With England's Queen Elizabeth II in attendance for the first time since 1997, front-running Big Red Mike stole the 151st renewal of the Queen's Plate with a gate-to-wire win by 1 1/2 lengths for jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva at Woodbine July 4.
Big Red Mike, who provided owner/breeder Terra Racing Stable and trainer Nicholas Gonzalez with their first Queen's Plate victory, became the first gelding to win the prestigious race since T J's Lucky Moon in 2002. Bred in the name of Terra Farms, Big Red Mike is a son of Tenpins--Regent n' Flashy, by Vice Regent.
Da Silva is now two-for-two in his career in the Queen's Plate after winning the race last year with Eye of the Leopard . He is the first jockey since Craig Perret in 1992-93 to win consecutive runnings.
"He ran very relaxed, gave me no problems," said Da Silva of Big Red Mike immediately after the race. "He was so focused, you know. I went to the lead easy and he did the job. This horse ran so hard today. I'm just so proud of him. I'm going to see the Queen today."
Hotep, who chased Big Red Mike in second for most of the 1 1/4-mile journey on Polytrack, was the runner-up with Patrick Husbands aboard. The filly Roan Inish, winner of the Woodbine Oaks in her last start, made a strong bid from off the pace but settled for third.
The final time was 2:04.89.
The Queen's Plate, with a U.S.purse of $944,312, is the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown for 3-year-olds.
Big Red Mike and Da Silva employed similar front-running tactics in winning the June 13 Plate Trial at nine furlongs, holding off Plate favorite Mobilizer by a half-length after cutting extremely soft fractions. Big Red Mike became the 25th horse to complete the Plate Trial/Queen's Plate double and the third in succession to do so, following Eye of the Leopard and Not Bourbon in 2008.
Queen Elizabeth, who presented the winner's trophy after the race, also attended the Queen's Plate in 1959 and 1973.
"Nothing to it, one-for-one. I'm undefeated (in the Queen's Plate)," quipped Gonzalez, who has been winning at a 30% clip with horses that have their last start at Woodbine. "I'm so proud of him. He ran so tough in the Plate Trial. I knew he was on to bigger and better things."
Sent off as the third choice at 5-1 odds, Big Red Mike went directly to the front while well in hand and clicked off fractions of :24.43, :49.39, 1:14.31, and 1:38.74, stretching a half-length lead over Hotep to a length. Big Red Mike quickened on the turn and drew clear of his pace rival at the top of the stretch, opening up by a couple of lengths. Hotep responded to urging from Husbands to give an all-out effort but he could not match strides with the winner.
Likewise, Roan Inish, who progressed from eighth from between horses on the final turn to reach contention at the quarter pole for jockey David Moran, was in an all-out drive in the lane, but could not make an impact on the first two, finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind Hotep. She was a neck ahead of the late-running Giant's Tomb, ridden by Mike Smith.
Then came Mobthewarrior, Dark Cloud Dancer, Smart Sky, the filly Moment of Majesty, Who We Gunna Call, Mobilizer, Ghost Fleet, Vicar Street, and D's Wando.
Mobilizer, the lukewarm 7-2 choice, appeared to have every chance. He chased the pace in third or fourth while on the outside, but he tired in upper stretch and faded to 10th.
Big Red Mike won for the third time in six starts. He has finished worse than second just once in his career. He earned $564,780 for the victory, pushing his career bankroll to $725,881.
He paid $12, $6.30, and $4.70 for the win while topping an $80.90 exacta.
"I'm pinching myself to see if this is real," said the 58-year-old Gonzalez, who got his 1,000th career win last month. "I left it up to Eurico. I thought it was going to be a jockey's race. My wife (Martha), son, and I were jumping up and down so much that it's just kind of a blur in my eye right now."
"This will probably be one of the most memorable days of my life," added co-owner Dom Romeo. "I have been 35 years in racing and breeding. I bred this horse, which makes it more satisfying. Our hopes are always to win the Queen's Plate and the Queen being here is magnificent."
Sam-Son Farms' Hotep, a full brother to Eye of the Leopard and the morning line Plate favorite, returned $6.90 and $4.70 in a strong effort.
Roan Inish, who won the Woodbine Oaks by a head over Moment of Majesty with an exciting late burst, was $4.30 to show.
The second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown is the 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales Stakes July 25 on dirt at Fort Erie. The final leg is the 12-furlong Breeders' Stakes on the Woodbine turf Aug. 15.
Only seven horses have won the Triple Crown since its inception in 1959, the last being Wando in 2003.