FORT ERIE – Tuesday night, just minutes across the Peace Bridge from downtown Buffalo, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown will be held at Fort Erie Race Track.
The 81st edition of Fort Erie’s signature horse race, the Prince of Wales Stakes, will run with as much fanfare and anticipation as an American classic race.
There’s a $500,000 purse on the line and the field of eight includes four of the top six finishers from the Queen’s Plate and several new challengers seeking Canada’s middle jewel.
The 1 3/16-mile race is scheduled for 7:38 p.m., the eighth on a competitive nine-race card. First post is at 4:15.
Plate winner Sir Dudley Digges (2-1) is the slim morning-line favorite over his main challenger, Amis Gizmo (5-2), who was second in Canada’s most famous race on July 3 at Woodbine. Talented jockey Julien Leparoux will head down the Thruway from Saratoga to retain the mount on the Plate winner.
Sir Dudley Digges will seek to become the first since 2003 Triple Crown winner Wando to win the first two legs of the Canadian classics. He had a perfect trip in the Plate and drew outside post No. 8 for the Prince of Wales. It’s likely he won’t enjoy the dream trip he received at Woodbine on the Tapeta, switching to a surface he’s yet to race over.
The Canadian Triple Crown is run on three different surfaces. Tuesday’s middle jewel will be run on dirt. The final leg, the Breeder’s Stakes, will be run on turf at Woodbine on Aug. 22.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will make his Fort Erie debut to ride Battery (8-1). He will be riding in on a private charter on Tuesday, a dark day at Saratoga.
“I think he has a good chance, I’m looking forward to my first trip to Fort Erie,” Velazquez said after winning the first graded stake at Saratoga on Friday aboard Sweet Loretta.
Battery’s sire Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness, at the same distance as the Prince of Wales.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has had success in this race, winning twice with Archer’s Bay (1998) and Harlem Rocker (2008). He hopes a return to dirt will be the answer for Battery. Prior to running in the Plate Trial last month, he also spent some time on the Kentucky Derby trail, finishing 10th in the Louisiana Derby. The bay colt has two wins on the dirt, both coming in South Florida.
“The real key for us is getting back on the dirt, hopefully,” Pletcher said. “He didn’t seem to like the synthetic. We ran him once as a 2-year-old on what was then the Polytrack, so we were hoping maybe the switch to Tapeta would help. Obviously he didn’t run well in the Plate Trial. At that point we regrouped for this.”
Pletcher is also making an equipment change on Battery.
“We’re going to add some blinkers on, hopefully to get his attention and get him to the race a little bit earlier and go from there,” he said.
For Plate runner-up Amis Gizmo, the race is a bit shorter and the distance jockey Luis Contreras would have relished in the stretch drive at Woodbine. He came down last Tuesday to work his colt over the dirt surface and came out of it pleased. Amis Gizmo has run all seven of his career races on synthetic surfaces.
He’ll likely have Gizmo on the lead and isn’t afraid of taking it to his challengers early.
“On dirt you can take the lead no problem, and keep going all the way,” Contreras said.
From a trip perspective, the colt who made a late run was Sid Attard-trained All On Red (7-2). The son of Hard Spun rallied late, picking off horses to finish third, but he effort was too late as he relaxed with the soft early fractions of the Plate.
“If I could have kept him up close at the half-mile pole, I would have had the winner,” jockey Enrico Rosa da Silva said. All On Red also has a win on the dirt on his past performances, breaking his maiden at Aqueduct in April. The only other race participant in the Prince of Wales with a dirt win is Battery.
With a jockey who has won this race before, a horse who has won on dirt, and an equipment change that should improve his chances, there are just enough checked boxes on All On Red to double down and make him the pick.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – All On Red, 2 – Amis Gizmo, 3 – Battery, and 4 – Sir Dudley Digges.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.