No cherub, he, this God of Love, this horse with the winged feet, at least until he’s good and ready.
Jockey Rafael Hernandez thought it would be an excellent idea to get God of Love (the horse) closer to the pace on the yielding turf of Woodbine during the 85th running of the $250,000 Cup and Saucer Stakes on Oct. 10.
But God of Love would have none of it. “Nah,” he told Hernandez in so many ways, mainly in lagging at the back of the field behind a throng. It didn’t help that he hopped at the start.
Okay, thought Hernandez, plan B would be to make one big run with him. But he would have to go around the lot. And hope traffic wouldn’t interfere.
His stablemate, Fast Feet, he with the Moby Dick eye and splendid ebony coat, took care of the pace, bursting away to set slow fractions of 25.53 seconds for the quarter and 50.44 for the half, making it doubly difficult, of course, for a come-from-behind horse like God of Love to overcome.
Both God of Love and Fast Feet are owned by Gary Barber, movie mogul, although Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners shares ownership with the big chestnut God of Love. (Of course, he’s a son of Cupid, bred by the savvy Bill Graham.) Both are Ontario-bred.
Fast Feet went off as the 7 to 2 favourite, after winning his only start at Woodbine on Sept. 18, leading every step with Kazushi Kimura, who was back in the irons again for the Cup and Saucer.
God of Love was less well regarded at 8 to 1 after a 5 ½-furlong race in which he finished seventh after running wide and showing no rally.
But perhaps he learned something from that. And it seems that he prefers a distance of ground. And 5 ½ furlongs is just a nursery game for him. God of Love was still behind a wall of horses going around the final turn (11 youngsters in the race), but Hernandez persuaded him to start moving. And he did.
Away around the outside of them all he went, although he went inside 6 to 1 shot Hidden Honor and played bumper cars with him at the head of the stretch. But untangled, God of Love moved like a freight train through the stretch, running rather like Zeus might. Moving fastest of all, he charged right past Fast Feet to win by 1 ¾ lengths in 1:47.86 for the 1 1/16-mile distance on the E.P. Taylor turf course.
The clocking was well off the stakes record of 1:41.43 set by Pyramid Park 16 years ago. But it wasn’t a day for records on the yielding turf.
God of Love tore out hunks of turf like nobody else in the race in his monster charge to the wire and paid $17.10 to win.
The rest of the field dealt with: stumbles, traffic problems, bumping incidents. One hit the gate leaving. Poor Chairman Bob, an 8 to 1 son of Society’s Chairman, was forced to run three and four-wide from his outside post and then just stalled, understandably, to finish 10th. (Hidden Honor finished eighth.) Both were trained by Kevin Attard.
The God of Love had to survive a steward’s inquiry (there were five of them in the first eight races), for that bumping at the head of the stretch. But stewards let the results stand. The win gave Hernandez his 10th stakes win of the meet and trainer Mark Casse, his 18th.
And to hustle his way to the phone to talk to judges about the potential infraction, Hernandez surprised everybody by doing a flying dismount from God of Love to get there. It seems since Frankie Dettori appeared at Woodbine a month ago, doing flying dismounts, Woodbine jockeys have become like jumping beans, inspired.
Hernandez did a high, perfect one when he actually made it to the winner’s circle. Woodbine is, after all, the birthplace of the flying dismount, started by the late Avelino Gomez back in the 1960s.
“He just came flying,” Hernandez said of his mount. So did he.