Strait of Dover, whose career has taken off since arriving in trainer Daniel Vella's barn at Woodbine, emerged as an early Queen's Plate favorite with his 6 1/2-length romp in the $156,206 Marine Stakes May 12 (VIDEO).
The British Columbia-bred 3-year-old son of English Channel has won three in a row over Woodbine's Polytrack since transferring from Hastings Racecourse last November. Strait of Dover was first under the wire in four straight races, actually, but was disqualified from a maiden victory at 43-1 odds in his Woodbine debut and placed third.
Wally Leong's Canyon Farms homebred was making his stakes debut in the 1 1/16-mile Marine, which he won in a strong time of 1:43.44. Justin Stein was aboard the dark bay or brown colt who is out of the Danzig mare Bahrain Star.
Vella says there is turf in the future for Strait of Dover but at this point the focus is the June 24 Queen's Plate at 1 1/4 miles, Canada's most famous race.
"So far, it's all gone quite well," says Vella. "Nobody has crossed the wire in front of him."
Strait of Dover was overlooked in the wagering, sent off as the fifth choice in the field of six sophomores at odds of 11-2.
He broke well, pulling early as Wando Stakes winner Incredicat set a reserved pace (:25.01, :48.95, 1:12.20). Tracking in second, Strait of Dover bid for the lead midway on the far turn before shaking loose at the head of the lane. Strait of Dover was in front by 2 1/2 lengths at mid-stretch and drew off while finishing under a hand ride from Stein.
“He’s a really nice horse,” said Stein, who won three races on the card. “He’s got a ton of confidence. He loves being out here, and he loves his job. He wants to destroy everything in sight."
Vella is hopeful that the victory, the colt's first attempt at two turns, will be a valuable learning experience for the Queen's Plate.
"With him sitting that close, I knew he had to be doing it quite easy," said Vella. "We talked about settling him, and trying to get him off the bridle, because we want to go a mile and a quarter. Obviously, he did that. It was very exciting the whole way.”
Classic Bryce, the longest shot on the board at nearly 14-1 with Eurico Da Silva aboard, outlasted the slight 2-1 favorite Holiday Promise, ridden by Parrick Husbands, for second by three-quarters of a length. Bridge Loan was fourth, followed by 70-1 Lexington Stakes (gr. III) winner All Squared Away, and Incredicat.
Strait of Dover began his career at Hastings for trainer Cindy Krasner with a pair of unplaced efforts in optional claiming maiden ranks. After his disqualification in his first start at Woodbine Nov. 6, he returned three weeks later to graduate by 1 1/2 lengths. He was coming off a front-running three-quarters of a length tally against first level allowance foes April 22 in his first start of the year. HIs career record stands at three wins in six tries with earnings of $165,395.
Under 115 pounds, Strait of Dover paid $13, $7.50, and $4.30. Classic Bryce returned $11.90 and $5.90 while completing a $126.10 exacta. Holiday Promise paid $3 to show.