Queen's Plate hopeful Krachenwagen was named by owner/trainer Angus Buntain's 14-year-old daughter Libby after a bumper car ride at nearby theme park Canada's Wonderland.
“I asked her to name him,” said Buntain, whose nom du course is Greenoaks Farm Racing Stable. “I said he needed a tough name, because his father's name is Head Chopper. She said Krachenwagen sounded like crackin' heads.”
On Saturday, Krachenwagen will be looking to give Buntain the thrill of a lifetime with his first starter in the $1 million Queen's Plate, the 1-1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred three-year-olds which will be run for the 160th time.
And, the fact that the distance of the Queen's Plate may turn out to be Krachenwagen's hole card is somewhat ironic considering Buntain's assessment of his colt's conformation and pedigree.
“Krachenwagen is built a lot like a sprinter,” said Buntain. “He's an average-size horse that's very rugged and strong, muscular. He doesn't look like your classic Plate horse—a nice lean, long-legged, long-striding type.
“But, he wants to go a route of ground. And he does have a wide-sprung rib cage, which I think helps. Looking at him, and looking at the family, I never dreamt he'd go a mile and a quarter.
“It's hard to find a horse that actually wants to go that kind of distance of ground. I know that he's improving, and I really feel that this is my chance to have a horse in the Plate that should actually get involved.”
Buntain believes that Krachenwagen lived up to his moniker last season, when he made four starts in six weeks after debuting on October 19.
“He showed me a lot of toughness with those races all jammed up,” said Buntain. “You normally wouldn't do that to a two-year-old, but he comes out of his races really well, not all sore or anything, and he rebounds well.”
Debuting over five furlongs here last fall, Krachenwagen had rallied from mid-pack to record a going-away 4-3/4-length victory.
“I expected him to run well, but I never expected him to win,” said Buntain.
Krachenwagen actually had been slated to debut two weeks earlier but a minor issue scuttled that plan. Buntain had inked in the Frost King Stakes as the gelding's main juvenile target and, although the timing was not the best, Krachenwagen finished a good third in the seven-furlong Frost King.
But, Krachenwagen came out of the Frost King a little under the weather. “He wasn't sick for long,” said Buntain. “He recovered quickly.”
Krachenwagen wintered at the nearby Empress Farm of trainer Steve Owens, where farm manager John Breeze oversaw his development.
“He really grew over the winter time,” said Buntain. “He put on 250 pounds, and he just blossomed. He came out of that place looking great. I'm really happy with how he arrived back in on March 1.”
The gelding returned with a fifth-place finish at seven furlongs here on May 20.
“I knew he was going to be short to some degree, but I wanted to use that race to launch him into a 1-1/16-mile race,” said Buntain.
That first two-turn test came on May 20, when Krachenwagen finished third behind a pair of older horses. “He ran good enough to give me some hope for the Plate Trial,” said Buntain.
Krachenwagen finished fifth in the Plate Trial following a troubled trip.
“I was really happy with him,” said Buntain. “He rated kindly, the whole way. He got a bit jammed up going into the far turn, and he was being hemmed in on the outside. He finally found some room down toward the inside. Once he did find the hole, and the rider asked him, he really did respond for another eighth of a mile. He found another gear.”
Jeffrey Alderson, Krachenwagen's only race rider to date, will be making his Queen's Plate debut.
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