Queen's Plate upset winner, Sir Dudley Digges, will bid to add a second Canadian classic victory to his record in the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Racetrack on Tuesday.
The quaint, picturesque border oval, just across the Niagara River from Buffalo, NY, sits approximately 90 miles south of Woodbine, where the first jewel in Canada's Triple Crown series was held three weeks ago.
The 1 3/16-mile race for Canadian-foaled 3-year-olds, drew 8 entrants, with Sir Dudley Digges tabbed as the 2-1 morning line favorite. The Ken and Sarah Ramsey owned colt is trained by Michael Maker and will break from the outside post under rider Julian Leparoux.
Sir Dudley Digges will square off against Plate runner-up, Amis Gizmo, in the Prince of Wales after overhauling that rival and race favorite, inside the final sixteenth to win the Queen's Plate by a 1/2-length. In addition to the top two from the Plate, the third, sixth and tenth place finishers try their talents once more, as well as three new faces to complete the lineup.
Slotted as the eighth race on Tuesday's program, the Prince of Wales is the only Canadian Triple Crown race that is run on dirt. The Queen's Plate is a 1 1/4-mile race on Woodbine's synthetic main track. The classic series is completed by the Breeders' Stakes, to be run at 1 1/2 miles on the Woodbine turf course on August 14th.
Sir Dudley Digges has two dirt career starts to his credit, a second-place finish at Churchill Downs last fall and a third-place finish at Gulfstream to launch his 3-year old campaign. Regarding his Plate winning horse's ability to handle both dirt and turf heading forward through the series, trainer Maker said, “He’s run (on dirt) before. “I don’t have much concern about it. He broke his maiden on the turf, so he handles that well, too.” Following the Queen's Plate, owner Ramsey stated in post-race interviews. “You can quote me: We are going for the Triple Crown,” he said. “I think this horse can run on grass, Tapeta, dirt, you name it.”
The Prince Of Wales Stakes was inaugurated in 1929, and has been hosted annually at Fort Erie Racetrack since 1959. Wando was the last horse to accomplish the Canadian Triple Crown feat in 2003.
Let's meet the field from the rail out...
1 - Leavem In Malibu/Gary Boulanger/Mark Casse--Plans went out the window in the Plate when this one got squeezed at the start, ultimately ending up in last place in the 13 horse field for the first three-quarters of a mile, before swinging out to the 5-path to launch his bid. He was unable to carry on his move and evened out in the final sixteenth, finishing sixth. A smoother start and a smaller field to contend with here, should help put and keep this colt in contention from the start.
2 - All On Red/Eurico Da Silva/Sid Attard--Put forth a brave effort in getting up for third-place in the Queen's Plate after not breaking particularly well, and that mishap cost him. Was taken near the back of the pack after the start, and had just one opponent beaten by the half-mile marker. He then proceeded to make up significant ground along the backstretch. Took him awhile to get out of traffic after being held up in the turn, but when he finally did, he persevered through the lane with strong finish, but his burst of speed came too late. Maiden win came on the dirt in New York back in the spring.
3 - Narrow Escape/Sheena Ryan/Justin Nixon--In the Plate, this colt was forwardly place with good position along the rail in the early running, but when the field hit the half-mile marker, he was being urged for more, but couldn't keep up and faded back. Adds blinkers for this trip. Was a longshot on Plate day and probably will be again here.
4 - Amis Gizmo/Luis Contreras/Josie Carroll--The Plate favorite was 3-wide while mid-pack in the first turn, but once on the backstretch he began to steadily advance toward the front. He easily went by Shakhimat on the far turn and opened a clear lead at the top of the stretch. He kept on gamely to the wire, but had no response for the winner in the final yards. He may have moved just a tad too soon, but all in all, this horse ran his race.
5 - Leo From Heaven/Emma-Jayne Wilson/Mark Frostad--Racing career for this new face in the field spans just three races. Despite holding on late, he won at first asking when making his debut back in May. His subsequent two allowance tries were decent efforts, but he gave up the lead in both. He attempts two-turns here for the first time. Trainer is highly acclaimed, with three Sovereign awards, a Breeders Cup win and eleven Canadian Triple Crown victories, including three Prince Of Wales. Expect this horse to be setting the pace and take the field as far as he can.
6 - Battery/John Velazquez/Todd Pletcher--New shooter is not new to stakes company. He recently participated in the Plate Trial, and prior to that, he saw action in the G1 Louisiana Derby. However, in both starts, his performances were dull, resulting in last place finishes. Is one of only four runners in the field that has raced over a conventional dirt surface, and has the most dirt experience with four starts. His conditioner has trained two previous Prince of Wales winners, including Harlem Rocker (2008), and Archer’s Bay (1998) and he gets the services of one of North America's leading rider.
7 - Niigon's Edge/Alan Garcia/Stuart Simon--Completes the trio of fresh faces in the gate. Has a couple of dirt races from his seven starts, but his lone win came over the synthetic stuff. He raced on the Plate undercard in allowance company, his first race in over four months. In that affair, he was bumped at the start and again in the first turn, before settling in mid-pack and rallying through the stretch to finish third in a good try. No doubt he needed the effort for conditioning and should be fitter now, but he's stepping up to meet tougher foes.
8 - Sir Dudley Digges/Julian Leparoux/Michael Maker--In his first synthetic try in the Plate Trial, June 12th, he was no match for Amis Gizmo and Shakhimat, but turned the tables on both those rivals, as well as 10 others to score in the Queen’s Plate. Tracked in fifth-place behind a slow pace (49:4/5), he appeared to be going nowhere on the far turn. He then angled off the rail and proceeded to find his best stride about the eighth-pole, eventually grinding it out down the lane to finally collar the leader and edge away late.
Other than the G2 Louisiana Derby, a race he clearly wasn't ready for, Battery has had success on dirt, with two wins and a second-place finish in four tries. Form was solid in the early part of the year before heading to the Fairgrounds. He was then off for nearly three months before he returned with a non-descript effort in the Plate Trial, his second attempt over the Woodbine synthetic, a surface he has not shown an affinity for. However, he definitely needed his last race following the respite and should build off that start. He returns to the dirt, gets the addition of blinkers, as well as Pletcher's "go-to" rider. It all could add up to getting him to the winner's circle.
Amis Gizmo is clearly the class of the field and has performed the best against the most advanced competition, having raced seven times, all stakes, with five wins. If he can transfer his strictly synthetic form to the Fort Erie dirt, then I expect him to give another excellent account of himself and prove best.
The aforementioned two dirt starts for, Sir Dudley Digges, came as a result of scheduled turf races being switched to the main track, and he fared well both times. The Plate winner in top form right now, still on the improve and might be extremely difficult to deny once again.
The top two finishers from the Plate had very good trips, but that was not the case for third place runner All On Red. His journey was far from ideal. Despite being far off the slow pace and facing traffic issues, he was still able to put forth a strong rally. He's a serious threat.
I expect much of the wagering to be centered on the top three finishers from the Plate, therefore, the odds on the Pletcher runner should be favorable. I will wager on Battery to win and box him in exactas with the other three. In addition, I'll box the four in a superfecta.
Good luck, and as always, enjoy the race!!