Ninety days is all it took for a group of California and Texas-based owners and their trainer to size up then pack up their lightly-raced Ontario-bred ridgling One Bad Boy and send him thousands of kilometres northeast to gallop away on June 29 with the biggest race in the land, the $1 million Queen’s Plate.
If it sounds a bit like a sneak attack, well, it was more like highway robbery since the big dark bay loped along on the lead of the 160th edition of the 1 1/4 mile Canadian classic, shrugged off champion Avie’s Flatter and coasted to a 3 1/2 length win.
One Bad Boy was not on anyone’s Plate radar three months ago – heck owners Greg Hall, SayJay Racing (Steven and Jason Young) and Brooke Hubbard, had not even nominated to the Canadian Triple Crown series by first payment of $500 (Cdn) in February.
Foaled at Ron Clarkson’s Rolling Ridge Farm in Orangeville three years ago, One Bad Boy left Canada as a yearling, was picked out by Hubbard at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $65,000 and debuted at the races the day after Christmas last year. He finished third in a troubled outing at Santa Anita.
By the time the first nomination payment was due for the Canadian Triple Crown, One Bad Boy had just finished second to a speedy guy by the name of Omaha Beach, who quickly surged up the American 3-year-old ranks to become a favourite for the Kentucky Derby.
One Bad Boy’s trainer Richard Baltas, keen on his horse’s ability, took his time with the son of successful Kentucky stallion Twirling Candy, a sire well known for his grass runners.
“We knew he was really good in training, but it was hard to find the right race for him,” said Hall, who, along with the Youngs, operates the successful Allan Company recycling business in California. “We sort of thought he could have been a horse for the Triple Crown in the U.S. but he didn’t have the points or enough races.”
When One Bad Boy romped in his grass debut in a maiden race in April at Santa Anita, his team quickly put Plan B into effect.
“I had been bugging Richard (Baltas) with the idea of the Queen’s Plate after he ran second to Omaha Beach in March,” said Hubbard. “After he broke his maiden myself and Richard decided to nominate.”
A $5,000 supplementary fee was paid in early May and Hubbard and company began to orchestrate their first trip to Woodbine.
Baltas used the Alcatraz Stakes at Golden Gate on May 19 as the horse’s final Plate prep. It was originally a one-mile turf race that was ultimately taken off the grass due to wet weather. Making his first start on an all-weather surface, One Bad Boy was locked in a pace battle and wound up second in his first race under jockey Flavien Prat.
Both Prat and Baltas agreed the blinkers would be taken off the horse for the Plate and when he arrived at Woodbine and had an impressive workout over Woodbine’s all-weather Tapeta, their confidence grew.
This year’s Plate field, a full gate at 14, was a mixed bag of a handful of strong contenders, including Avie’s Flatter, the Mark Casse-trained stakes winner Skywire and Woodbine Oaks winner Desert Ride and stakes-placed Tone Broke, another Ontario-bred, American invader. The others, all longshots, were headed by Pay for Peace, the upset winner of the Plate Trial.
But the Plate was essentially over in the first two furlongs when Skywire broke a step slowly and then was knocked hard by Tone Broke, putting him out of the race. Avie’s Flatter stayed glued to One Bad Boy through soft pace fractions for most of the journey in front of a large sweltering crowd, but could never get by him.
One Bad Boy’s winning time of 2:02.98 was the fifth fastest for the race since Woodbine switched to a synthetic dirt in 2006.
With a new $500,000 bonus in place from Ontario Lottery and Gaming for any horse that sweeps the Triple Crown series, One Bad Boy was heading to Fort Erie next for the $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes on the dirt on July 23.
Prat, who was the beneficiary of a dramatic Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) when his colt Country House was placed first through the disqualification of Maximum Security, became only the third rider to win the Derby and Plate in the same year. His feat followed that of Bill Hartack in 1964 who rode the great Northern Dancer and Kent Desormeaux in 1986 who won the Derby on Real Quiet and guided Archers Bay to a Plate victory.
“It has been an amazing year for me,” said the French-born rider. “I was surprised no one wanted the lead. My plan was not to (go to the lead) but I broke well so I thought I better take it.”
Avie’s Flatter finished a gallant second for Dalos and trainer Josie Carroll, the third time the owner has been second in the great Canadian race with a homebred. Tone Broke, owned by Michael Levinson’s L & N Racing, was surprisingly deemed not guilty of any wrongdoing despite his gate antics and kept his third-place prize.
