By Kelsey Riley
With this year’s Queen’s Plate at Woodbine Racetrack having turned into a wide open affair, hunch players might look no further than the royally bred Mobilizer in the July 4 Canadian classic.
With a line of 1-2-1 from four lifetime starts, including a second-place effort last out in the June 13 Plate Trial Stakes at Woodbine, Mobilizer is likely to be popular at the windows on Plate day. And the colt’s royal connections make him worth a second glance.
A homebred for Frank Stronach’s breeding empire Adena Springs, the 3-year-old Ontario-bred is from the first crop of English sire Motivator. An esteemed racehorse and winner of the 2005 Epsom Derby (Eng-I), Motivator stands at The Royal Studs in Sandringham, England. The Royal Studs is owned by Queen Elizabeth II, who, for the first time since 1997, will be in the stands for this year’s 151st running of the Queen’s Plate.
The last time the Queen graced Woodbine, Awesome Again , another Stronach homebred, raced to victory in the "Gallop for the Guineas."
With many Canadian breeders opting to buy into the lucrative Ontario Sire Stakes program, a sire from across the pond stands out on paper in Canada’s most historic race.
According to Adena Springs North business manager Mike Rogers, the decision to breed to Motivator was made by Stronach himself. When the son of Montjeu was retired in late 2005, Stronach grabbed the opportunity to buy into the stallion that is owned in majority by the Queen.
"We (Adena Springs) own a share in Motivator," said Rogers. "There was a private offering to buy shares in him when he was syndicated. Frank reviewed it and thought it was a good investment, so we bought a share in him."
Stronach’s share in Motivator entitles Adena to one season annually. Once the deal was complete, it was time to select a mare to send to England, a complicated process considering quarantine rules.
"It had to be a barren mare, because of the timing to ship them over there," Rogers said. "So we went through our list and looked for mares that weren’t in foal."
The lucky mare became Kris Is It, then a 10-year-old daughter of Kris S. Purchased by Stronach from the 2004 Keeneland January sale, Kris Is It had come up barren for 2006 on the cover of Red Bullet. So in the fall of 2005, Kris Is It made the trek to England.
"We boarded her at a stable over there for awhile, then she was bred to Motivator and we brought her back roughly 65 or 70 days after being in foal," Rogers said. "We brought her back actually to the states first to our Kentucky farm, and then shipped her to Canada in the fall of 2006, and she had Mobilizer here in Canada."
It didn’t take Mobilizer long to make an impression on the staff at Adena. Farm trainer Sean Smullen began to notice Mobilizer’s talent when the colt shipped to Canada from Adena Springs South in Florida.
"He was the one that would jump out at you," said Smullen. "I remember watching him breeze, and he just stood out amongst them."
Trainer Roger Attfield, who will be aiming for a record ninth Plate win, shared Smullen’s early assessment of Mobilizer.
"I saw (Mobilizer’s abilities) as a 2-year-old. I was very high on him," Attfield said.
Unraced as a 2-year-old after battling "baby aches and pains", Mobilizer’s lone win came in his second start at the expense of fellow Plate contender Smart Sky. In his subsequent two starts, Mobilizer dropped game decisions to the highly regarded Canadian-bred geldings Artic Fern and Big Red Mike. Artic Fern was the probable Queen's Plate favorite before being withdrawn earlier in the week due to an injury.
Adena sold Kris Is It for $42,000 at the 2007 Keeneland November sale, and since producing Mobilizer, has not used its annual season to Motivator. Rogers indicated that might change now.
"We haven’t taken advantage of that share, but I’m sure next year we’ll send another mare to him," Rogers said.
Should Mobilizer taste victory in the Plate, it will not be the first time that Rogers or Attfield will enjoy royal company. Attfield, a British native, won the 1989 Queen’s Plate with With Approval when the Queen Mother was on track. Attfield expressed his interest in meeting her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.
"I’d give her a ride on him (if) he wins," joked Attfield.
For Rogers, the royal encounter came in May 2006.
"She (Queen Elizabeth II) invited us over for dinner," said Rogers. "All the shareholders in Motivator, we went over to Windsor Castle and had dinner with her. It was amazing."
Rogers is hopeful that a little support from the Queen will result in another meeting on Plate day.
"She’s clearly had a connection already, so it would be great to see this horse win," said Rogers.