ETOBICOKE, Ont. – The fourth filly in the last eight years captured Canada’s Most Famous Race, when Wonder Gadot lassoed the 159th Queen’s Plate on a scorching afternoon at Woodbine Racetrack.
The winning filly is named for actress Gal Gadot, who played Wonder Woman in the 2017 superhero film. She is owned by Gary Barber, the chairman and CEO of MGM Studios.
After losing the Woodbine Oaks by a head to Dixie Moon in her last race, the 2-1 favorite rallied around the big field around the far turn, taking over in mid stretch to romp to a 4 3/4-length victory.
The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro completed the mile-and-a-quarter trek in 2:02.26 and returned $6.40 to her backers for the win, $3.80 to place and $3.20 to show. Aheadbyacentury returned $17.60 to place and $10.30 to show for trainer John Ross. Cooler Mike, who was on the early pace, paid $15.90 for his third place finish.
With temperatures in the low 90s most of the afternoon in suburban Toronto, the super filly maintained her composure throughout the race with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez aboard. She claimed the $600,000 first-place money and the first leg of Canada’s Triple Crown.
Trainer Mark Casse did not immediately discount a trip to Fort Erie Race Track for the second leg of the Triple Crown, stating that the Prince of Wales could prepare Wonder Gadot for the Alabama. “The Prince of Wales may just set her up nicely for the Alabama,” said Casse.
The Alabama was a stop for two of the three Plate-winning fillies in the past eight years, both failing miserably in their effort at Saratoga. But neither of those horses used the Prince of Wales as a prep race, which could be the missing link to the equation.
Casse could also possibly race Kentucky Derby starter Flameaway in the Prince of Wales, scheduled for Tuesday evening, July 24 at the border oval, making things even more interesting.
If Wonder Gadot decides to skip the race, it will be another blow to the tradition of horses trying to win the Canadian Triple Crown on three different surfaces. The Plate is run on Tapeta, a synthetic surface, the Wales is on traditional dirt and the Breeders’ Stakes is back to Woodbine on the E.P. Taylor Turf course.
She has struggled in the past to finish races and Casse decided to make an equipment change and put blinkers on to make her focus more. Velazquez confirmed that was the difference on Saturday. “I think the blinkers got her to pay more attention and do her job,” said the winning rider.
On this sweaty afternoon at Woodbine, she thoroughly showed the class she flashed by finishing second to Monomoy Girl in the Kentucky Oaks on the first Friday in May at Churchill Downs.
A race with the current top 3-year-old filly in the Alabama in Monomoy Girl and Saturday’s Mother Goose winner Midnight Bisou could set up for the old Spa for a thrilling matchup.
Second-place finisher Aheadbyacentury made a late run at 28-1 to help complete a $2 exacta that paid $157. He ran into issues on the backside when a horse started to drop back in front of him. Two-time Plate-winning jockey Luis Contreras wishes he had some of those lengths he lost back.
“I had a good trip, the horse made an amazing run,” said Conteras about Aheadbyacentury. “I had a little trouble in the backstretch, the horse in front of me he was starting to drop so I had to draw out. The filly won impressively in the end, I don’t know if I can beat that one, but give me a couple of those lengths in the backstretch.”
Cooler Mike, a homebred son of Giant Gizmo, ran a big race for trainer Nick Nosowenko. Going off at odds of 46-1, he shot to the lead out of the auxiliary gate from post No. 2 and stayed with early front runner Telekinesis through the early going.
After falling back to fifth, he re-rallied in the stretch only to be passed by Contreras at the wire. Nosowenko had one of the biggest smiles after the race, thrilled with his horse’s effort.
"She caught him off the rail turning for home and then he got a little crowded,” said Nosowenko. “I thought he was going to split and draw off, but Wonder Gadot is a pretty nice filly. All the credit to her. He ran his eyeballs out for a Canadian-sired Ontario-bred,” said Nosowenko.
It was the second Plate win for Casse, who is now 2-for-23 in the race, both wins coming from fillies. He compared Wonder Gadot to his last winner after the race. “She reminds me a lot of Lexie Lou, even though she weighs probably 200 more pounds than Lexie,” said Casse.
He credited her experience in dealing with the heat and the big field. “She is a cool customer,” said Casse. “I told Gary (Barber) it would help her because I knew it would affect others. She’s been all over the place, so she’s an extremely talented filly.”
Casse is confident that his filly is ready to make the next step after capturing the mile-and-a-quarter Plate.
“I think she if she’ll stay happy and healthy she’s going to be tough,” said Casse. “She’ll give any in North America a run in the Alabama, it’s just the distance, she just goes and goes,” he said.
“She’s Wonder Woman.”
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.