It's a bit early to be talking about next year's Queen's Plate, but not if you happen to be in A Bit O'Gold's horseshoes.The son of Gold Fever received a perfectly rated ride from Jono Jones in Saturday's $250,000 Coronation Futurity Stakes at Woodbine, a key event on the road to the 2004 Queen's Plate.The "Futurity," the country's top race for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds, saw A Bit O'Gold fight off a game effort from Third Sacker to win his third race in three career starts, stamping himself as a key contender for next year's "Gallop for the Guineas."Jones, one of the Toronto oval's hottest riders, tucked A Bit O'Gold in sixth towards the rail through early fractions of :23.88 and :48.65, keeping close tabs on the early pacesetters. Saddled with the demanding No. 1 post-position, the 27-year-old rider also had a slew of other factors to contend with in the 1 1/8-mile test."He ran great, but I moved him a little earlier than I wanted to," said Jones, who had A Bit O'Gold on the lead just after the six-furlong point. "I would have liked to have moved a little bit later, but everything worked out."Trainer Catherine Day Phillips, who picked up her first Coronation Futurity crown in the 101st running of the added-money event, was equally thrilled with the effort of the chestnut, who boosted his bankroll to $225,960, courtesy of the $150,000 winner's purse."He's a wonderful horse and he's got a huge, huge heart," said Day Phillips, who purchased the gelding for The Two Bit Racing Stable and Partners. The Ontario-bred won by 1 1/2-lengths in a time of 1:54.15 over a main track rated as "fast."
Todd Kabel, Woodbine's leading rider in terms of both wins and stakes victories, felt his decision to go inside of the eventual winner down the lane, might have cost Third Sacker top prize."I feel I made the wrong choice," offered Kabel, who remains four added-money wins away from tying Avelino Gomez's mark of 32 set in 1966. "I went to the inside and my horse was very hesitant trying to come through up the rail on the other horse (A Bit O'Gold). If I go wide, I think most likely I win the race. But that's hindsight." Bred by Beclawat Stable, A Bit O'Gold will look to become the first horse since Norcliffe to win the Futurity-Plate double, a feat the legendary horse achieved in winning the 1975 Coronation Futurity and 1976 Queen's Plate.The winner paid $8.00, $4.80 and $2.90 across the board, combining with Third Sacker ($5.00 and $3.70) for a $42.10 exacta. Copper Trail ($3.50) rounded out a $173.50 trifecta.(Chart, Equibase)