In the spring of 2005 the gangly gelding with huge feet was ordained to be trainer Catherine Day Phillips entry for the Queen’s Plate. It didn’t happen as Jambalaya exhibited a dislike for the dirt. Instead the son of Langfuhr became one of Canada’s great turf stars during his rags- to- riches career. When he retired at age nine his resume included Grade 1 wins in the prestigious Arlington Million in Chicago and the Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup Turf, plus graded stakes in the Pan American Handicap and Saranac at Saratoga along with the Singspiel and Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine. “It was a fairy tale story,” said his trainer, who co-owned “Jambo” along with her husband Todd Phillips.
Jambalaya’s saga began at the September yearling sales at Keeneland, Ky. Bred by Gustav Schickedanz, the colt was out a Vice Regent mare, Muskrat Suzie. The breeding appealed to Catherine, who had won a Grade 3 race with Heat It Up, a relative of Jambalaya. Langfuhr was a son of one of Northern Dancer’s great sires, Danzig. To add a touch of drama to the acquisition of Jambalaya, there was a clerical error with the colt’s reserve bid. Instead the colt went through the auction ring without a reserve bid, and brought just $2,500. Bargain-priced yearlings of this order never win two Grade 1 races and earn $1.6 million. To complicate matters, fellow Woodbine trainer Mark Casse’s bid gained the auctioneer’s hammer. He offered Jambalaya to Catherine, who signed the bill. Why did the bidding stall at $2,500? “It wasn’t like he was a standout. He had big knees and five of the mare’s previous foals hadn’t made it to the races. Also, at the time, Langfuhr wasn’t that popular commercially.”
Jambalaya had one start at two, finishing third. After placing seventh in two dirt races in 2005, Day Phillips decided his future was on the turf. He broke his maiden and won an allowance race before his first major score in the Breeders’ Stakes, winning by eight lengths. A month later he won the Saranac at Saratoga. His lone win in 2006 was the Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine. Various injuries often plagued his progress. But his team at Kingfield racing stable persisted and were rewarded in 2007 with a stunning victory in the Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup Turf Stakes, defeating Honey Ryder and champion turf star Einstein. It was Catherine’s first victory in a grade 1 race. Five weeks later Jambalaya again excelled on the Gulfstream grass, winning the Grade 3 Pan American Handicap.
But the best was yet to come in 2007 when Jambalaya challenged a field that included two of the best turf horses in North America and Europe –The Tin Man and French invader Doctor Dino. A gutsy effort on a wet Arlington course saw Jambalaya nail defending Arlington champion The Tin Man in the final strides. It marked the first time a woman had trained the winner of this prestigious race and Jambalaya was the first Canadian-bred to win the Arlington Million.
Jambalaya suffered a bruised cannon bone in his victory, an injury that sidelined him for just over two years. He staged a remarkable comeback in 2009, winning an allowance race at Woodbine and then shipping to Aqueduct for the Red Smith Handicap, losing by less than two lengths. He was retired shortly afterwards.