Stately Victor, who took the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) in April before off-the-board finishes in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and Virginia Derby (gr. IIT), returned to the winner’s circle in the $150,653 Ontario Derby (VIDEO) Sept. 25 at Woodbine.
Returning to Polytrack for the first time since his Blue Grass tally, the son of Ghostzapper put in a strong outside rally around the final turn and wore down a game So Elite in the lane. He scooted away to a 3 ¼-length victory for owners Jack and Thomas Conway.
Queen's Plate's champion Big Red Mike, the 2-1 favorite, faded to finish sixth while Plate runner-up Hotep was third.
The running time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:50.51.
Sent off as the second choice at 5-2, Stately Victor, with blinkers on for trainer Mike Maker, was handled patiently by Victor Lebron as Kara's Orientation took the eight-horse field through opening splits of :24.30, :48.17 and 1:11.98.
Stately Victor was joined by So Elite late in the turn and the duo locked horns before the bay colt took command mid-stretch to notch his third win from 12 starts. The victory was worth $87,759 and extended Stately Victor's overall earnings to $598,612.
The Kentucky-bred came into the Ontario Derby off three tough races. After finishing eighth to Super Saver in the Kentucky Derby on May 1, Stately Victor was seventh in the Belmont Stakes. He then finished fifth behind Paddy O’Prado on the grass at Colonial Downs July 17.
“After the Bluegrass, it was such a huge turnaround in form that we had to believe that Polytrack made a significant difference in his performance there,” noted Maker.
The decision to opt for blinkers was not a difficult one to make. Stately Victor began his career wearing the hood.
“When he ran at Colonial Downs last time, he looked like a horse that had never seen the racetrack,” said Maker. “At the top of the stretch, he looked like he wanted to make a right-hand turn. It was completely out of character, so we went back to them.”
Maker was pleased to see Stately Victor back in the winner’s circle after hooking some of the United States’ top 3-year-old talent over the past few months.
“We’ve ducked no one and it was nice to come up here to get a win, my first win up here.”
Adena Springs bred Stately Victor, who is out of the Dynaformer mare Collect the Cash. The bay colt sold for $250,000 at the breeder's Spring 2009 sale.
Stately Victor paid $7.40, $4.90 and $3, combining with So Elite ($6, $5.30) for a $46 exacta. Hotep ($3.40) completed a $163.30 trifecta. A $1 superfecta with Village Drive fourth returned $653.55.
Then came Kara's Orientation, Big Red Mike, Forgetthestorm and Riding the River. Don Cavallo was a stewards' scratch.