Named for the narrowest point between France and Great Britain in the English Channel, Strait of Dover appears to have the talent to become the widest Queen’s Plate winner in recent memory. The Dan Vella trainee hasn’t failed to finish first in four straight Polytrack events, going back to last year. He’s a son of English Channel out of Bahrain’s Star, a daughter of Danzig, himself a productive Northern Dancer descendant. Dredge a bit deeper in the female side of his pedigree and you perhaps find the significance of his name. Bahrain Star hails from a strong family that yielded the French three-year-old filly champion Roseliere (Strait of Dover’s fourth dam). Not sure if it was by accident, but it’s only fitting with English Channel on top and a significant French equine heritage on the bottom, that he be named for a crossing point between the two countries. Strait of Dover, a British Columbian, enters the Queen’s Plate off a convincing victory over Incredicat in the Marine Stakes several weeks ago. While Incredicat didn’t hit the board in the Marine, the race was decided by a second-turn scrap between the pair of three-year-olds. As a result of the fight, Incredicat faded to finish sixth, while Strait of Dover stayed on for a smashing victory that should take him postward as a clear favorite in the 1 ¼-mile Queen’s Plate. The absence of Incredicat, who finished second in the Plate Trial, should be a relief for jockey Justin Stein, who should be able to position Strait of Dover near the front of the pack without worrying too much about a hot pace. The more he’s able to slow things down, the more energy Dover will have to stave off whichever rivals aim to take a run at him. That’s why Strait of Dover appears to be such a special entrant in the Plate. More than any other horse in the race, he has demonstrated the ability to fight back when challenged. He didn’t need to do it in the Marine, but two races back he looked in deep trouble but fought back with determination for a visually impressive score. The second important detail about his profile is that he doesn’t need the lead. He’s shown he can sit off the pace and make a timely run.
From a pedigree perspective, it’s no secret that the English Channel offspring are relishing a route of ground. His overall percentage is roughly 14 per cent, but in races at a mile or longer, his strike rate inflates to 18 per cent. He has yet to throw a 1 ¼-mile winner, but he has had a horse go 1 ¾ miles and win. Perhaps Strait of Dover could be the first winner at a classic distance. On dam side, the aforementioned Bahrain Star is by Danzig, one of Northern Dancer’s finest sons at stud. Also part of the female family is Rose Bowl, a champion older mare in England. She’s Strait of Dover’s third dam.
Now, the loan chink in Strait of Dover’s armor – maybe more of a scratch than a chink – is the fact that he was forced to skip the Plate Trial Stakes, reportedly due to a high white blood cell count. Vella says they were considering skipping the 1 1/8-mile race anyway and this just made the decision for them. Who knows? If Strait of Dover lacked the seasoning, it would be a concern, but he’s had two nice preps over the track this year. The Polytrack was playing much quicker when he was racing in April and May, so he may need to adjust to a deeper surface. Then again, if it’s like other Plate afternoons, the track may be groomed for speed – a setup that might make him unbeatable. The break may work to his advantage since his fastest career race was in the Marine. With the spacing, he’s certainly far less likely to regress in the Queen’s Plate. Since the Marine effort was just a few points better than his peak two-year-old performance, he may be in position to move forward off the Marine, which would also make him a very tough horse to run down on Sunday.
He’s been made 3-1 in the Morning Line. If he remains at this quote, he’s well worth a wager. Many anticipate he’ll be much lower by post time.
Photo Courtesy of WEG/Michael Burns