Toronto, ON – Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson became the first female rider to win the Queen’s Plate in its 148 editions when she masterfully steered longshot Mike Fox to victory Sunday at Woodbine in Canada’s most famous horse race.
With a stretch rally after dropping back behind the leaders in early stretch, Mike Fox somehow got his second wind and nailed pacesetter Alezzandro in the closing strides, posting a thrilling half-length victory in 2:05.45 for the mile and one-quarter classic.
Jiggs Coz, the post time 6-5 choice, appeared poised to run by Alezzandro turning for home but flattened out late in the lane to finish third, one and one-quarter lengths further back.
“We started losing some ground at that point (around the far turn),” said an elated, 25-year-old Wilson, who won back-to-back Sovereign Awards in 2005 and 2006 as Canada’s top apprentice, as well as a 2005 Eclipse Award for North America honours. Last year, she rode in the Plate for the first time, finishing 12th aboard Bridgecut.
“I was getting a little worried. I looked up and saw (jockey Todd) Kabel sitting quite easy on Alezzando. I said, ah, geez buddy, we’ve got to dig in deep. A little tougher running that what we did on that Wednesday night (a win by Mike Fox on May 23 in his last start). But he gave another spurt and wanted it just as bad as I did. I knew I had it. He was moving so strong coming to wire.”
Owned by D. Morgan Firestone and trained by Ian Black, Mike Fox, a homebred son of Giant’s Causeway-Alexis, had been positioned neatly in third along the rail by Wilson for most of the trip, while Alezzandro and jockey Todd Kabel were clicking off fractions of 23.66, 47.74 and 1:12.51.
Alezzandro was suddenly joined by Jiggs Coz coming off the far turn after the mile was reached in 1:37.48, and the Plate now appeared to be coming down to a stretch drive between these two.
Meanwhile, Mike Fox was still third in mid-stretch when Wilson suddenly found a seam between Alezzandro and a fading Jiggs Coz , and chased after the game pacesetter, collaring him near the wire.
Last year, Josie Carroll became the first woman to train a Queen’s Plate winner when Edenwold emerged victorious. This year, Rags to Riches became the first filly in over 100 years to win the famed Belmont Stakes in New York. Today, it was Wilson’s turn to make history.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Ian Black, in just his second year as a trainer, after being the farm manager for Kinghaven Farms for many years. “I’m just very honoured to be part of Emma’s great day and also for Morgan Firestone to have a horse like this. And to get a Plate win with a homebred is wonderful for them.”
“I was concerned then (around the far turn), but I knew he’d run all the way, so if anyone stopped in front of him, he would keep running.”
It was the biggest payday yet for Mike Fox, as he took home $600,000 for the win, his fourth victory in only eight career starts. Last year, while trained by Reade Baker, he won his debut, then finished third to Leonnatus Anteas in the Cup and Saucer, then was a distant seventh to him in the Coronation Futurity, before closing out his juvenile season with an allowance win.
Black got the horse this spring, after Mike Fox returned from finishing fourth in an allowance contest at Tampa Bay Downs under Cliff Hopmans handling. He saddled him to a seventh place finish behind Jiggs Coz in the Queenston Stakes, May 5, before his victory in a mile and one-sixteenth allowance event on May 23, his last outing before today’s coronation.
“I was quite happy with the way my horse settled in,” said Kabel, about lightly-raced Alezzandro, a homebred owned by Knob Hill Stable and the Estate of Steve Stavro. “He had me there (on the lead) the whole race and he was running comfortably. The last sixteenth of a mile got to him.”
It was the first time that the Queen’s Plate, the first leg of the Triple Crown for Canadian-foaled three-year-olds, had been contested on Polytrack, Woodbine’s new racing surface.
Next up is the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie on July 15, at one and three-sixteenth miles, with the mile and one-half turf Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine on August 5 being the third and final leg.
Sent postward a 15-1 outsider, Mike Fox fashioned a $32.40, $13.10 and $5 payout, combining with 16-1 shot Alezzandro ($16.30, $5.60) for a $460.20 (9-4) exactor. A 9-4-6 (Jiggs Coz, $2.40 to show) triactor was worth $1,179.20 was a $1 Superfecta (9-4-6-2, Daaher) returned $3,539.90.