With Approval, the gritty roan colt who has turned the come-from-behind photo finish into an art form, scored another heart-stopping, picture-perfect victory Sunday afternoon as he pushed his head in front of Domasca Dan with two strides to go to take the $204,933 Prince of Wales Stakes at the Fort Erie Race Track.
The victory in the second jewel of Canada's Triple Crown -- and the richest race ever run at the 92-year-old border oval -- moved Kinghaven Farms' With Approval, winner of the Queen's Plate three weeks ago, to within one race of sweeping the series and snatching the $1 million Triple Crown bonus put up by the Bank of Montreal. The final contest is the Aug. 20 Breeder's Stakes over 1 1/2 miles of grass at Toronto's Woodbine Race Track.
Although the five Canadian-bred 3-year-olds finished the 1 3/1 6-mile Prince of Wales in the exact order in which the crowd of 9,190 bet them, nobody started for the cashiers early.
The race came to a thrilling climax as three horses -- Most Valiant, Domasca Dan and With Approval -- battled abreast down the stretch with each taking turns sticking his head in front.
The race formed just as With Approval and Domasca Dan's camps, and many of the bettors, expected.
The speedy Domasca Dan, leaving from Post No. 1 with Ray Sabourin aboard, jumped on top right after the gate opened and tried to go all the way as the pace-setter.
But With Approval, who left from post No. 5 under Don Seymour up, did not let Domasca Dan get loose on the lead. Seymour moved With Approval within a length of Domasca Dan by time they passed the finish line the first time and kept Domasca Dan in his sights the entire journey.
"I wasn't going to let Domasca Dan control the pace on his own," said Seymour. "I was on his flank and I pushed him some."
Domasca Dan stayed in front, several paths wide of the rail, setting fractions of 24 2/5 seconds to the first quarter mile, 49 3/5 to the half and 1:14 3/5 to the third quarter of a mile. But shortly before the final turn, With Approval moved to Domasca Dan's outside and Most Valiant, who had been wide, was swung inside by Jack Lauzon.
Most Valiant, who lost by a nose to With Approval in the Plate, cut the corner smartly and by time they straighted for home, led by about a head.
The trio fanned out and the whips started to fly. Lauzon, in Sam-Son Farm's red and yellow was inside with Most Valiant. Sabourin, in the DiGiulio Family's bright yellow, held the middle ground. Seymour, in Kinghaven's blue and white, inherited the outside.
Most Valiant held the lead from about the eighth pole to the 16th. Then Domasca Dan inched ahead until he was caught by With Approval just past the 70-yard pole. It was With Approval's fourth straight win, by three heads and a nose.
"That's just the way he is," said Seymour. "When it comes down to the last 70 yards, that's when you've got to keep busy on him and make sure that he's paying attention. If you ask him a little too early from the eighth pole to the 16th pole, he'll relax on you, he'll think it's all over when he gets a head in front. This time I just decided to sit as long as I can until it's time to move. When I did make my move, I didn't miss a stride, I don't think."
"I can't think of much excuse for him except it was a little too far," said Sabourin of Domasca Dan. "We just can't beat that . . . I thought I had him again just inside the 16th pole."
"We expected it," Sabourin said. "We knew he (With Approval) would be right there. He knew we were the horse to beat and he wasn't letting us get away. He was sticking with us."
The final time was 1:56, just 4/5 of a second slower than Big Blunder's 1970 track record.
With Approval, the 4-5 favorite, paid $3.60, $2.60 and $2.10. Domasca Dan, the 5-2 second choice, paid $3 and $2.30. Most Valiant, 4-1 third choice, finished 2 lengths back and returned $2.00 to show. The exactor paid $7. Next came Stellar Night, 10-1 fourth choice, and Lordhyexecutioner, at almost 15-1. All carried 126 pounds.
Seymour and trainer Roger Attfield said they thought With Approval and Domasca gained an edge by training at Fort Erie last week while the others remained in Toronto.
"It certainly didn't hurt our chances," Attfield said. "The way he worked on Wednesday morning (6 furlongs in 1:12 3/5 ), I found it very, very hard to believe there was a horse that could beat him."
The victory, which itself was worth $122,960 in purse money, also gives With Approval such a big lead in the Triple Crown point standings that he is assured that he will win the $250,000 in secondary bonus money just for running in the Breeder's.
Based on points awarded on a 5-3-1 basis for finishes in the Plate and Prince, With Approval has 10 points, and Most Valiant and Domasca Dan have four each.
Attfield all along has expressed confidence in With Approval's ability to run on grass at the 12-furlong Breeder's Stakes. The son of the Irish-bred sire, Caro, debuted last October in a 7-furlong grass race at Woodbine and won it by 2 lengths, the biggest margin of victory in his life.
In 11 starts, including nine this year, With Approval has scored seven wins and two seconds in 11 starts. With Approval has earned $621,540. Should he win the Breeder's, which is expected to have a regular first-place prize of about $195,000, and the $1 million dollar bonus, he would vault past Sam-Son's 4-year-old Regal Classic (last year's Prince of Wales winner who has earned $1,456,584) and become the richest Canadian-bred ever.
Sam-Son still might have something to say about that, however. The powerful stable has good grass running 3-year-olds in Most Valiant, Wave Wise and Tot of Rum.
Only two horses -- New Providence in 1959 and Canebora in 1963 -- have won the Canadian Triple Crown since it started in 1959. (This is the first year with the bonuses and the second year in which the Prince of Wales has been contested on the dirt.)
In Sunday's supporting features, Total Response, a Finger Lakes shipper who has made several sorties here, went wire-to-wire to win the $7,200 "E. Day." He covered the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05 1/5 under Steve O'Brien and paid $7.10.
Here Here Cougar ($27.60) won the $8,000 "Phil Ranallo" over 1 1/1 6 miles of grass under Hugo Dittfach. Dittfach, who has won a record five Prince of Wales Stakes, now has 3,982 lifetime winners.