s magic. He’s a beautiful animal and I don’t think that’s his best race you saw here today.

“I want to thank Rafael for the way he rode him here today. He got him off the fence when he had the opportunity. He had everything against him today – the weight, the lay up, the new rider. I texted my son last night about all the things I was worried about and he texted me back and said, ‘Dad, he’s a champion and champions run.'”

Bred in Ontario by John Carey, the six-year-old Old Forester-Gladiator Queen gelding has now won a dozen of his 14 career starts and more than $700,000 in purse earnings.

“He’s an Ontario horse, an Ontario-sired horse, a Canadian-bred and he deserves to run at Woodbine as long as there’s races for him and we’re certainly not going to miss those opportunities,” said Tiller. “We love Canada and we love Woodbine and we love Ontario.”

Sent postward as the heavy 1-2 favourite, Pink Lloyd paid $3.10 to win and $2.10 to place. There was no show wagering. He combined with Extravagent Kid ($6) for a 1-2 exacta worth $21.60. A $1 trifecta of 1-2-5 (Conquest Enforcer) paid $24.85 and a $1 superfecta of 1-2-5-4 (Majestic Slew) returned $74.05.

The new Thoroughbred racing season opened under sunny skies with Hernandez winning the first race of the 133-day meet in rein to Chiefswood Stables’ homebred Houdini Affair for trainer Stuart Simon.

Opening Weekend continues at Woodbine on Sunday afternoon, with post time for the first race at 1 p.m.

Inge promoted in eventful Wando

Inge did most of the work as the early pacesetter but couldn’t hold off a green Machtree in the final strides of Saturday’s $100,000 Wando Stakes, at Woodbine.

However, following an eventful stretch run, in which Machtree lugged in on Tale of Vienna, the stewards elevated Inge from second to first to mark the first stakes win of the season at the Rexdale oval.

Inge, with Gary Boulanger up, was quickest from the gate in the 1 1/16-mile Tapeta route, marking off splits of :24.24 and :47.64 as Flight Deck and Pipers Warrior tracked his early foot. Inge maintained his lead through the far turn as Omar Moreno angled Tale of Vienna into contention and Patrick Husbands asked Machtree to launch his bid from the back of the six-horse field.

Inge held a precarious lead to the final sixteenth as Machtree swooped powerfully on the outside, drifting in on Tale of Vienna, who lugged into the path of a surging Titochip being piloted by Alan Garcia. The veteran Husbands straightened out Machtree and surged home to cross the wire first by 1 3/4-lengths. Inge held on for second, by a neck, over Tale of Vienna and Titochip. Machtree stopped the clock in 1:44.62.

Rafael Hernandez (Pipers Warrior) claimed foul against the winner, Machtree, and third-place Tale of Vienna with the claim against Tale of Vienna allowed.

Garcia (Titochip) and Moreno (Tale of Vienna) both claimed foul against the winner, Machtree, for interference late in the stretch and both those claims of foul were allowed.

The new order of finish seeing Inge in first over Titochip and Pipers Warrior.

Norm McKnight, Woodbine’s leading trainer in 2017, was gracious following the victory.

“We’ll take it. A win’s a win. It’s unfortunate for the connections that actually won the race, but that’s racing and things happen,” said McKnight, who won three of Saturday’s races.

Inge was claimed for $40,000 out of his final start of 2017 at Woodbine and spent the winter with McKnight’s string at Oaklawn Park.

“We had in mind all along when we claimed the horse that two turns would be good for him,” McKnight said. “We had the Plate in the back of our mind with this horse and we took him to Oaklawn to experiment with that. We had some success but I wasn’t satisfied with his races there.”

Bred in Ontario by True North Stable, Inge provided owner Bruno Schickedanz with the first stakes win of the meet. He banked $60,000 in victory while improving his record to 3-1-2 from 10 career starts.

Inge paid $10.60, $5.60 and $3.40, combining with Titochip ($5.10, $3.80) for a $62.50 (4-5) exactor. A 4-5-1 triactor (Pipers Warrior, $2.50 to show) was worth $158.50, while a $1 Superfecta [4-5-1-6 (Tale of Vienna)] came back $217.50. Archaggelos was scratched.