Sam-Son Farm’s homebred El Tormenta gave retiring jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva a parting gift, and trainer Gail Cox her biggest victory, by springing a 44-1 surprise in Saturday’s $843,703 Woodbine Mile (G1). Getting through on the inside, the Ontario-bred outfinished 3-2 favorite Got Stormy in the “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
El Tormenta, whose only other stakes win came in the June 1 Connaught Cup (G2), had run well in defeat while suffering some tough trips in the interim. If his fourth-place efforts in the June 29 Highlander (G1) and August 24 Play the King (G2) weren’t a fair barometer of his ability, the Stormy Atlantic gelding still had to step up in a competitive field. He picked up a new rider in da Silva, hoping for an elusive score in his last Woodbine Mile chance, and together they proved the odds all wrong.
Breaking from post 1, El Tormenta drafted just behind the leading trio of Silent Poet, Admiralty Pier, and Awesometank as they vied through splits of :22.84 and :44.43 on the good turf. The duelists paid the price, and the stalking Got Stormy struck the front at the six-furlong mark in 1:08.33.
Meanwhile, Da Silva maneuvered El Tormenta around in upper stretch in search of room, ended up diving back inside for a gap, and plowed through to collar Got Stormy. Lucullan was bearing down on the outside, and Raging Bull was storming into the picture after lagging last early thanks to a troubled start. Unfortunately for him, Lucullan drifted out under left-handed urging and interfered with Raging Bull’s momentum – and his own. By the time Luis Saez got Lucullan got back on the straight and narrow, he inched closer in third, but not near enough.
El Tormenta was a half-length on top at the conclusion of the mile in 1:32.60. Lucullan crossed the wire a half-length adrift of Got Stormy, with Raging Bull another neck back in fourth. The stewards posted the inquiry sign promptly to review Lucullan’s waywardness. The final decision took time, but the right call was made to disqualify Lucullan and elevate Raging Bull to third.
Synchrony didn’t see much daylight in fifth, one spot behind the demoted Lucullan. Next came Emmaus, Admiralty Pier, Made You Look, Silent Poet, Awesometank, and the long-way last American Guru.
Rewarding his backers with a Woodbine Mile record $91.40 win mutuel, El Tormenta eclipsed the $91.10 payout courtesy of Quiet Resolve (1999), a fellow Sam-Son runner. The historic Canadian nursery has now campaigned three winners of this race, with the longshots bookending favored Soaring Free (2004).
El Tormenta improved his scorecard to 13-4-3-0, $774,356. The dark bay broke his maiden and placed second in the Charlie Barley, both over this course and distance last year, and plied his trade in allowance company until returning to the stakes level for his breakthrough in this summer’s Connaught Cup.
Four-year-old El Tormenta is a three-quarter brother to multiple Grade 3 winner His Race to Win. Both are by Stormy Atlantic, and El Tormenta is out of His Race to Win’s half-sister Torreadora by El Prado. This is the family of Canadian champion Hello Seattle, current Grade 2-placed stakes scorer Galilean, and Japanese dirt performer La Verita. El Tormenta’s fourth dam, Canadian champion Classy ‘n Smart, is responsible for dual Hall of Famer Dance Smartly and leading sire Smart Strike.
Quotes from Woodbine
Winning rider Eurico Rosa da Silva: “Today is Canadian day. I’m so happy. Luis (Contreras) won one (aboard Starship Jubilee in the Canadian S. [G2]) and I won now. Unbelievable horse. I want to thank Gail (Cox). What a wonderful job she did with this horse. I want to thank Sam-Son Farm. I have been with these people a long time, and they breed them to win big races. And here, what do you got?
“This was my last opportunity to win this race – it was the only one left. And this was my opportunity, and here we are. I was fully focused. It was a little tough with Pink Lloyd (declared a non-starter in the Bold Venture [G3] earlier) when he broke from the gate today, but I keep talking to myself, ‘Just focus on what you need to focus on, and keep faith in your horse. And never give up.’ This horse ran so beautifully. Good luck to everybody!”
Winning trainer Gail Cox on her biggest victory: “Oh it’s huge. It’s a Grade 1 win and it’s a ‘Win and You’re In,’ so it’s huge.
“I was a little worried with the one-hole and being on the rail because if you’ve seen his past three starts, they’ve been troubled. I just think he was laying closer and really bullied his way through a little bit. He’s a very, very nice horse, and was probably overlooked here.
“Last year, I thought he was a sprinter. He ran shorter and he ran a different style. This year, every start, we thought he’d probably like to go a little farther.”
Sam-Son Farm’s Michael Balaz: “He’s had a good campaign, but a lot of tough luck. Eurico gave him a masterful ride, and got him through. He was able to really show his best self today. What a special win.
“This is as sweet as any. That’s all I can say. It’s great to see him doing so well, and credit to Gail for the great job with him all year long. He hasn’t run a bad race. I’m lost for words. It’s so special.
“I think that (the Breeders’ Cup) will be a decision that the higher-ups will have to make, and everyone will have to get together. I don’t see why not, after running like that.”
Trainer Mark Casse on Got Stormy’s second as the favorite: “I was proud of her. I knew this is a tough place to win. There is a huge home field advantage. This will be fine. This will set her up. They still have to beat her, I think, in California (in the Breeders’ Cup Mile). Obviously, we would have liked to win but I’m extremely proud of her.
“I was just a little worried that they weren’t going to carry her far enough and that she’d make the lead. But the winner ran very well, showed a lot of guts down inside. I was proud of our filly. I’ve lost no respect for her and I feel extremely confident that we’ll be right there in the Breeders’ Cup.”
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione on Got Stormy: “Mark and I were just walking around the rail and it’s rock hard, it seems like it might be the best spot on the track. The post position was good, we got a beautiful trip. She ran her heart out. She gave us everything she had. She’s an incredible filly.
“I’m looking forward to her in the Breeders’ Cup. I think she’ll be dynamite out there. This track is a one-turn mile, it’s a long course. She has a lot of quickness to her and I think Santa Anita will fit her perfectly. She laid it all out there today. Congratulations to the winner, they ran a big race. It took a nice horse to beat her today.”