He’s a Macho Man, owned by Toronto’s John, Mark and Joey DiScola was up for fourth place over Desert Ride.
One Bad Boy’s ownership group have only been in racing for five years although Hall, born in Kentucky, attended the races with his grandfather as a child.
Hubbard, who has a business degree, had worked at her family’s wrecking yard while training hunters and jumpers. She joined the Young’s recycling business and then was hired by Steven to pick out a racehorse for the friends.
One of their first purchases, in 2016, was One Bad Boy’s older half-sister Ms Bad Behavior, a $75,000 filly by Blame who impressed everyone when she began training.
“We knew when she was breezing as a 2-year-old at San Luis Rey Downs, she just blew away anything she worked with,” said Hubbard, 29. “We had a good idea she was a nice horse. So when (One Bad Boy) came along in the 2017 sale, he was by Twirling Candy, who I was liking at the time. He had a great walk and looked the part. We got lucky.”
The group also raced multiple graded stakes winner Blended Citizen in 2018, an $85,000 pick up.
“Brooke has the greatest eyes in the world for horses,” said Hall. “And a lot of accolades go to Ron Clarkson who has now given us two great horses from Ontario,” said Hall.
QUEEN’S PLATE BIZ AND AN AMERICAN SWEEP
This year’s Plate card was the biggest on record at Woodbine with wagering surging above $18 million, besting the 2018 mark of $14 million.
All six stakes races on the afternoon, including the Plate, were won by American trainers and riders. Only two of the stakes were won by Canadian owners:
Highlander Stakes (Grade 1) — The fast-improving 4-year-old Wet Your Whistle has been a project for trainer Michael Trombetta and owner David Palmer since he won his maiden in July 2018 for $40,000 claiming at Laurel Park. Riding a three-race winning streak, including the Get Serious Stakes at Monmouth Park at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, Wet Your Whistle jumped into graded company on Plate day and took down the $300,00 Highlander, a six furlong turf dash.
A son of Stroll–Winlocs Glory Days, by Belong to Me and picked up for just $17,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September Sale, Wet Your Whistle and jockey Alex Cintron flew past fellow U.S. invader Extravagant Kid to win the six furlong turf dash in 1:07.88.
Dance Smartly Stakes (Grade 2) – Holy Helena, the Queen’s Plate winner in 2017 and one of the top grass mares in America, made a popular return home and won the 10-furlong grass marathon for Canadian-based Stronach Stables and U.S. trainer Jimmy Jerkens and jockey Javier Castellano.
Third in the 2018 edition of the Dance Smartly, Holy Helena had been on the road since then and in March of this year won the The Very One stakes (Grade 3-T) at Gulfstream Park. Coming off a troubled third-place finish in the New York Handicap (Grade 2-T) at Belmont on June 7, the 5-year-old Ontario-bred Ghostzapper–Holy Grace by Holy Bull mare has eight wins in 18 starts and earnings over $1.3 million.
King Edward Stakes (Grade 2) – Canadian racing fans gave a good old Canada Day weekend welcome to Pin Oak Stables’ Synchrony. The handsome 6-year-old by Tapit–Brownie Point by Forest Wildcat was hammered down to even-money in his first appearance north of the border and relished the E.P. Taylor turf course with an off-the-pace victory. Josephine Abercrombie’s homebred, visiting his ninth racetrack in his 23rd race, sped one mile on turf in 1:32.95 under Javier Castellano. Trained by Mike Stidham, Synchrony could return to Woodbine in September for the Woodbine Mile (G1).
Other featured races on Plate day were the Charlie Barley Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile on turf won by The Black Album (Fr), owned by Gary Barber and Team Valor International. The Kentucky-based colt is trained by Rodolphe Brisset and was ridden by Flavien Prat. The Zadracarta Stakes, also on grass, went to Desert Isle, owned by Canada’s Sam-Son Farms, trained by Graham Motion and ridden by Junior Alvarado.
Woodbine also showcased the opening of its new-look inner turf course on Plate weekend. The $8 million, seven furlong course replaced the former standardbred track (which replaced the track’s original grass course) and offers horses and horsepeople a plush new course which will increase the number of grass races offered at the Toronto track.