TORONTO – It was royalty that took home the 157th Queen’s Plate on Sunday afternoon at sun-soaked Woodbine Racetrack.
Longshot Sir Dudley Digges surged past favorite Amis Gizmo in deep stretch for a half-length victory in the Queen’s Plate for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey at odds of 16-1.
It was apropos that royalty was entering the trackside winner’s enclosure, since the winner was named after a cousin of the King of England by Ken Ramsey, who claims to have descended from the king.
The winner completed the mile-and-a-quarter trek in 2:04.09 and returned $33.90 for the win, $11.50 to place and $7.50 to show. Post time favorite Amis Gizmo returned $4.30 to place and $3.30 to show and All On Red paid $6.10 for his third place finish.
The middle jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, will be run at Fort Erie Race Track on July 26 at the border oval. The Canadian Triple Crown is different than the one in the States as the first leg is run on Tapeta (synthetic), the second on dirt at Fort Erie and the final leg is run on the turf in the Breeders Stakes back at Woodbine on Aug. 21.
Ramsey confirmed that the son of Gio Ponti would point to the middle jewel of the Canadian Crown and take on the 1 3/16-mile trek around Fort Erie’s dirt track. “It was a beautiful win and we’re all set now for the Triple Crown. He’s already demonstrated he can run on the turf and we think the dirt will be okay,” said Ramsey.
It was redemption for Ramsey, whose heavy Plate favorite We Miss Artie reared at the start of the 2014 Plate, and finished a disappointing fourth. “It was payback time, we got a good trip, no interference, and got a good race from the jockey,” said Ramsey.
Ramsey, known as a notorious bettor, not only claimed the $600,000 winner’s check, but cashed a few large bets at the windows as well. “The price was right. I bet with both hands today, I thought he was a big overlay,” said the owner.
Jockey Julien Leparoux was working on three hours sleep after putting in a big night at Churchill Downs on Saturday, winning two big stakes races. “I rode 11 races yesterday, and got back home at 1 o’clock and then got up at 3:30 to catch my plane. I’m going to sleep good tonight,” said Leparoux.
He was concerned at the slow pace to the start of the race, but when they picked it up on the backstretch, the Frenchman breathed a sigh of relief. “We got a good spot in the first turn but they slowed down the pace a lot into the first turn, I was a little bit worried,” said Leparoux. “On the backside they started to pick it up and we got a clear run at the end,” he said.
Leparoux, a regular rider for the Ramseys, couldn’t be happier gathering the first Plate win. “It’s an honor. It doesn’t matter what kind of race you win it could be a $5,000 claimer to a grade one, it’s a recipe to win. We go way back to the beginning of my career I have been riding for them so it’s a special win for sure,” said Leparoux.
Sir Dudley Digges had only one win in eight tries coming into the Plate, but a-third place finish in the Plate Trial gave trainer Mike Maker some hope that he could handle Woodbine’s new Tapeta synthetic surface.
“He’s a good laid back horse, it’s taken him awhile for him to come around,” said Maker. “He has a tendency to hang and wait on horses. He should have broken his maiden a lot earlier than he did. Usually on poly, we feel that having a race usually benefits you,” said Maker.
The winner’s sire, Gio Ponti, finished second to the great Zenyatta in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic on the Polytrack at Santa Anita, so it was no surprise that Sir Dudley Digges enjoyed Woodbine’s synthetic track.
Jockey Luis Contreras who had to decide between Amis Gizmo and the filly Gamble’s Ghost, for his Plate mount appeared to make the right decision going with the colt. The son of Giant Gizmo took the lead at the quarter pole, but just couldn’t hold off the winner late. “I tried to relax my horse as much as I could and wait until the quarter pole to make my move. They just got me at the end,” said Contreras.
Third-place finisher All On Red went all in and put forth a tremendous effort to complete the trifecta. Jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva was pleased with the trip from his Hard Spun colt. “My horse was just running very relaxed, if I could keep him up close at the half-mile pole, I would be the winner,” said da Silva. “But unfortunately I wasn’t as close to the pace, because he was running too relaxed. I’m happy because he ran a great race,” he said.
West Point Thoroughbreds’ Scholar Athlete and Post Time selection Scholar Athlete, second in deep stretch, finished a game fourth to complete the $1 superfecta that paid $5,446.
Trainer Graham Motion was satisfied with jockey Jose Ortiz’ ride, his gelding’s first on a Tapeta surface. “I thought he gave him a great ride and he had him in a good spot, I couldn’t have been happier with where he was, to be honest. No excuses, he ran great,” said Motion.
So we’ll head across the Peace Bridge in three weeks for the Prince of Wales to see if Sir Dudley Digges can become the first horse since Triple Crown winner Wando in 2003 to complete the first two legs.
It’s hard to bet against royalty, and you can be sure Ken Ramsey won’t be.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.