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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Prince of Wales field shaping up

The field for the 78th running of the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Race Track is shaping up for next Tuesday night's second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown and it looks like the race will attract nine starters. The probable starters is likely to include six returnees from the Queen's Plate on July 7 and three newcomers, one being the highly regarded Uncaptured for trainer Mark Casse, who will likely don the favorite's role with Plate winner Midnight Aria passing on the race as reported on by Toronto-based DRF writer Bill Tallon. Like the Preakness in the US, the second jewel is run at 1 3/16-miles.

In breaking with tradition at the 116-year-old border oval, the race will be run as the feature of a twilight card on a Tuesday evening. With Woodbine, Saratoga and Del Mar all dark on Tuesdays, optimism is high that the simulcast handle will increase from its usual home on Sunday afternoon. In addition, bridge traffic from the USA should be much lighter on a Tuesday evening. The race, the 8th on the card will go off somewhere around 7:30 p.m.

Here's a look at the probables for the race and some comments a week out from the race...

County Lineman
County Lineman ran 11th of 12 in the Plate and was never a factor. He only has one win in five career starts and his only effort on dirt, Fort Erie's surface, was a last place finish at Gulfstream last winter. The Silent Name (JPN) colt was a toss in the Plate and I can't see him doing much in here.

Dynamic Sky
Dynamic Sky was the show horse in the Plate beaten eight lengths by the eventual winner Midnight Aria after winning the Plate Trial. Casse will send three colts to the party in an attempt to win his second straight Prince of Wales. He won last year's edition with the filly, Dixie Strike who also finished third in the Plate and came back to win the second leg. Has had success on the dirt in the States winning the $100K Pasco at Tampa and finishing second to Falling Sky in the Sam F. Davis, the prep for the Tampa Bay Derby. It will be interesting if Casse can entice jockey Joel Rosario to take a trip down the Thruway from Saratoga to ride him again.

Jagger M
Jagger M finished fifth in the Plate beaten 11 lengths by the winner. He has some late closing speed, so he will need some pace to run into and he might get it if Power Phil goes in the race and is tracked by Uncaptured. He's a sneaky colt who could jump into the trifecta or superfecta.

Niigon's Glory has finished second in three straight Ontario-sired allowance races, one against probable Power Phil. Trained by Rachel Halden, the son of the Plate winner Niigon would likely have Steven Bahen aboard, as he is Halden's fiancee and rides most of her mounts. He seems to be over his head against this field.

Power Phil is another newcomer and looks to be the speed in the race. Has faced similar company losing to Pyrite Mountain by a nose in the $125K Kingarvie as a 2-year-old last December. The son of Philanthropist shouldn't have a problem with the distance and if no one challenges could get away with highway robbery, but after the pace scenario at the Plate, I doubt that will happen again.
Pyrite Mountain
Pyrite Mountain burned a lot of cash at the windows in the Plate after being a buzz horse before the race. He has not been the same horse since he upset Uncaptured in the $100K Wando Stakes on Derby weekend finishing a disappointing fourth as the favorite in the Plate Trial and an unenthusiastic seventh beaten 20 lengths in the Plate. Horse seems to be a bit of an enigma and you can't be sure which one will show up next Tuesday. Has never run on dirt, but Woodbine horses rarely have issues transitioning to the dirt.

Finishing behind County Lineman in last was Rackman, a late entry to the Plate who didn't really seem to belong. The Nosowenkos are riding it out though and trying again in the Prince of Wales. You can't win 'em if you don't run 'em a trainer once told me. A good bet to finish last again, will be a big number on Tuesday.

River Seven
Nick Gonzalez will try to win his first Prince of Wales with River Seven after capturing his second Plate earlier in the month at Woodbine with Midnight Aria. The Fort Erie-based trainer is high on the Johannesburg colt and even told me several times he thinks he's the better horse of his two Plate entries. He's trained well on the dirt in the past and isn't worried about his first race on the real stuff. He wasn't exerted in the Plate, cashing it in on the far turn, as it just wasn't his day, so he may be ready to fire next Tuesday. Would be a sentimental win for Gonzalez who still has a shot for a trainer Triple Crown. Tucci Stables owners of this year's Plate winner are also the owners of River Seven.

(Photo credit: Michael Burns)
The probable favorite will be Uncaptured who last raced in Louisville finishing second in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill behind Code West who is headed to the Jim Dandy this weekend. When I spoke with trainer Mark Casse before the Plate he was contemplating running Uncaptured in the Haskell, especially if either Dynamic Sky or Spring in the Air ran well in the Plate to keep them separated. He also indicated the purse difference and stallion potential with a win in the Haskell versus the restricted Prince of Wales. But here we sit, with Uncaptured looking to be present across the border come next week. He has fared exceptionally well at Churchill on the dirt winning a Grade 2 and finishing second in two Grade 3 races. He will be the class of the race and could be odds-on at post time.

The Post Draw is set for Noon on Saturday at Fort Erie l and we'll post the gate and morning line odds here at the Space Station as we approach the biggest and richest race run at the border oval this year.  A race that a mere five months ago was almost an after-thought with the issues at the southern Ontario racetrack.



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