Wednesday, August 1, 2018
By Perry Lefko
When John Carey bred the stallion Old Forester to the mare Gladiator Queen, he had no idea the pairing would produce a Canadian Horse of the Year that would earn more than $1 million.
The foal, Pink Lloyd, has become a phenomenon in the industry and a favourite among fans who have watched him develop into something special. What he has done, going undefeated in eight stakes races in 2017 as a five-year-old and raising it to 11 with three more victories early in the 2018 season, is unlike anything the 62-year-old Carey has ever seen. The seventh-generation horseman has been breeding horses in Canada for 41 years.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “There is no story as good as that because there’s no horse that has won (this many) stakes races in a row in Ontario, even in Canada. What does it mean to me? It means everything to me. This is my livelihood. It sure is nice as a breeder to be able to come up and breed some decent racehorses and raise some nice individuals to go and do good for other people. If I were to tell people in Ireland about this horse, they’d say ‘there’s no horse that does that.’ That’s the way people would be thinking. It’s a fairytale, there’s no question about it. I could see (in his development) he had the prosperity to be a decent racehorse, but I did not think he’d be this good. This is something you read in a storybook.”
Carey operates T C Westmeath Stud Farm, about an hour north of Woodbine in the town of Sherbourne, where he stands Old Forester, Pool Play and Super Speedy. The Old Forester-Gladiator Queen foal sold at the 2013 Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society (Ontario division) Premier Yearling Sale for $30,000.
At the 2013 CTHS sale, Frank Di Giulio Jr., who headed a consortium of owners called Entourage Stable that formed in 2010, identified some possible purchases, including the Old Forester-Gladiator Queen colt. Di Giulio liked the sire, which he’d had success with previously. That was “half the equation” for the interest in the yearling. He also remembered Battle for Gold, the yearling’s half-brother, as a “hard-knocking horse who could run.” Bob Tiller, who has been training for 46 years and had a lengthy relationship with Di Giulio and his father, liked the physical looks of the colt.
“I can’t say we had to have him, it was just one of the ones we wanted,” Di Giulio said. “Luckily enough the bidding stopped at $30,000. That’s about our range. You hoped he’d be a nice Ontario-sired horse that would be able to win his conditions, and if he was good enough maybe some Ontario Sires Stakes. Whenever we buy horses, you’re dreaming it will be good enough to be a stake horse but hoping he will be good enough to pay his way and win a few races. He was just a nice horse by a sire we liked. To be as good as he is, it’s crazy to think that.”
Entourage Stable is named after the TV series Entourage, while Pink Lloyd is a takeoff of the character Lloyd from Entourage and the rock group Pink Floyd.
“Basically from his first race we knew he could run,” Di Giulio said. “How good he’d be and whether he’d be able to compete in open-company stakes or anything like that (was unknown), but I thought he could easily win his conditions.”
He won his first three races using up his allowance conditions and was entered in the Overskate Stakes and finished a troubled fifth. Next time out in the Grade 2 Kennedy Road, he finished second.
That was the end of his four-year-old season. Pink Lloyd opened his five-year-old season with a win in the Jacques Cartier and rattled off seven more stakes wins to close out his season. Not only did he win Horse of the Year honours, but he also collected Champion Older Male Horse and Champion Sprinter.
Tiller, who has worked exceptionally hard to keep the horse expertly prepared, said it best at the Sovereign Awards about Pink Lloyd: “To be able to get a horse for a peak effort for one race is one thing. To get him to string three or four races together is another. To be able to string eight wins in a row from April to November is an extraordinary accomplishment. Pink Lloyd has given me the biggest thrill of my life.”
Di Giulio and Tiller have had many top horses, including 2001 Canadian Horse of the Year Win City, but nothing compared to Pink Lloyd. Horse racing historians say the stakes streak is unprecedented in Canadian thoroughbred racing.
“It is a dream when you think about it,” Di Giulio exclaimed. “They’ve made movies out of worse stories than this. You just feel very blessed to be a part of something like this. I’ve bought many other ones and some have turned out, but a lot of other ones haven’t turned out. Nothing’s turned out like this.”
The success of Pink Lloyd convinced the Entourage Stable to buy a half-brother to Pink Lloyd by Super Speedy for $65,000 at the 2017 CTHS Sale. The gelding is named Ari Gold Speedwagon - Ari Gold is a character in Entourage and Speedwagon refers to the music group REO Speedwagon – and is set to debut next year.
“Bob loved him and we kind of had to have him given what the other horse did,” Di Giulio said. “Being a half-brother means something and it means nothing really. If he could be half as good as him we’d be thrilled.”