Eye of the Leopard Pounces to Queen's Plate
In spite of drifting out in the stretch, favored Eye of the Leopard edged past front-running Mr. Foricos Two U in the final strides to win the $883,819 Queen's Plate (VIDEO), the opening leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, by a neck June 21 at Woodbine.
"He (Eye of the Leopard) was traveling very comfortably, he just kept going at that pace, he got the job done, that is the most important thing," said Rosa da Silva, a 33-year-old Brazilian native who has been campaigning successfully at Woodbine since 2004. "I am the happiest man in the world."
Smith, who was aiming for his second Plate win after guiding Awesome Again to victory in 1997, said he didn't expect to be on the lead with Mr. Foricos Two U.
"But warming up, I kind of thought that was going to happen. He was very much on his toes. When he got his head in front, he really relaxed. That was a big key. Before that, he was taking a pretty big pull. Finally, I had to let him out a little bit. It was a gallant effort in defeat. I thought if Eye of the Leopard had been on my hip instead of Milwaukee Appeal, maybe I would have held him off. He didn't see him out there."
Morning line favorite Milwaukee Appeal was boxed in at the head of the stretch and finished willingly when she found running room between horses inside the final furlong.
For Sam-Son Farm, which suffered from the deaths over a year ago of Liza Samuel, wife of founder Ernie Samuel, and their daughter Tammy Samuel-Balaz, the victory signaled a return to glory for the traditional powerhouse in Canadian racing.
"We have been waiting for this day for a long time," said owner Mark Samuel, son of Ernie and brother of Tammy. "We have had some tragic things happen to our family over the last year, and we had some spirits up above cheering that horse (Eye of The Leopard) home today. It is a special day for the family and we are going to savour this for a long time."
The Ontario-bred bay colt debuted April 15 with an eighth-place finish in a maiden special race at Keeneland April 15 and has won three races in a row since, all at Woodbine. He captured the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial May 31 in eye-catching fashion, rallying five deep to edge Southdale by a neck.
The winning purse, $538,600, increased Eye of the Leopard's earnings to $660,678.
Tasty Temptation was followed by Flip for the Coin, Keion West, Shut It Down, Rapid Release, Stardust Ziggy, Bucephalus, Reservoir, Active Duty, and El Brujo.
The second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie on July 12, is contested over 1 3/16 miles on a dirt track. The race of the series is the Breeders' Stakes, at 12 furlongs over Woodbine's E.P. Taylor Turf Course on Aug. 2.
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