Only one horse stood between Irish Mission and victory in the Queen's Plate on June 24, and that colt will not be present on Sunday when a field of nine lines up in the C$500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie.
Strait of Dover, the impressive wire-to-wire winner of the Queen's Plate, was not entered in the 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales due to his previous lackluster showings on conventional dirt courses. That leaves the way clear for Irish Mission and fellow filly Dixie Strike to battle it out amongst themselves for the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown.
"We've always liked her and it was just a question of her developing, understanding the game and growing into her body," trainer Mark Frostad said of Irish Mission, who has been made the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Prince of Wales.
"She's a big horse, but she's really put it all together. Her effort in the Plate was fantastic. She ran a big race."
Irish Mission and Dixie Strike both came running in the lane, but neither could catch the loose-on-the-lead Strait of Dover in the 10-furlong Queen's Plate. Prior to that race, Irish Mission posted a three-quarter length victory in the Woodbine Oaks while Dixie Strike finished fifth in the 1 1/8-mile contest.
"Distance is definitely her game and she showed that in winning the (Woodbine) Oaks and in how she performed in the Plate," Frostad noted. "You knew that about her early on. And she's just continued to develop nicely."
Only one runner in the Prince of Wales has had prior experience on a conventional dirt surface, but Frostad didn't seem too concerned.
"Well, that's the question mark for everyone in the race," he said. "She's been on the Woodbine training track to work and has no issues with it. We'll just hope for another strong effort on Sunday."
Dixie Strike put in a game effort to be third in the Queen's Plate, though she finished 3 3/4 lengths behind Irish Mission on the wire. The Dixie Union miss may not have been able to handle that rival in her past two races, but was a nice 3 3/4-length winner of the Grade 3 Selene Stakes at Woodbine in mid-May. She also captured the Florida Oaks on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs to start off the year, and keeps jockey Patrick Husbands in the saddle as the 3-1 second pick on the morning-line.
Colleen's Sailor and Ultimate Destiny, the respective fourth- and fifth-place finishers in the Queen's Plate, will also be in the field on Sunday. The former, a bay son of Northern Afleet, tracked the early pace set by Strait of Dover before being passed by Irish Mission and Dixie Strike in the lane. Ultimate Destiny rallied from the rear of the field but was unable to find his way into the top four after what trainer Mike Keogh described as a "tough trip."
"He got shuffled back on the clubhouse turn and that didn't help," Keogh explained. "When we looked at the Trakus info afterwards, I believe he had traveled an extra 67 feet. But he came out of it in great shape.
"It was a bit of a tough trip, which was really nobody's fault at all. It just happens."
A nice run in the Prince of Wales could see the Dance to Destiny sophomore contesting the third jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Breeders' Stakes on the turf back at Woodbine August 5.
"He might not be the smartest dude, but he's the type of horse you love to have in your barn, one who you know will always give an honest effort," Keogh remarked. "He's also starting to lower his head more and more when he trains and races, so that's a good thing.
"You'll see him do what he always does and that's give a genuine effort. He tries and he tries hard. He wants to be a competitor and as a trainer, that's really all you can ask for."
Dead On is the one entrant in the Prince of Wales with prior racing experience on something other than Polytrack or turf, and that race resulted in the Awesome Again colt's second best performance to date.
The Malcolm Pierce trainee broke his maiden on Woodbine's Polytrack last September, but the bay showed up at Fair Grounds in an off-the-turf optional claimer to make his seasonal bow in late March. Dead On just missed by a neck in that 1 1/16-mile contest, and was made 10-1 on the morning-line for the Prince of Wales. He'll have Emma-Jayne Wilson in the saddle as jockey Todd Kabel has opted to stick with his Queen's Plate mount, Classic Bryce.
The Prince of Wales field is completed by stakes winners Menlo Castle and Run in Aruba, and last-out maiden scorer Quaesitor.