Today Fort Erie. Tomorrow the "Spa?"
Heavily favored Cryptocloser gave his backers some anxious moments en route to his 2 3/4 -length victory in Sunday's Prince of Wales Stakes. But by the time the bay gelding's two owners left the winner's circle, they had their sights on much bigger things than the second jewel of Canada's Triple Crown.
Co-owner Earle I. Mack -- whose burgundy and yellow silks were carried to victory for the third time in the Fort Erie Race Track's centerpiece race -- said he thought the victory earned Cryptocloser a shot at Saratoga's main event on Aug. 23.
"I think we will seriously consider sending this horse to the Travers," Mack said.
"We don't know if he's that good, but longshots have done that before. But we haven't made up our mind."
His partner, William Sorokolit Jr., had another bold proposal. He said he'd "love" a rematch with Awesome Again, the California-based Canadian-bred who beat Cryptocloser by 3 1/2 lengths in the Queen's Plate after Cryptocloser was forced to check twice on the far turn at Woodbine.
Awesome Again is pointing for Saratoga's Jim Dandy next Sunday, a traditional Travers Prep.
The winners' exuberance was in stark contrast to the breath-holding moments they had experienced midway through the 1 3/1 6 mile Prince of Wales.
Leaving from post No. 3 under jockey Willie Martinez, Cryptocloser soon found himself locked in along the rail behind front-running C.C. On Ice (ridden by Constant Montpellier) and inside of Annihilate (Sandy Hawley) and Zacharov (Emile Ramsammy).
It wasn't until they approached the quarter-mile (from the wire) pole that Martinez was able to get outside and make his winning move before the crowd of 5,633.
"He was stuck in on the rail pretty good and then he sort of dropped out of it a little bit coming around the turn," said winning trainer Mark Frostad.
"Willie was just sitting there and he wasn't getting excited. It's lucky I wasn't on him."
The only person who didn't seem worried about all the time the winner spent in the box was Martinez, a 26-year-old native of Puerto Rico who started in racing as a hot walker at Finger Lakes.
"I rode him with a lot of confidence," Martinez said. "When you've got that much horse, all you have to do is sit chilly and wait for an opening."
After slow fractions of 24, 48 and 1:12 1/5 , the final time was 1:56, well off the track and stakes record of 1:53 4/5 set by Bruce's Mill in 1994.
C.C. On Ice did its best to "steal" the race on the front end, but couldn't hold off the eventual winner.
"We had good fractions; he relaxed the whole way," Montpellier said. ""He (Cryptocloser) still blew by me. He got beat by a better horse today. But he (C.C. On Ice) ran pretty good."
Cryptocloser paid $3 and completed a $21.40 exacta with C.C. On Ice, who finished 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Rabbit in a Hat, who nosed Bowmore for the show. Zacharov, Sovereign Storm and Annihilate brought up the rear.
The $117,660 winner's share of the $196,100 purse gives Cryptocloser career earnings of $332,279. He has won four of 18 starts, with five seconds and two thirds.