After his brilliant performance in near stakes record time in Saturday's $163,800 Marine Stakes (Can-III) at Woodbine, there's little doubt who the leading contender for next month's 144th edition of the Queen's Plate is.
Wando, a handsome chestnut son of Langfuhr easily brushed aside key Plate contenders Quiet Dare and Arco's Gold to win the 1 1/16-mile race by 4 1/2 lengths under Todd Kabel for trainer Mike Keogh and owner Gus Schickedanz. The Queen's Plate is June 22 at Woodbine.
Kabel sent Wando straight to the front, cutting early fractions of :22.80 and :46.28. Longshot El Ruller stalked his rival and at the top of the stretch loomed a menace, but Wando responded and drew off to win in 1:42.61, four-fifths of a second off the Marine Stakes record held by Victor Cooley in 1996.
Victor Cooley went on to win the Plate four weeks later.
Kabel figures the Marine is just the beginning for Wando, despite the fact the 3-year-old already has four career stakes wins.
"He's just a monster that's just getting better with every start," Kabel said. "He's an immature horse that's learning really fast. Mike (trainer Keogh) and his crew have done a tremendous job with horse, mentally and physically, and today he showed up in a big way.
"He was very relaxed even though he was going fast. Good horses run like that. He showed it with his ears all the way around, he was quite happy doing what he was doing."
Keogh, who admitted he wasn't sure Wando would thrive at longer distances, was thrilled with the colt's performance today.
"You have to be happy with this race," Keogh said. "I was impressed with him and it even looked like he was loafing a little bit at the end so Todd gave him a whack just to keep his mind on business."
Wando collected $98,280 for the Marine Stakes to raise his career earnings to $574,402.
He paid $3.30, $2.70, $2.20 across the board and combined with El Ruller ($11.40, $5.00) for a $25.40 exacta. Arco's Gold ($3.10) was another 2 3/4 lengths back in third and rounded out a $124.80 trifecta. Second choice Quiet Dare was sixth.