Tower of Texas had double the work to do – first, collaring the leader and then holding off a hard-charging rival – to come out on top in Saturday’s $196,750 Grade 2 Connaught Cup at Woodbine.
Trained by Roger Attfield and piloted by leading rider Eurico Rosa da Silva, fan favourite Tower of Texas came into the seven-furlong sprint over an E.P. Taylor Turf Course rated as ‘firm’ off a 10th-place finish in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile in October.
On this picture-perfect day, the six-year-old son of Street Sense was on his game.
Dimension, last year’s Connaught winner, was off a step slow leaving the gate in the Connaught as Take the Stand and Commute zipped to the front, alternating the lead through splits :22.92 and :44.95. Tower of Texas, sent off as the slight 3-1 favourite in the wide-open feature, was sixth in nine-horse field at the half-mile call.
Commute, under Patrick Husbands, led the way at top of the lane, as da Silva desperately sought a clear path down the long stretch. Meanwhile, multiple graded stakes winner and Sovereign champion (2014 sprinter) Calgary Cat was gobbling up ground rapidly to the far outside, as the trio locked horns in the final strides.
At the wire, Tower of Texas nosed out Commute, who put a head in front of Calgary Cat for runner-up honours. The final time was 1:19.40.
Tower of Texas, winner of the 2015 Grade 2 King Edward Stakes, once again showed his affinity for the Toronto oval in notching his fifth career triumph, all coming at Woodbine, for owners Thomas Van Meter II and Scott Dillworth.
“It was very competitive,” said da Silva, of the strong field assembled for the Connaught. “You saw the finish. This horse has a big heart and he fought the entire stretch. All he wanted to do was catch the horse (Commute) in front. He’s giving everything he could to catch that horse. This horse came here to run.”
Attfield was understandably delighted to see the horse that has eight-runner up tries in 21 starts go one better in his first start of 2017.
“He’s a lovely horse, he really is,” said the Hall of Fame conditioner. “He’s so competitive. He’s been hurt two years in a row, actually, and went back to the farm in Kentucky. This last year, I thought it was going to be the last time I was going to see him. Back he came in the spring, and said, ‘Come on, let’s get going.’ He trained really, really well coming into this race. He was ready to go today.”
Tower of Texas, bred in Ontario by Anderson Farms and Rod Ferguson, banked $126,000 in victory while improving his record to 5-8-3 from 21 career starts.
He paid $8.20, $4.20 and $2.90, combining with Commute ($4.80, $3.60) for a $48.60 (1-6) exactor. A 1-6-4 triactor (Calgary Cat, $2.90 to show) was worth $155.30, while a $1 Superfecta [1-6-4-8 (Hollywood Hideaway)] came back $604.80.