Multiple graded stakes placed Olympic Runner finally earned gold on the Woodbine green. And he did it in style.
After a series of hard-luck finishes, Olympic Runner, a five-year-old son of Gio Ponti, notched his first win on the Toronto oval turf, besting seven rivals in record fashion in the Grade 2 $175,000 King Edward Stakes on Aug. 15 at Woodbine.
Trained by Mark Casse and owned by Gary Barber, the dark bay arrived at the one-mile event for 3-year-olds and up off a neck loss in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup on July 18 at Woodbine.
On this day, a picture-perfect one, Olympic Runner was at his very best.
Rafael Hernandez quickly guided the Kentucky-bred to the rail and into a comfortable spot behind the early leaders, including pacesetter Town Cruise, who led Gray’s Fable by 1 ½-lengths through an opening quarter-mile timed in :23.33.
Town Cruise was still on top through a half-mile in :45.75, with Olympic Runner still nestled along the inside in fifth. Late-running March to the Arch, last year’s winner, and also a Casse trainee, remained in eighth.
Around the turn for home Town Cruise, under Daisuke Fukumoto, began to increase his advantage, while Hernandez called upon Olympic Runner, who now had a clear path, for his best run.
At the wire, Olympic Runner was a 1 ¼-length winner, while Town Cruise fought on gamely to secure second spot, a head in front of a hard-charging 7-5 choice March to the Arch.
The final time over firm going on the E.P. Taylor was a course record 1:31.73.
“It was a good trip,” offered Hernandez. “The main thing was to get a clear trip. He showed up today. Last time, it was a hard trip. There was nowhere to go. In the final sixteenth, we found room to go, and it was too late. We got a long stretch and it helped a lot [today].”
Olympic Runner, whose only other stakes score came in the 2019 running of the main track King Corrie, at Woodbine, earned his fifth career victory in his 23rd start.
“You don’t overthink it,” said Hernandez. “You ride the wave – break out of there, try and get the best position for the horse, and then give the best trip you can. He’s got a big heart. He turned for home and he kept trying and trying. He never gave up.”
Sent off at 7-1, Olympic Runner paid $16.80 for the win.