Chiefswood Stable's Niigon held off 6-5 favorite A Bit O'Gold for a three-quarters of a length victory in the $1 million Queen's Plate for 3-year-olds Sunday, the first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown at Woodbine.
Breaking from the extreme outside post in the field of 13, jockey Robert Landry guided Niigon to a stalking position on the outside of pacesetting Silver Ticket, assumed the lead late on on the backstretch and pulled away from the pack in the stretch. A Bit O'Gold, ridden by Jono Jones, moved sharply into position behind Niigon when the latter horse went to the lead and cut into the lead with determination before running out of room. The final time for the 1 1/4-mile test for Canadian-bred sophomores was 2:04 3/5 on a fast track.
Landry won his first Queen's Plate in 14 tries.
"It was a great feeling," Landry said. "I've had a lot of confidence in this horse for a long time and he was a little disappointing over the winter. He pulled it together at the right time."
Landry said he could hear A Bit O'Gold gaining on him going into the final turn.
``My horse kept digging in,'' Landry said. ``He's bred to go the distance. He showed up today and I'm happy he did.''
No members of the Royal Family attended the race. Instead, they were represented by James K. Bartleman, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.
The 145th Queen's Plate result reversed the first two finishers in the Queen's Plate Trial Stakes June 6 at Woodbine, when A Bit O'Gold rallied impressively for a 3 1/4-length triumph over Niigon.
Will He Crow, 30-1, finished third, 8 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
Silver Ticket, ridden by Todd Kabel, established a moderate pace of :23 1/5 and :47 4/5 while in hand under firm pressure from Niigon, but was no match after Niigon drove past before the far turn. Silver Ticket, the 5-1 second choice, finished eighth.
Eric Coatrieux trains Niigon, an Ontario homebred dark bay/brown colt by Unbridled–Savethelastdance (Nureyev) who broke his maiden at Woodbine May 8.
He has two wins, two seconds and two thirds from nine lifetime starts. The $600,000 winner's share pushed Niigon's career earnings to $723,264.
The third choice of the public, Niigon paid $13.80, $5.10 and $4.10. A bit O'Gold returned $3.10 and $2.90. Will He Crow was $9.60 to show. The exacta was worth $33.80.
Just in Case Jimmy finished fourth, followed by His Smoothness, Strike Em Hard, Alleged Ruler, Silver Ticket, Copper Trail, Kent Ridge, Archer Fleet, Night Sky and Long Pond.
Toronto-born jockey Stewart Elliott, the winner of this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness (both gr. I), rode Long Pond.
The second jewel of the Triple Crown, The Prince of Wales Stakes, will be run July 18 in Fort Erie, Ont. The final race of the series is the Breeders' Stakes, a 1 ½-mile turf event slated for Woodbine on Aug. 8.