This time, it was Alezzandro the Great, not the runner-up.
After getting caught in the final yards to be a close second in the Queen's Plate three weeks ago, Alezzandro turned the tables on his Canadian Triple Crown foes by scoring a wire-to-wire victory in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Race Track Sunday afternoon.
Todd Kabel, jockey on the 1 3/4 -length winner, said he was "sitting comfortable" all the way, but the 72nd running of the Canadian version of the Preakness kept the crowd of about 8,500 in suspense until the final yards of the 1 3/1 6 miles.
Although Alezzandro led for all but the first few steps, when the field of six Canadian-bred 3-year-old colts turned for home, they were so close together announcer Peter Kyte declared "throw a blanket over them."
But in the next 50 yards, it became clear the Alezzandro had put away all but one foe. That was Jiggs Coz, the betting favorite who made a desperate but futile run from last place up the middle of the track.
"When he [Alezzandro] lowered his back turning for home, I said 'wow!' " He is a racehorse and he showed his potential today," said Kabel while celebrating his second Prince of Wales victory. (He rode Scatter The Gold in 2000).
Kabel said Alezzandro, a dark bay, almost black colt who ran with a white shadow roll on his nose, "was so relaxed and comfortable the whole time with me."
"I knew there was a horse on the outside moving . . . but I didn't know who it was," Kabel said. "But at that point my horse was running so easy and I hadn't called on him. When I straightened him up and turned for home, I didn't think anybody was going to catch me today. . . . I was sitting comfortable, riding him very comfortable, with confidence."
Winning trainer Kevin Attard said he shared Kabel's confidence after he saw the first two fractions -- 23 3/5 seconds for the first quarter-mile and 47 2/5 for the half-mile -- posted on the infield board.
"When I saw the first two splits . . . I knew we were in a good position. . . . It's just a matter of does our horse have it in him. He had trained well heading into this race and if he'd run the same race as at the Plate, I had expected him to improve off the Plate and he just kind of put it all together," Attard said.
The final time was 1:55, 1 1/5 seconds off the stakes record of 1:53 4/5 set by Bruces Mill in 1994.
At Attard's direction, Alezzandro arrived at Fort Erie from Toronto's Woodbine on July 6, had a swift, serious workout on July 8 and, unlike his rivals, remained at the border oval for training all week.
"The atmosphere [at Fort Erie] is just so laid back and I just figured the horse could blossom so much better here. He shipped here well, he worked well and everything kind of went together nice and smoothly. He really took to the track. A storytale ending, I guess," said Attard.
The 31-year-old Attard began his training career at Fort Erie in 2002. He is a member of a well-known clan of Canadian horsemen of Maltese descent. His uncle, Sid Attard, trains Jiggs Coz.
Alezzandro, sent off as the 7-2 third choice, paid $9.40, $4 and $3.20. Jiggs Coz, the 1.95-1 favorite, paid $3.10 and $2.60. Daaher, the 3-1 second choice, returned $2.70. Plate winner Mike Fox was fourth, followed by Marchfield and Poachers Moon.
Mike Fox was second most of the early going but had no kick left when jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson went to the whip on the far turn.
"He ran his race. . . . He was picking it up, but he can't sprint like that," Wilson said. "This horse [Alezzandro] came home hard. We were right there and he [Mike Fox] was trying as hard as he could. Alezzandro was the better horse on the day. My horse tried as hard as he could."
Jiggs Coz got off slowly, making a slight hop as the starting gate opened. He trailed the field for more than a mile and was about four lengths behind the pack when he finally kicked into gear at the top of the stretch.
"That wasn't the game plan," said jockey David Clark. "I don't know what it is. He won't leave there running. He just kind of fell out of there. He was standing perfect, the doors opened, he just didn't really break good."
This is the second time the blue and gold colors of Knob Hill Farms will be painted on the jockey statue by the Fort Erie entrance. Knob Hill's Benburb, ridden by Larry Attard, won the 1992 race for stable founder Steve Stavro, who died in April 2006. Stavro's widow, Sally, is now head of the operation. Steve Stavro hired Kevin Attard as trainer shortly before his death.
The $300,000 purse more than doubles Alezzandro's career earnings to $552,500 from four starts. His next start probably will be the final race of the Triple Crown, the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes Aug. 5 at Woodbine over 1 1/2 miles of turf, a surface new to Alezzandro, a son of High Yield.
"I think he'll take to the turf. He's got a stride that seems to handle the grass," Kevin Attard said. "We'll evaluate him in the next couple days. . . . $500,000 against Canadian-breds is kind of hard to give up."