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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

LIFE AFTER THE BREEDERS’ CUP: STORYBOOK ENDINGS AND PROMISING BEGINNINGS

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, November 28, 2021 — Do you believe in magic? If not, this game’s probably not for you.

The true fan loves to watch horses run, enjoy their athleticism, the colorful spectacle, without so much as a Dime Super at stake.

For the horseplayer, it’s different. When bettors watch the charges of the super trainer re-break on the lead, or see stretch runners who never seem to hang, that’s “magic,” too.

For the hybrid, a fan who loves horses and loves to bet on them, that kind of magic provides a sixth sense. It’s the gut feeling that gamblers often rely on. As Bill Maher often says: “I don’t know it for a fact, I just know it’s true.”

And that was the feeling I had as I watched the redoubtable Pink Lloyd make his charge toward the Kennedy Road finish line, thrusting between rivals into the Woodbine straight surrounded by four rivals.

In one of the most celebrated career finales ever held north of the border, the casual fan would have been screaming at Rafael Hernandez to hurry up. I knew he would get there, I just couldn’t believe I was getting 7-2.

Woodbine’s Kennedy Road is more than a Canadian Grade 2 at six furlongs. It’s a fixture that honors one of Canada’s true equine legends who won a championship title every year he raced.

The son of Queen’s Plate winner Victoria Park swept Canada’s series for juveniles and was named Canadian champion 2-year-old. Like his sire, Kennedy Road won the Queen’s Plate and with it consecutive championships.

Kennedy Road continued his championship over the next two years as Canadian’s champion older male. At 5, now racing in California with Charlie Whittingham, he won the San Diego and Hollywood Gold Cup.

But his career slate of (45) 17-12-3 was no match for Saturday’s hero, who won for the 29th time in 38 career starts, including 26 stakes. Yesterday’s victory pushed his career earnings over the $1.8 million mark, U.S.

Equine management makes or breaks careers. Credit Pink Lloyd’s connections, most notably trainer Robert Tiller, who carefully designed a career campaign reminiscent of win-machine champions Winx or Zenyatta.

Pink Lloyd’s career was limited to sprinting, he never raced outside Canada and never farther than seven furlongs. The only thing he ever did on grass was graze.

Owing to physical issues, Pink Lloyd debuted at 4, winning three of five starts. The following year he went 8-for-8, including his first Kennedy Road and was named Canada’s Horse of the Year. Yesterday was his third in five starts at 9. It was his third Kennedy Road score after finishing second in his first try.

Always in the race but behind horses and flanked throughout, Hernandez found a seam approaching headstretch and allowed ‘Floyd’ to outwill his opponents to the finish that included two classy Mark Casse-trained favorites.

As I watched the stretch run, I thought no one could know how the battle would end… unless you believed in magic. So I knew the 9-year-old was going to win, somehow, some way. After all, he’s Pink ‘Freaking’ Lloyd.

I wasn’t the only racetracker who “knew.” So did the Equibase chart caller:

Pink Lloyd settled in mid-pack, was hustled three wide on the turn, lost a bit of ground at the top of the stretch, dug in when asked, and was up at the 70 yard pole and was not going to be turned away.

Exactly right. Pure magic.

Future Stars ll Provides Glimpse into 2022

We’re pretty sure that trainer Kenny McPeek likes what he sees, even if yesterday started with a call that provided unwelcome news that a small inflammation necessitated the scratch of morning line favorite Tiz the Bomb from the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, proving one thing: It’s good to have a backup plan.

As the winner of the Jockey Club, McPeek’s Smile Happy went from relative obscurity to underlay second choice at 15-1 in the Kentucky Derby Futures Pool 1. Jack Christopher is the 9-1 individual favorite among 22 listed runners. Per usual, All Other 3-Year-Olds are favored at 3-5 as of 2:31 pm Sunday.

However, the Runhappy colt from the Pleasant Tap mare, Pleasant Smile, did not scoop horseplayers who bet him down from his 12-1 morning line to 9-2 ante post.

While Smile Happy’s career debut figure was good but far from spectacular. The deflated odds were the result of what was revealed on video in his two-turn debut at Keeneland.

Putting wins back-to-back reveals a lot. There appears to be no weakness in his game. He breaks from the barrier professionally enough and also with enough speed to keep him in the game.

In his debut, Smile Happy rode the rails until he tipped out midway of the turn. His turn of foot to the front was absolutely electric. He was 2-1/2 lengths to the good in midstretch, more than doubling that margin at the finish.

With stable rider Brian Hernandez committed to the multiple stakes winning and Juvenile Turf runnerup, the riding assignment went to Corey Lanerie, aboard for his sharp five furlong breeze NOV 20.

Not only did Lanerie ride him like he owned him Saturday but was very confident, putting him in the game early before settling him on the wide outside for the run down the backstretch, the reins squarely in his lap.

When the stalkers began to advance curling into the far turn, Lanerie asked Smile Again to keep pace, which he did willingly without undo urging. Finally asked in earnest, Smile Again responded with a move that carried him to a brief lead at headstretch.

With a furlong remaining, the $185,000 purchase began to separate himself, reaching full stride with a sixteenth remaining. He won drawing away with something left, galloping out well once again.

In his wake were some nice colts: Classic Causeway, a game third as the Breeders’ Futurity favorite, was a good albeit non-threatening runnerup. Show finisher White Abarrio ran spottily, but was going well at the finish.

Formerly undefeated 2-1 second favorite Howling Time, surprisingly, was on the lead after winning his first two starts from off the pace. He rates to be better with a target next time, as does Ben Diesel, who appeared closer to the pace than was necessary.

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2 Responses

  1. What a nice article about magic and horses, I believe in magic and anything is possible, made me feel better about our sport, so thank-you. Kat

  2. Well, thank you, Kat. Sometimes what you write is all about feelings, and some of the things that happen out on the racetrack cannot be explained any other way that makes sense… And, as stated, I just knew ‘LLoyd’ would get there!

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