Michael Burns Photo
Story by Chris Lomon
The energetic chestnut was the talk of the town long before he ever set his hooves on the racetrack.
As Brandon Greer recalled, the event at a farm near Barrie, Ontario, brought out what seemed to be half of the local community, people from all walks of life, including those connected to the horse, horsepeople, curious types, well-wishers, and just about everyone in between.
The main attraction on the night of May 1, 2015, was a Thoroughbred mare by the name of the Candy Cruise, and her soon-to-be foal.
Those who had gathered, Brandon and his father, long time horseman Terrance Greer, included, stood together in the barn eager for the big moment to come.
“There had to be 15 people, at least, who there to watch,” said Brandon. “The owners of the farm, the owners of other horses, family members and people who lived close to the farm – there were a lot of people watching it happen. Most of the people had never seen a foaling. We were quietly, but constantly fielding questions like, ‘What’s happening? Is everything okay?’ It was certainly a unique night of foaling for us.”
Anticipation soon turned to elation as both mare and foal made it through the delivery without any complications.
Not long after the leggy colt took his first few awkward steps, the Greers began discussing a name for the horse.
One, in particular, stood out.
“We were going to call him Talk of the Town,” remembered Brandon, of the horse sired by Town Prize. “It was perfect for when he was born. It seemed like a sensible idea.”
Only that didn’t pan out. After doing some quick research, it was discovered another horse had already laid claim to that name.
Then, it became a simple matter of combining the colt’s sire and mare’s names.
From that day forward, the horse with the big personality became known as Town Cruise.
“I can tell you that I’m not as fast as he is,” quipped Brandon. “Dad and I bred him, so we’ve been around him right from the start. He’s always been an enjoyable horse to have around, including at the farm. When he was three – you wouldn’t expect this out of most Thoroughbreds – we put the weanlings in with him when they were being weaned from their mothers and he would take care of them. That’s just the kind of horse he is. He was “Uncle Town” to the young ones.”
The Ontario-bred would make his debut on October 21, 2018, at Woodbine Racetrack, in a sprint over the main track.
Greer had liked what he saw in his young pupil leading up to the race, but quickly reminded himself of what the personality and racing traits of his family tree were telling him.
“He takes a lot of personality from his mother,” started Brandon. “Him and his brothers and sisters, they are extremely high strung. They are high-alert horses. Fortunately, as it is with his brothers and sisters, the older they get, the smarter they get, and they tend to get a little more relaxed. The more they know their job, the better they are at it. They do better with more knowledge than less.”
Greer was happy to be proven wrong on that October afternoon three year ago, as Town Cruise, sent on his way at 13-1, the second-longest shot in the eight-horse field, outsmarted all of his rivals.
At the wire, he was a two-length winner, delivering a memorable score for the Greers, Brandon as co-breeder, trainer and owner, and Terrance as co-breeder.
It was to be Town Cruise’s one and only start of 2018. The following year he would post two wins and a second from six starts. Last year, his best result was a third from three races.
In three seasons, the gelding had compiled a modest record and moderate earnings for his connections.
So, why were the Greers eagerly counting down the days until the 2021 Woodbine campaign got underway?
Their emerging star was now one year older, one year wiser, and like his fellow Town Prize progeny, there was ample reason to believe he could be one step ahead, or at the very least, neck-and-neck, with his rivals.
On June 13, they got his answer in the form of an impressive win. On July 4, it was a repeat performance.
Just over a month later, Town Cruise left no doubt to father and son’s long-held belief that Town Prize offspring get better with age.
Testing the stakes ranks for the first time in his career, the now 6-year-old horse faced seven rivals in the Grade 2 King Edward, a one-mile trek over Woodbine’s E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
Bettors figured Town Cruise had a decent shot, sending him on his way as the 9-2 third choice in a race that attracted a pair of talented Mark Casse trainees, Olympic Runner and March to the Arch, last year’s King Edward champ.
Under Daisuke Fukumoto, Town Cruise seized command early and was one length in front at the stretch call. When Olympic Runner took over the lead in late stretch, Brandon, for a moment, anticipated a fourth-place finish from his hard-trying horse.
At the wire, Town Cruise, 1 ¼-lengths behind the winner, fended off March to the Arch by a head for runner-up honours, with Avie’s Flatter a further neck back in fourth.
The race was run in a course record 1:31.73.
For a beaming Brandon, the end result certainly felt every bit like a victory.
“It really did feel like a win. For him to go up against wonderful horses like that was just inspiring to watch. For him to hold on to second and battle so hard in the late stages – to tell the truth I thought he was destined to be fourth – he proved me wrong again. And I’m thrilled that he did.
“Daisuke was a little breathless at the end because he was putting in his best effort as well. But he did manage to get out, ‘Great horse… great horse.’ And that means a lot. I pretty much said the same myself. I’m in awe of the effort this horse always gives.”
Other took notice of the performance too.
In the days after the King Edward, Town Cruise once again became the talk of the town, albeit on a much larger scale and entirely different setting from his arrival at the farm six years ago.
The buzz might only become bigger with one of the marquee races on the Woodbine stakes calendar drawing closer.
There’s a chance Town Cruise could contest the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile on September 18.
It’s not a done deal, but it is under serious consideration.
“Well, it’s not something a guy like me should be thinking about it, but this guy is making me do it,” said Brandon. “The answer will come. We did end up nominating him for the Mile. We’re going until we’re not going. It’s very easy to win a race when there are no other horses in it. Once the nominations come out and we see all the terrifying names that might smarten us up a little.
“Asking the horse right now doesn’t help because he’s saying, ‘Let’s go.’ He doesn’t know the field that he’d face. I’m not afraid of going in such a big race. What I am afraid of is putting a horse in a spot where that courage and guts of his gets overwhelmed. The last thing I want do is break his heart, even if it’s the chance for something big.”
For now, Brandon will keep close tabs on Town Cruise and likely watch replays of his 2021 campaign, King Edward included, a few more times.
There’s one thing in particular that always puts a smile on his face whenever he does.
“On the turf, I love watching his stride. When he gets that stride going, it’s like he’s out there floating free. There’s nothing more beautiful than that. He just does it so wonderfully. He’s an easy horse to like.”
It seems many others agree.
“People are being extremely kind about him. It is encouraging when people enjoy seeing horse do well. It draws me out of the stalls. I don’t mind not being the centre of attention. But it means a lot when people stop by and say such nice things. I think he really enjoys people talking about him.”
Courtesy of Ontario Racing