Stronach Stables' homebred Silent Poet goes for his first graded crown in Saturday's Grade 2 $175,000 Play the King Stakes, at Woodbine.
Trained by Nicholas Gonzalez, Silent Poet, a 4-year-old son of Silent Name, heads into the seven-furlong turf feature in winning form. The dark bay was sharp in his 2019 debut on July 21, notching a half-length score over El Tormenta (who'll also contest the Play the King) in a six-and-a-half furlong event over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
“I'll tell you what, he made his first start this year in a very tough allowance race, and it was his first start since being gelded,” noted Gonzalez, who recently eclipsed the 1,500-win mark for his career. “He's a very happy horse now, not that he wasn't when he was a colt. I really couldn't be happier the way he's going.”
Silent Poet made his debut two years ago in a six-furlong turf race at Woodbine, finishing second as the favourite. The following April, he broke his maiden, then made another trip to the winner's circle five weeks later.
His next test after the second straight victory was the 2018 edition of the Queen's Plate, where he finished 12th of 16 in the race won by Wonder Gadot. Bumped at the start, Silent Poet, sent off at 12-1, finished evenly in the 1 ¼-mile Canadian classic.
Since the Plate, Silent Poet has never finished lower than third, and delivered his connections a victory in last year's Vice Regent Stakes.
“He's a really neat little horse,” said jockey Gary Boulanger after the Vice Regent triumph. “He kind of does whatever I ask him to do. He responds when I ask him. He kind of gets out front and he spurts then he'll wait, he'll spurt then he'll wait. He's a nice, fun horse to ride. Nick's done a tremendous job with him, it's a pleasure to ride him.”
Heading into the Play the King, Silent Poet boasts a record of 5-3-1 from 10 lifetime starts.
“He's had some good breezes between his first race this year and now,” said Gonzalez. “He's a super-happy horse. This will be a tough test for him, but he's coming off a good one and he deserves to run in this. If you look at his form, and you took the Queen's Plate off it, he's got a brilliant record. He always goes out there and gives you everything he has. Even if he's beaten, it never seems to be by much. He's a very versatile horse too.”
Last year, Mr Havercamp ($3.80 to win) won the Play the King for Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry, and trainer Catherine Day Phillips. Conditioners Sid Attard and Mark Frostad have four Play the King crowns. Attard won three consecutive runnings, from 2008-2010, with Just Rushing, Jungle Wave and Smokey Fire. He also scored with Glenville Gardens in 2016.
The Play the King is scheduled as race nine of 11 on Saturday's 1:05 p.m. program that also includes the $50,000 second leg of the Woodbine Turf Endurance Series over 1-1/2 miles. That seventh race field of a dozen contains five first round competitors, including winner Bold Rally, who will be looking to add to their point totals for a chance at the bonus offered at the conclusion of the four legs.
Fans can also watch and wager on all the live action via HPIbet.com.
$175,000 PLAY THE KING STAKES (GRADE 2)
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – El Tormenta – Rafael Hernandez – Gail Cox
2 – Silent Poet – Gary Boulanger – Nicholas Gonzalez
3 – Sable Island – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Gord Colbourne
4 – Carmenootz – Leo Salles – Ralph Biamonte
5 – Admiralty Pier – Luis Contreras – Barbara Minshall
6 – Curlin's Honor – Eurico Rosa Da Silva – Mark Casse
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