FORT ERIE – On a perfect southern Ontario Tuesday evening at picturesque Fort Erie Race Track, Tone Broke avenged his third-place finish in last month’s Queen’s Plate by winning the 84th Prince of Wales Stakes.
The plunging sun cast shadows across the manicured dirt surface as Tone Broke and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. donned the purple and gold floral blanket on his way to Fort Erie’s winner’s circle.
It was one of the best editions of the middle jewel in recent years, with Tone Broke tracking down front runners Avie’s Flatter and post time favorite One Bad Boy in deep stretch to win by two lengths.
A large crowd reminiscent of glory days past when the border oval was packed with Americans and Canadians, was treated to a whale of a race in the $400,000 second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown.
The winner finished the trek in 1:56.56 to win the Wales in impressive fashion. He returned to his backers $13.20 to win, $5.50 to place and $2.60 to show. Second-place finisher and Post Time selection Avie’s Flatter paid $3.70 to place and $2.20 to show. Plate winner One Bad Boy set the pace and finished third, paying $2.10 to show.
After breaking well, the Plate winner went straight to the front, but this time was flanked for three-quarters of the race by second choice Avie’s Flatter. Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano had the pressure on the favorite throughout and took over the lead at the quarter pole and looked like the winner heading down the stretch.
With Derby-winning jockey Flavien Prat urging One Bad Boy, he made one last effort to come back, but Castellano and Avie’s Flatter thwarted the bid, but he had expended a lot of energy in pressing the leader early.
That’s when Tone Broke came on the scene. With Santana shipping in from Saratoga and running a perfect trip behind the tiring front runners, he moved past them both just inside the eighth pole and drove through the wire to victory.
Santana couldn’t be happier with the effort of the son of Broken Vow, trained by Steve Asmussen.
“He’s a steady horse," he said. "The longer the race, the better he can be and today he fought to the end and gave me a nice finish.”
With the top two dueling most of the way around the track, Santana artfully stalked the leaders reserving energy until he needed it in the stretch.
“As soon as I started asking him when we turned for home, he kept running and I knew I had plenty of horse,” Santana said. “He ran a really nice race today. My horse really liked the track today.”
Tone Broke gave indications that he is a quality horse by finishing second to King for a Day at Pimlico in the Sir Barton on Preakness weekend, the horse that beat Maximum Security in the Pegasus at Monmouth last month.
“He ran a really good race that day at Pimlico," Santana said. "We’re really happy with him and we know we have a good horse.”
Assistant trainer Darren Fleming credited Asmussen, who watched the race in Saratoga, with an equipment change in taking the blinkers off as a potential key to the race.
“He was a little anxious in the Queen’s Plate," Fleming said. "He didn’t want to settle the first quarter of a mile, today he was just smooth.”
For Castellano, he knew Avie’s Flatter had to press One Bad Boy early based on how he got away with easy fractions in the Plate and he almost executed the game plan to perfection. His horse just ran out of gas at the finish, resulting in his second straight classic finish as the runner-up.
“He didn’t break well, I let him go and dictate the pace. My horse did everything he wanted to do todaym" Castellano said. "I’m very satisfied with the way he ran. He did it so easy today, good fractions, kept track of the pace, nice and perfect rhythm, the horse was second best today."
After putting away One Bad Boy, the Hall of Famer sensed he had company with Tone Broke breathing down his right side.
“I knew he was coming, I asked my horse to respond, the other went by easy and there was nothing I could do,” Castellano said.
For the 16th straight year, the Canadian Triple Crown trophy will go back into the cupboard. This year’s Plate winner had past experience on the turf and would have been a big threat to complete the triple with a win at Fort Erie.
A Canadian Triple Crown just wasn’t meant to be as he tired in the stretch. Prat made no excuses for the son of Twirling Candy after the race.
“He broke a step slow,” Prat said. “I left out of there and I was fine on the lead – he was comfortable, he was relaxing well – but when I asked him to make a run, he could not stay the same pace. It’s probably not his best surface and the start might have cost him a little bit, too.”
What we did learn Tuesday night across the Peace Bridge is that Tone Broke is a solid race horse who can compete at the highest level. A decision to run him against the big boys in Saratoga in the Travers or in the final leg on turf at Woodbine will be up to Asmussen.
I say go for broke.