Gary Barber's Wonder Gadot has been knocking on the door in all six of her 2018 starts, including a hard-fought second in the Kentucky Oaks, but she finally found the winner's circle with the addition of blinkers in Saturday's $1 million Queen's Plate. The 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro defeated a 16-horse field by a convincing 4 3/4-length margin, becoming the fourth winning female in the last eight runnings of the first jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown. Ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Mark Casse, Wonder Gadot completed 1 1/4 miles over Woodbine's Tapeta in 2:02.26.
Wonder Gadot broke sharply from the 11th spot in the gate, settling in about sixth position through the clubhouse turn. Her stablemate Telekinesis took command, setting rapid fractions of :23.12 and :46.82 while pressed by Neepawa and Cooler Mike. Dixie Moon, who defeated Wonder Gadot last out in the Woodbine Oaks, seemed to have been knocked sideways shortly after the start and was trailing the field early on.
Rouding the far turn, Velazquez saw his chance with Wonder Gadot and sent her after Telekinesis. The pace had taken its toll on him, and Wonder Gadot surged to the front a clear leader in the stretch. She crossed the wire 4 3/4 lengths in front of Aheadbyacentury, with Cooler Mike battling on to hold third. Strike Me Down finished fourth, and Telekinesis checked in fifth.
“I had a great trip,” said jockey Luis Contreras, who rode Aheadbyacentury. “My horse broke okay and I saved a bit of ground. At the half mile I was ready to make my move and the horse in front of me started to drop back and bothered me a little. I moved outside and let him rebreak and he was fine.
“The winner was very impressive but it would have been very close if nothing had happened on the backstretch.”
Cooler Mike, contentious throughout, finished 2 ¾ lengths back in third in a game effort for trainer and co-owner Nick Nosowenko.
“I'm out of breath,” said jockey Jesse Campbell. “I've never been so happy to run third in my life. He ran huge. Well prepared and Nick did a great job getting him ready for today. He ran the race of his life.
“The winner ran huge. I got my hopes up there for about 70 yards and then I saw them come to my outside and I thought, well, I've got to try and get second.”
Strike Me Down, one of two Sam-Son runners in the race, also rallied from off the pace to miss the show money by just a head.
Rounding out the field were Say the Word, Boyhood Dream, Alternative Route, Real Dude, Neepawa, Inge, Silent Poet, Pawnbroker, Rose's Vision and Dixie Moon, the Woodbine Oaks winner and third choice in the Queen's Plate at 5-1.
Bred by long-time Canadian breeders Andersen Farms, Wonder Gadot was an $80,000 yearling at the Keeneland September sale. She returned to the sales ring to command $325,000 at the OBS April 2-year-old in training sale, and broke her maiden at first asking at Woodbine. The filly last entered the winner's circle after the G3 Mazarine Stakes, but other than in the Breeders' Cup, Wonder Gadot has never finished worse than third. Overall, her record stands at 4-4-3 from 12 starts, with earnings now over $1.3 million.
Casse said Wonder Gadot could continue on the OLG Canadian Triple Crown trail with the next stop the $400,000 Prince of Wales, to be contested over 1 3/16 miles on the Fort Erie main track.
“If all goes well, the Prince of Wales could set her up well for the Alabama,” said Casse, with reference to Saratoga's Grade 1, 1 ¼-mile classic on Aug. 18. “She loves the distance. I think if she'll stay happy and healthy she's going to be tough. She'll give anybody in North America a run for their money in the Alabama. She just goes and goes. She's Wonder Woman.”
But first, Casse can be allowed to exult in Wonder Gadot's Queen's Plate victory, the second for the trainer and owner Gary Barber in the race after they took the 2014 renewal with the filly Lexie Lou.
“She was awesome,” said jockey John Velazquez, who won the Queen's Plate for the first time. “Finally, we got her to pay attention and pass horses. She was great.”
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