Live Oak Plantation's Florida Won emerged victorious in Sunday's co-featured Grade 3 $175,800 Ontario Derby, at Woodbine.
Trained by Mark Casse, the Birdstone chestnut made his Polytrack debut a winning one after making the first six starts of his career on the turf.
Billed as a battle between Canadian classic winners Ami's Holiday and Coltimus Prime, it was the Kentucky-bred Florida Won, sent to post at odds of 10-1, who would take the spoils.
Last time out, Florida Won finished an even fifth in the Toronto Cup after a sluggish start. In the Ontario Derby, a 1 1/8-miles test for three-year-olds, Florida Won was once again slow getting into gear sitting last of seven under Patrick Husbands as Lunar Rover marked the opening quarter in :24.93 and a half-mile in :49.56.
Breeders' Stakes winner Ami's Holiday was urged into contention through the turn, with Florida Won following his lead to challenge Lunar Rover and the stalking Coltimus Prime, recent winner of the Prince of Wales Stakes.
Coltimus Prime, resurgent on the rail, stayed on gamely down the stretch but could not fend off the energetic rally of Florida Won who notched a 1 1/2-length victory. Coltimus Prime finished second, half a length in front of Ami's Holiday. Florida Won covered 1 1/8-miles in 1:50.80.
Husbands was expecting a big outing from the colt making his first start on the Woodbine main.
"I breezed him last week (on the 'Poly') and he breezed like a winner," said Patrick. "Today, I rode him with confidence. I wasn't worried about the horses in front of him, I knew what type of horse I was sitting on...I waited until Luis (Contreras, Ami’s Holiday) went and I had plenty of horse."
Kathryn Sullivan, assistant to Casse, agreed with Husbands' assessment.
"He's been travelling really well over the Poly. He's looked great and came into the race in good order," said Sullivan. "He got a little hot in the paddock, but that's a bit him. When I saw him going down the backside, I thought Patrick had him nice and relaxed and I was very confident."
Bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds LLC, Florida Won brought $385,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. The chestnut debuted for trainer Bill Mott with a fourth-place run over the Saratoga turf on August 11, 2013, before moving to Casse's barn for his next outing, a third-place finish in a Keeneland maiden allowance on April 6 of this year.
After breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs on May 11, Florida Won shipped to Woodbine where he made three starts including a good third, in the Charlie Barley Stakes, along with his fifth-place outing in the Toronto Cup.
Florida Won banked $90,000 in victory while improving his career record to 2-1-2 from seven starts.
He paid $22.30, $9.10 and $3.40, combining with Coltimus Prime ($4.20, $2.80) for a $140.50 (8-2) exactor. An 8-2-7 (Ami's Holiday, $2.20) triactor was worth $202, while a $1 Superfecta [8-2-7-1 (Squeeze the King)] came back $530.90. Freitag was scratched.
Source: Woodbine Entertainment Group