TORONTO - The year of Luis Contreras continues. And Sunday’s performance at Woodbine showed there’s still plenty more to come.
The fact that he became the first jockey to win the Canadian triple crown with two horses after Pender Harbour’s win in the Breeders Stakes was only part of the story.
He really thrilled the crowd early in the day when he won the first five races on the card including the Nandi Stakes aboard Notacloudinthesky. While sending people searching for the record books (the local record is seven consecutive races), Contreras takes it all in stride.
“I just try to keep going every race,” he said.
As fate would have it, his streak ended in the sixth race when he was beaten by a horse trained by Mike DePaulo, who trains Pender Harbour.
“We ended his string,” DePaulo said. “That made him hungry.”
As for the Breeders, it was two races in one. The early going saw Delawana and Born To Boogie decide to win the race at the start of the 11/2-mile event on a soft turf course, matching each other and building a 10-length lead over the others midway on the backstretch. Contreras meanwhile had the Prince of Wales Stakes winner nicely tucked mid-pack drafting between horses.
When the field reached the top of the stretch and the two front runners realized their strategy probably wasn’t going to get it done on this day, Celtic Conviction and Hippolytus found themselves in front. Contreras swung Pender Harbour to the centre of the course and grinded by those two, but Celtic Conviction put on a final spurt to get within a nose at the wire.
Not that it would have mattered though because Celtic Conviction swerved inside onto the route of oncoming Crown’s Path and for that move he was disqualified and placed third behind Crown’s Path.
“When I took my horse outside and I really asked him, he gave me everything,” Contreras said. “He was a bit tired at the end but I was a bit tired too.”
The three-year-old son of Philanthropist will be getting a bit of a breather after a gruelling three months. His campaign started in May with a dull effort at six furlongs. He then rebounded with a decent fourth in the Victoria Park before his third-place finish in the Queen’s Plate and narrow win in the Prince of Wales. There was even a minor hiccup coming into the Breeders.
“He’s a tough horse,” DePaulo said. “He hasn’t missed an oat. I finished saying everything was OK and he gave me a cough. We scoped him and found a little bit of mucus and thought ‘oh no,’ But he was tough.”
DePaulo said the Breeders was the biggest race he has won at Woodbine.
Contreras, a quiet sort who sits among the top seven riders in North America in purse earnings, was thrilled about his triple crown feat. He had earlier won the Queen’s Plate aboard Inglorious.
“I had a lot of dreams about this,” he said. “And that dream has come true.”