Plate Winner Niigon Ready for Next Step

A field of seven, including Queen's Plate champion Niigon, is set to compete Sunday in the 2004 edition of the Prince of Wales Stakes, second jewel of Canada's Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing at Fort Erie.

Chiefswood Stables' Niigon, a son of Unbridled trained by Eric Coatrieux, has been made an even-money morning line favorite and will break from post position three. Robert Landry, who won the 1998 renewal of the Prince of Wales with Archers Bay, gets the call.

"Niigon is a very versatile horse," Landry said. "It doesn't matter how the race sets up for him."

Niigon worked six furlongs in 1:14-flat on July 9 at Chiefswood Training Centre south of Alliston.

Thirteen other Queen's Plate winners won the Prince of Wales en route to a shot at a Triple Crown coronation in the series' final gem, the Breeders' Stakes.

The most recent winner of the race, Wando in 2003, went on to become the seventh Triple Crown winner in racing history.

A Bit O'Gold, at 7-5 in the morning line, is Niigon's chief rival in the 69th Prince of Wales. The Two Bit Racing Stable's chestnut is trained by Catherine Day Phillips and will be ridden by Jono Jones. The Gold Fever gelding drew post four, looking to avenge his narrow half-length loss as the favorite in the Plate.

The two-time stakes winner signaled his readiness to turn the tables with a booming five furlong breeze on July 10 at Woodbine in a minute flat. The mark was second best of 40 moves over the main track that morning.

Just in Case Jimmy, at 8-1, is the potential upsetter of the top two. Trained by Hall of Famer Roger Attfield, who also owns a half of the Whiskey Wisdom gelding with Bill Werner, should move forward off his fourth-place finish in the Plate after coming off the pace in the 1 1/4-mile race.

The bay also worked five furlongs in the interim, 1:02 1/5, handily on July 9 over the Woodbine main strip.

One to Celebrate is one of two POW entrants in the 1 3/16-mile event not to have run in the Plate. The Curraghmore Farm and Formal Racing Stable silk-bearer has two wins in four starts this year, including a smart 5 1/4-length win in an allowance race on July 1 for trainer Reade Baker.

The Ascot Knight colt, who is 12-1 in the morning line, will be ridden by Rui Pimentel.

Baker will try to pull another upset at "the Fort," similar to the shocker Touchnow recorded in the Labatt Bison City Stakes, the second jewel of Canada's Triple Tiara series for fillies. Labatt Woodbine Oaks heroine Eye of the Sphynx was a heavy favorite in Fort Erie's spotlight filly event, but Touchnow exacted revenge for her runner-up finish in the Oaks, paying $15.30 to win.

The Breeders' Stakes, third and turf jewel of the Triple Crown, will go Sunday, August 8 at Woodbine.

$500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, 3-year-olds, 1 3/16 mile
PP. Horse, ML Odds
1. Just In Case Jimmy, 8/1
2. One To Celebrate, 12/1
3. Niigon, 1/1
4. A Bit O'Gold, 7/5
5. His Smoothness, 20/1
6. Copper Trail, 20/1
7. Picadilly Bay, 20/1