Not that long ago, the entourage surrounding Canada’s current rockstar racehorse, Pink Lloyd, had to wonder if he would ever reach the stage.
A combination of a late developer and a horse who kept finding ways to get himself into trouble, Pink Lloyd tested the patience of veteran trainer Bob Tiller and the group of five friends that comprise Entourage Stable, led by longtime owner Frank Di Giulio Jr.
A local product who has never stepped foot out of the province of Ontario, Pink Lloyd did not debut until he was 4 years old, and more than halfway into the Woodbine season, at that, in late August 2016.
Fifteen months later, Pink Lloyd is certified platinum, beaten just twice in 12 starts, and a flawless 7-for-7 in 2017. He will look to wrap up a perfect Woodbine season and enhance his credentials for Canada’s Horse of the Year honors on Saturday when he will compete in the Grade 2 Kennedy Road Stakes at three-quarters of a mile on the synthetic Tapeta Footings main track.
Di Giulio bought Pink Lloyd for $28,446 as a yearling for the Entourage Stable, which is a nod to the popular HBO TV show and movie about a Hollywood star and his colorful inner circle. One of the Entourage characters, Lloyd, inspired the horse’s name, with a twist incorporating the classic rock band.
“Credit for the name goes to Ed Longo, who is in our group that owns the horse,” Di Giulio said. “I have been fortunate enough to have had a few good horses through the years, but for my friends and my cousin who own Pink Lloyd with me, they have not owned that many horses and this is by far this biggest success they have had in racing. They are getting spoiled, I think. I’d say there is a good chance they have already bought the best horse they will ever own.
“We could have never expected he would turn out this good. He showed some talent in his early workouts, but he struggled to stay sound enough to put a few works together to make a race.”
Had they known about the litany of little things that kept cropping up to delay Pink Lloyd’s career, the connections probably would have turned their attention to the Entourage character Johnny Drama for the horse’s name. Tiller, a member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, can rattle off a long list of early ailments, and the horse has proceeded to keep his connections on their toes during the win streak.
“He broke through the gate one day before the break and they caught him and put him back in, and he won easy,” Tiller said. “He tore his right shoe off when he won the Kenora Stakes and in the process he ripped the quarter [on a foot] open, had a quarter crack that we had to patch. He couldn’t train for 10 days after that. He has gone through all the ups and downs like most horses do, he is just different in that most horses can’t keep winning. He has overcome all the things that get horses beat.”
Five of his seven wins this year have been in races restricted to Ontario-sired or Ontario-bred horses, but Pink Lloyd has also proven himself at large, prevailing against open stakes company in the Jacques Cartier Stakes in April and dominating the Grade 3 Vigil Stakes in July. He has been quite versatile, leading at every point of call a couple of times this year, tracking just off the pace in three others, and settling near the back in the other two races. In his most recent start, he was six lengths back after the opening half-mile and flashed home to win by four lengths.
“That is what makes him a good horse, he is so versatile,” said Tiller, who has been training since 1972 and three times has been honored with the Sovereign Award as Canada’s outstanding trainer. “If there is not enough speed in there, he is capable of making the lead. If there are horses to run at, he will do that, too. I think that’s actually what he would prefer.”
Tiller and Di Giulio have a long history working together that includes a previous Canadian Horse of the Year, Win City (2001). They are open to the possibility of sending Pink Lloyd south at some point to test the waters in the U.S. Once the Woodbine season closes in December, Di Giulio usually sends his horses to a nearby training center for the winter to rest up until early spring.
“We certainly will be looking in the future to racing him somewhere, perhaps in New York, not too far away,” said Tiller, who won the Grade 2 Jamaica Handicap in 1989 in New York with Domasca Dan, a horse that Di Giulio and his late father campaigned together.
“Unfortunately, Pink Lloyd is the kind of horse that needs to train with not that many other horses around,” Tiller said. “You can’t just train him at 8:30 in the morning when there is a big rush. He gets really tough. We try to train him on the training track here at Woodbine that is a little more quiet. That is one of his details. He goes out late in the morning.
“He only sees the Tapeta track for his workouts, really. He usually trains on the dirt training track, and the dirt is something that would not be an issue for this horse [in a race]. He handles it very well. He just handles everything.”