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Post Time: Cool Catomine springs upset in Prince of Wales

FORT ERIE – Bernard McCormack was shouting “Tyrell, Tyrell” from the trackside winner’s circle as Cool Catomine took over in mid-stretch and sprinted home to capture the 82nd Prince of Wales.

In the twilight of a lovely Southern Ontario evening at Fort Erie Race Track, the son of Spring at Last won the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown in an upset at odds of 14-1.

McCormack, who bred the brown colt with his wife Karen, explained that they would call the colt Tyrell down on the farm after one of the houses in the popular series Game of Thrones. He joked before the race if he started shouting the name of the Thrones' house in deep stretch it would mean only good things for the long shot hopeful.

How right he was as the horse he nursed in his early days to become a top flight thoroughbred, triumphed in one of Canada’s most prestigious horse races.

The breeder and his wife were celebrating in the trackside winner’s circle as the long shot made his move at the eighth pole and powered past to the wire in front of Aurora Way and front runner State of Honor.

“We bred the Queen’s Plate winner last year and that was all-world. We are so shocked,” said McCormack. “He just needed time, he couldn’t get to the Queen’s Plate because he didn’t like running in a crowd. Luis told the trainer to try him in blinkers and I’ll stick with this horse.”

Luis Contreras rode his second straight Prince of Wales winner after convincing trainer John Ross to try blinkers seems to have made the difference in the Fort’s biggest race. It was the first Wales training victory for Ross who finished second in 2003 with Arco’s Gold behind the last Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando.

He showed promise breaking his maiden on the synthetic surface at Woodbine in his fourth career race and first wearing the blinkers that Contreras suggested.

Cool Catomine held off late charging second-place finisher and surprisingly the post time favorite in Aurora Way by 2 1/2-lengths at the historic border oval. The winner is owned by Jack of Hearts Racing and JR Racing Stables and collected $300,000 for the win. He increased his career earnings to $340,229 in his fifth start.

The winner finished the trek in 1:55.63 to win the middle jewel in impressive fashion.  He returned $30.80 to win to his backers, $9.60 to place and $4.30 to show.  Aurora Way paid $4 to place and $2.60 to show. State of Honor completed a $2 trifecta that paid $478.20 and returned $2.70 for his third-place finish. The winner earned $300,000 for the win.

It’s been a whirlwind five days for red-hot jockey Luis Contreras who captured his third career Prince of Wales riding victory. On Friday afternoon in Saratoga’s first graded stake race of the meet he rode filly Dream It Is to victory in the Schuylerville Stakes and has garnered eight wins in his last 21 starts.

The beaming Contreras was all smiles as he described his winning ride. “After half a mile, I let the 5-horse (Tiz a Slam) go through and I decided to go outside of him,” said Contreras. “At the end, I heard a horse coming from behind me and I just kept riding this horse, he likes to be ridden hard.”

After winning the Queen’s Plate aboard Holy Helena on July 2, Contreras can complete the unofficial riding Triple Crown in the Breeder’s Stakes at Woodbine on Aug. 20. “I always think about it for sure, just need one more step to go,” said Contreras when asked about the potential feat.

Second-place finisher took the late money at the windows and made a bid late from the five-path at the top of the stretch, but was no match for the winner. Jockey Rafael Hernandez was pleased with the performance of his lightly raced colt.

“My horse turned for home and he was a little green as it was only the third time he’s raced,” said Hernandez of Aurora Way. “He turned for home and he was just kind of looking at everybody you know. We’ll probably try him in blinkers next time. He’s going to be great with those,” he said.

As expected the front-running State of Honor went to the lead and controlled the pace for most of the way before giving way to Cool Catomine in the stretch, finishing third. Jockey Patrick Husbands had to jump off his mount past the wire around the clubhouse turn as the son of To Honor and Serve suffered a leg injury.

Once again, fans came out in droves to the border oval to see the biggest race of the meeting. Track management was satisfied with the result and has continuously improved the event over the years.

“We had a fantastic crowd, perfect weather, and great racing,” said Tom Valiquette, chief operating and financial officer of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium. “We tried to make the day more of a festival this year by bringing in extra entertainment and food vendors, and it was a success.  Our event has been getting better and better every year since moving it to a Tuesday night, and we look forward to building on that momentum next season.”

The Tyrell house motto is “growing strong” and Cool Catomine has made significant strides after losing his first three career races.

As the sun set on the Fort on Tuesday night, an ecstatic McCormack exclaimed in the winner’s circle just as much.  “We stuck with him and now he’s a winner of the Prince of Wales,” said McCormack.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

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