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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Prince of Wales draw set

2012 Prince of Wales Post Positions
I made the short trek over the Peace Bridge this afternoon for the post position draw at Fort Erie Racetrack and enjoy a nice afternoon luncheon with my comrades from Woodbine, Keith McCalmont and Chris Lomon. The tension was notable when Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium chief Jim Thibert took the microphone in what could be the last post position draw for the Prince of Wales, which will be run for the 77th time on Sunday afternoon at the border oval.

The race will be held for the 53rd, and possibly last time at Fort Erie Race Track, which celebrated its 115th anniversary this year. Thibert lamented the Ontario government's decision to shut down the slots at the track and has forced the Consortium's hand to prepare for closure. "The program should have been reviewed every five years for relevancy," said Thibert from the podium. "Just like every other government program." 

The guest draw master was Ron Turcotte, the Canadian-born famous for riding both Riva Ridge and the great Secretariat to five of six victories in consecutive Triple Crown races. Only Riva Ridge lost the Belmont during that 2-year period with Turcotte in the irons. He suffered a career-ending injury in 1978 at Belmont Park and is a paraplegic.  Fort Erie had copies of pictures of Northern Dancer for Turcotte to sign for everyone in attendance at the draw. A nice touch to an event with a big cloud hovering overhead. Turcotte was gracious to sign for everyone there for well over an hour.

The second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown will feature nine horses, including the two fillies that finished 2-3 in the Queen's Plate, Irish Mission (5-2) and Dixie Strike (3-1), respectively.

I spoke for the first time with Canadian Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield, who will be inducted in the U.S. National Racing Hall of Fame next month at Saratoga Springs. Attfield is high on his entry, Colleen's Sailor (4-1), who comes off a fourth place finish in the Queen's Plate. "He trained well on the dirt last week at Woodbine and shouldn't have any issues with the distance or the track," said Attfield. He told me that Woodbine Entertainment Group Chair David Willmot will be his presenter in Saratoga and that he looks forward to entering the Hall with one of the jockeys he has used frequently in the States, John Velazquez.

Some other notes from the Post Position Draw:

-  Dead On (10-1) is the only runner in the field to run on dirt, and that wouldn't have happened if the race he ran in stayed on the turf at the Fair Grounds in March. He ran a solid race that day finishing second behind Point Taken by a neck.

- Colleen's Sailor, as mentioned above by Attfield worked a 5-furlong bullet in 59 and 3 last Thursday on the Woodbine dirt training track and looms a big contender in my eyes.

- The filly and Plate runner-up Irish Mission (5-2) breezed a 5-furlong workout on Sunday in 1:00, 2/26 at the distance, was named the morning line favorite.

- The infield really looks beautiful at the border oval, I was marveling at how well maintained they keep it, especially with the funding issues they are saddled with.

- Fort Erie officials are expecting a sizable crowd on Sunday afternoon (first post is 1:15 p.m.) and are considering opening several sections that have not been utilized in several years.

- A field of nine, is fairly decent for this race based on recent history. Unfortunately, the Plate winner will not adorn the border oval for the second straight year. Strait of Dover's issues with dirt tracks are well-documented and his connections announced last week they would skip the POW. Last year, the filly Inglorious passed on the POW for the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga.

I'll have some predictions on the TBN Sports, Ink blog on Friday and will be attending the race on Sunday afternoon and will do a quick recap here after the race.

The POW trainers eye the trophy
Ron Turcotte with track announcer
Mike Dimoff



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