The summer racing season takes off next week with Del Mar opening Wednesday and Saratoga a week from today. The racing season is flying past us after the exhilarating spring that gave us racing’s 13th Triple Crown winner.
In addition to those two major summer meets, a week from this coming Tuesday, our area’s signature race, the $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, will be run at Fort Erie Race Track on July 24. The second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown will be run for the 83rd time. The race has been contested at the border oval since 1959.
Post time for the twilight card for the Prince of Wales is 4:10 p.m. and if you’ve never been, it is the best night of racing in our area with a big dollar stakes race on the line. A packed house, tiki bar, a post race band and some top notch Canadian-bred talent. Post time for the July 24 race is 7:30 p.m.
“The Prince of Wales Stakes is our signature race at Fort Erie Race Track, and is a highly anticipated event in our community,” said Tom Valiquette, chief operating and financial officer of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium. “Whether you are a seasoned racing enthusiast or a new racing fan, this year’s event is sure to be another great day for Canadian thoroughbred racing, and we welcome everyone to attend and take part in the excitement.”
The top four finishers from the Queen’s Plate return, including the winning filly Wonder Gadot, who will look to be the first horse since Wando in 2003 to capture the first two legs of the Triple Crown. A Canadian Triple Crown is highly doubtful though, as the Mark Casse-trained filly is using the Wales as a prep for the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga in mid-August.
The last two Plate winning fillies that tried the Alabama did not use this as a prep race, so Casse may be on to something. Both Inglorious (2011) and Holy Helena (2017) performed dismally at the Spa.
One horse that will make his Canadian Triple Crown debut in the Prince of Wales is Kentucky Derby starter Flameaway (pictured), who finished 13th in the Run for the Roses. He was with the leaders for the first mile of the race, but flamed out at the three-sixteenths pole.
Aheadbyacentury, the Plate runner-up and Cooler Mike who completed the trifecta will also head down to Fort Erie to try and avenge the loss against the wonder filly. Fourth-place finisher Strike Me Down will also head to the border oval.
The field will be drawn next Friday at Noon, be sure to check back here for the results of the draw.
Saratoga’s opening weekend will be anchored by Sunday’s Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and the annual 2-year-old races on Friday for the fillies (Schuylerville) and Saturday for the colts (Sanford). The Grade 1 Diana on the turf will highlight next Saturday’s card.
For the fourth straight year, yours truly will be the feature handicapper for Saratoga Tracksider, with daily top three selections and a Best Bet. The app designed by founder Dave Catalfamo was featured last year in the Albany Times-Union.
With Justify sidelined with a soft tissue injury, we’ll have to wait and see if he’ll take to the track again. He was likely headed to the Haskell, but the setback certainly puts that out of the picture. It would be a shame if he were retired and didn’t have a chance to face older horses later in the year in the Classic at Churchill Downs.
This weekend’s feature race is the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap, where last year’s Alabama winner Elate is the 2-1 favorite against eight other fillies and mares. Unbridled Mo (5-2) and Mopotism (9-2) appear to be the top challengers.
Delaware Park’s signature race has a purse of $750,000 and has a storied group of former winners. Jose Ortiz will ride Elate for trainer Bill Mott and try and add her name to the list of elite winners.
Be sure to check out my very timely Shady McCoy (the horse) column from earlier in the week.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.