Chiefswood Stable's Niigon turned the tables on favoured A Bit O'Gold and captured the $1 million Queen's Plate, Canada's most famous horse race, Sunday at Woodbine.
Ridden by Robert Landry, Niigon, sent postward the 5-1 third choice, took over from pacesetter Silver Ticket going into the far turn of the mile and one-quarter classic for Canadian-foaled three-year-olds. From there, Niigon and Landry braced for the challenge from A Bit O'Gold, as jockey Jono Jones roused his mount coming to the quarter pole and engaged the leader down the stretch.
However, Niigon, a son of the late 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, who had opened two lengths on the favourite turning for home, gamely repelled the threat and crossed the wire three-quarters of a length in front, in 2:04.72. Longshot Will He Crow, at 30-1, rallied from far back to finish third, seven and three-quarter lengths further back, while another outsider, 23-1 Just In Case Jimmy, headed His Smoothness for fourth, another length in arrears.
Talk about breaking your maiden in style! The victory was 'firsts all round.' For Robert and Mark Krembil, the owners of Chiefswood Stable and 37-year-old trainer Eric Coatrieux, it was their first stakes win, let alone taking one of the richest and best-known races of the Woodbine season. It was also the first stakes win for Niigon, who broke from the outside post 13.
For the two-time Sovereign Award-winning 41-year-old Landry, it was also his first Queen's Plate win, which he can now take home and relish, along with his previous victories in the Prince of Wales and Breeders' Stakes, the other two legs in the Canadian Triple Crown. The best placing Landry had mustered in 13 previous Plate tries was a third-place finish with For Our Sake in 2000.
"It was a great feeling. I had a lot of confidence in this horse for a long, long time," said Landry. "He was a little disappointing over the winter, but he pulled it together at the right time. I am so happy to be the person to have won the first Queen's Plate of many, hopefully, for the Krembils.
Niigon, whose name in Ojibway means, 'for the future', staked his claim today with the best performance of his life. He also became the first Plate winner since Peteski in 1993 to be sired by a Derby winner. Peteski's dad was 1978 U.S. Triple Crown winner Affirmed.
The rivalry between Niigon and A Bit O'Gold will likely continue in the Prince of Wales Stakes, the second jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown, July 18 at Fort Erie, at one mile and three-sixteenths. The third and final leg is the Breeders' Stakes, August 8 at Woodbine, at one and one-half miles over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
Results chart from Daily Racing Form
Queen's Plate info online:
- Woodbine main page
- Woodbine Stable Notes
- Queen's Plate Trivia Quiz
- Queen's Plate Winners 1860-2002
- Live Audio/Video from Woodbine
- SLAM! Horse Racing - Canadian horse racing news from the Toronto Sun
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