Emma-Jayne Wilson became the first female jockey to win the Queen's Plate (VIDEO) in 148 editions when she guided 15-1 shot Mike Fox to a late-running half-length victory in the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown at Woodbine Sunday.
It was the first time that the Queen's Plate was contested over Woodbine's Polytrack surface. The victory was also the first for trainer Ian Black in the CAN$1 million event for 3-year-olds foaled in Canada. Black conditions Mike Fox for owner and breeder D. Morgan Firestone. Mike Fox had been winless in three prior stakes tries, all against Canadian breds.
Prominent throughout in the 1 1/4-mile test while stalking the pacesetter Alezzandro on the outside, Mike Fox responded to urging from Wilson in the final furlong, rallying past the sixteenth pole to pass both favored Jiggs Coz and Alezzandro in the closing strides. Alezzandro, who looked every bit the winner under Todd Kabel after repelling Jiggs Coz and David Clark mid-stretch, wearied late to finish second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of 6-5 choice Jiggs Coz. The final time was 2:05 2/5.
Wilson, who won the 2006 Eclipse Award as North America's top apprentice jockey, admitted she was concerned rounding the final bend.
"Jiggy made a good move on the outside of me, and I was getting a little worried," she said. "I looked up and saw Kabel sitting quite easy on Alezzandro. I said, Oh, geez buddy, we’ve got to dig in deep. He gave me just another spurt, just past the eighth pole. He wanted it just as bad as I did.
“I knew I had it. He was moving so strong coming at the wire.”
On becoming the first female to ride a Plate winner, she laughed … “Been there, bought the T-shirt, said and done!”
“It is a wonderful feeling," said Black. "I am honored to be part of Emma’s great day, and for Morgan Firestone, to have a horse like this, to get a Plate win with a home bred.”
“I was concerned there (around the far turn), but I knew he would run all the way, so if anybody stopped in front of him, he would keep running.”
The Sid Attard-trained Jiggs Coz, a winner of his last three starts and four of five career-wise coming into the Queen's Plate, was trying to become the first Plate Trial winner since Alydeed in 1992 to win Canada's biggest race.
Alezzandro, who faded to third in the Plate Trial, six lengths behind Jiggs Coz, set an honest if reserved pace Sunday, clicking off fractions of :23 3/5, :47 3/5, 1:12 2/5 and 1:37 2/5. The son of High Yield opened up a clear advantage in the stretch after beating back the challenge of Jiggs Coz and just failed to last.
“The last sixteenth of a mile got to us," said Kabel of Alezzandro. "He is a lightly-raced horse, and all three races came in a short period of time. He is a big, robust horse too, and he’s only going to get bigger and stronger.”
Mike Fox is a bay son of Giant's Causeway --Alexis (Alzao) bred at the Firestone Farm Ltd. in Ontario. The good-sized colt has won four of six starts on Woodbine's all-weather strip since breaking his maiden in his debut Sept. 3 in an off-the-turf race at one mile and seventy yards. Mike Fox was coming off an optional claiming event for non winners of two May 23 in which he tallied by 1 1/4 lengths at 1 1/16 miles.
Sunday's victory, the fourth in eight lifetime starts for Mike Fox, was worth CAN$600,000 to push the colt's earnings to $750,550.
The second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown is the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at 1 3/16 miles July 15 at Fort Erie. The finale is the $500,000 Breeders Stakes at 12 furlongs on the Woodbine turf course Aug. 5.
Mike Fox paid $32.40, $13.10 and $5.
Alezzandro, making just his third start, returned $16.30 and $5.60 while completing a $230.10 exacta.
“He ran a big race," said trainer Kevin Attard. "It’s tough to get beat that way. Todd is a great rider. He gave him a great ride. What can I say? It was the third start in his life.”
Jiggs Coz was $2.40 to show.
“I had no horse at any time," Clark said of the favorite. "He was never there today. I don’t know why. (I felt that) when we got to the wire the first time.”
Second choice Daaher finished fourth, 2 1/2 lengths behind Jiggs Coz. He was followed by Include Us, Marchfield, Twilight Meteor and Cobrador. Leonnatus Anteas was an early declaration.