Malakoff is Queen's Plate bound after dominating four rivals in Saturday's $150,000 Marine Stakes (Can-III) for 3-year-olds Saturday at Woodbine.
Todd Kabel rode the chestnut son of Lemon Drop Kid
to a 7 ¼-length victory over Ok Nothanksforaskn for trainer Brian Lynch and owner-breeder Stronach Stables. Odds-on favorite Bear Character was another 2 ¼ lengths back in third.
The running time for 1 1/16 miles was 1:46.
Malakoff, the lone Plate eligible horse in the race, appeared overmatched against Bear Character, a multiple stakes winner and speedy U.S. invader Throng, so the victory was a stunner to many, including Kabel.
"This horse really surprised me today," Kabel said. "When I broke his maiden (on April 30) it was an all-out effort. The day I rode him I expected him just to draw off in a manner of his own, and he didn't."
The win meant plenty to Malakoff's Plate chances, according to Lynch. "He really took a big step forward. That's what we wanted to see. We'll give him a little time off and try to take a fresh horse into the Plate."
The $1 million Queen's Plate, set for June 25 at Woodbine, is the most prominent race on the Canadian horseracing calendar.
The Marine is the third of five key Queen's Plate preps. The critical Plate Trial is scheduled for June 4, while the Victoria Park Stakes is on June 11.
Atlas Shrugs won the first two preps, the Woodstock (April 22) and the Queenston (May 6).
The last horse to win the Marine en route to a Plate victory was eventual Triple Crown champion Wando in 2003.
Jim McAleney, the rider of 3-5 choice, Bear Character, was upset with the loss.
"My expectations were high and I thought we were going to win it. I'm very disappointed. It's kind of uncharacteristic of this horse to not finish stronger."
Malakoff collected $90,000 for the Marine win to raise his career earnings to $152,880. The Ontario-bred colt now has two wins, two seconds and a third in five starts.
Malakoff paid $12.10, $4.80 to win and place in a race that did not offer show wagering. Ok Nothanksforaskn ($10) rounded out the $82.10 exacta.