TORONTO, July 29 – Dragon Bay and jockey Gary Boulanger led gate-to-wire defeating heavy favourite Can’thelpbelieving in Saturday’s $175,000 Nijinsky Grade 2 Stakes for three years olds and up contested over 1-1/4 miles on the turf course at Woodbine.
Sent off at odds of 5-1, the Stuart Simon-trained Dragon Bay and Boulanger established the lead from post two and clocked opening fractions of :26.10 and :51.22 with Pumpkin Rumble and Jesse Campbell racing just to their outside in second-place. Meanwhile, heavy favourite Can’thelpbelieving and jockey James Graham tracked Dragon Bay from third.
Pumpkin Rumble pressured the leader past three-quarters in 1:15.81 while Tour de Force and Patrick Husbands moved up three-wide before weakening late.
Dragon Bays fought off Pumpkin Rumble past the mile mark in 1:38.68 and drew one and a half lengths clear in front of the grandstand to win in 2:02.10. Unable to secure racing room between horses down the stretch, Can’thelpbelieving maneuvered outside and finished second ahead of Pumpkin Rumble. Bangkok and Tour de Force completed the finish order.
Can’thelpbelieving was the heavy 1-2 favourite following a close runner-up finish in the $300,000 United Nations Grade 1 Stakes over 1-3/8 miles on July 1 at Monmouth Park, but second choice Dragon Bay stole the show, paying $12.50 to win and $3.50 to place. The was no show wagering. Dragon Bay combined with Can’thelpbelieving ($2.10) for an $18.60 (2-1) exacta. A 2-1-3 trifecta was worth $19.75.
“Stu has obviously done a great job with him and we talked about it and we thought he’s a little bit better when he’s forwardly placed,” said Boulanger after the victory. “We didn’t see a whole lot of speed. I thought I had the speed of the speed if there was any, maybe Jesse might challenge me, Patrick’s horse maybe, but he’s a really manageable horse and when he gets out there his ears are up the whole way and he’s just waiting on me to ask him. He kind of clocks horses. Jesse had come to him and he’d pin an ear and he made my job really easy.”
The four-year-old chestnut gelding earned his second stakes title this year, following an 18-1 neck victory in the $180,250 Eclipse Grade 2 Stakes (1-1/16 miles) on May 20 at Woodbine. He entered the Nijinsky off a sixth-place finish, defeated by two lengths in the $202,000 King Edward Grade 2 Stakes (1 mile turf) on July 2.
“He kind of was in a scramble [in the King Edward],” said Boulanger. “He’s got that speed that he’s kind of in between. He really never got comfortable and into that big rhythm that he has. We didn’t get beat that far, but he didn’t really fire the way he’s been firing when we go two turns.”
Rebounding from that loss, Dragon Bay now boasts five career wins from 18 starts and earnings totalling $342,102 for Simon and his longtime partners Brent & Russell McLellan.
“I’ve trained for their family now for over 25 years so it’s been a long time and they’re great people and it couldn’t happen to nicer people,” said Simon of the McLellan family.
Together they purchased Dragon Bay privately from Cary Brooks, who had paid just $6,000 for the son of Parading and Cologne at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale.
“We gave considerably more than $6,000 for him, but Cary did a good job picking him out,” noted Simon. “We noticed him when he ran the first time and I went over to his barn and we made a deal so I’m happy. It was a good deal for both people.”
In fact, the versatile multiple graded stakes champion has been a dream horse for his connections.
“We kind of get caught between distance and surfaces. He’ll do just about anything you ask of him to be honest,” said Simon. “He’s just a dream horse, he really is. He’s been a gift to us and we’re just happy to have him.”