There was a point in time when the trainer of the beautifully bred bay gelding felt breaking his maiden was a longshot hope.

A son of Candy Ride (ARG) and Niigon’s Touch, pedigree suggested Touch’n Ride had the foundation for a successful racing career.

His personality suggested winner’s circle trips might be wishful thinking.

The horse, bred and owned by Chiefswood Stable, offered more question marks than solid answers early on.

“He showed nothing early on,” recalled multiple stakes-winning trainer Layne Giliforte. “As a 2-year-old, he was immature. We needed some extra time with him to work out a few issues. We needed to bring him slowly along as a 2-year-old. He was put away in training and wasn’t brought back until January or February last year.”

Touch’n Ride wasn’t exactly a charmer either.

“He was a bit obnoxious, he had no personality, and he was a bit cocky,” noted Giliforte.

Despite those shortcomings, Giliforte, who has amassed over 900 wins in his decorated career, wasn’t about to throw the towel in with his project horse.

That unwavering faith would eventually pay off.

When he arrived at Woodbine ahead of his 3-year-old campaign, Touch’n Ride quickly went from head-scratcher to head-turner.

“With each breeze, he showed tremendous improvement from week to week,” says Giliforte.

“Then things started happening with him. I believe it was around April when he had a half-mile breeze where we thought, ‘Wow… where did this come from?’ As he got closer to his first race, we started to like what we were seeing. If you had asked me last January about him, I would have said he would be lucky to break his maiden. And then something just clicked.”

Touch’n Ride debuted with a third-place effort in a one-mile turf race last July at Woodbine.

“We expected a lot from him first time out,” shares Giliforte. “He breezed fantastically on the grass going into that race. I was going to be disappointed with anything less than a win. But the way he ran, he ran a winning race.”

The second time would be the charm.

Thirty days later, again at Woodbine, Touch’n Ride took to the Toronto oval’s all-weather track for his next start, at 1 1/16 miles.

Sent off at 4-1, he blew past the frontrunner at the eighth pole and went on to an authoritative, polished 5 ¼-length score.

“The second start, he was professional, rated nicely, and when it was time, he made his move and did it very convincingly,” says Giliforte.

His next engagement would be a massive step up.

After two races, Touch’n Ride would go postward in the 164th running of the iconic King’s Plate.

Taking on 16 foes, he brushed a rival at the start and was then steadied early in the 1 ¼-mile test for Canadian-foaled 3-year-olds.

He crossed the wire fifth.

One month and 12 days after he ran in the “Gallop for the Guineas,” Touch’n Ride took to the world-renowned E.P. Taylor turf for the 133rd running of the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes, the third jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown.

The 1 ½-mile marathon would be decided by inches.

Touch’n Ride and filly Elysian Field, second in the Plate, broke away from their pursuers in early stretch and threw down the rest of the way.

At the line, Touch’n Ride emerged a nose victor.

“I’m getting choked up over it,” says Giliforte, in the aftermath of the dramatic victory. “I had a great feeling going into the race and for him to come through the way he did and Kazushi [jockey, Kimura] to give him the ride that he did, it’s fantastic.”

Touch’n Ride, the third choice on the tote board, paid $10.20 for the win.

His final appearance of 2023 would come in graded company, namely, the Grade 3 Ontario Derby, for 3-year-olds.

He crossed the wire second, but the winner was disqualified, elevating Touch’n Ride to top spot in the 1 1/8-mile race contested over the all-weather track.

“I’m really proud of him,” says Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame jockey Robert Landry, now the General Manager of Chiefswood Stables.

“Earlier in the year, we didn’t even nominate him to the Triple Crown. He was a slow developer. In April, Layne and I watched him work together and I said, ‘We may have made a mistake not nominating him.’ You know, you’ve got to let the horses tell you and he did, and he ran a tremendous race.”

The once work-in-progress horse was now a two-time stakes winner.

Giliforte, who became the first trainer to surpass $1 million in purse earnings at Fort Erie in a single season, in 2002, has never entertained the thought, not for a moment, of uttering the words, ‘I told you so.’

“At one point, I never saw this coming. But it’s a testament to our barn, everyone associated with him, and to the horse as well. Things don’t always come together like they did for him, but we’re certainly glad it did.”

One more reason why Giliforte is looking forward to his rising star’s 4-year-old campaign.

“Touch n’ Ride is a cool story that defines how patience pays off. These athletes cannot be forced to be great but can be the best they can be if given the chance. 

“This horse grew in so many ways including personality, confidence, and attitude. He boosted barn morale all year and gave many of us memorable moments. He went from the kid in the schoolyard that didn’t have many friends to valedictorian, all in one short summer.”