Gallant won the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Racetrack on Sunday, beating the impressive filly Milwaukee Appeal, after an agonizing ten-minute wait for a photo finish review. The crowd erupted in support of a local hero,jockey Corey Fraser,as the tote board posted the results. Fraser grew up just minutes from Fort Erie Racetrack in nearby Niagara Falls.
Gallant rails past Milwaukee Appeal at the wire
On a gorgeous afternoon at the border oval, six horses contested the second leg of the Canadian triple crown over a fast dirt track. Queen's Plate winner Eye of the Leopard was expected to continue on a charge to the triple crown by fighting off Oaks winning filly Milwaukee Appeal and Catherine Day-Phillips' Mr. Foricos Two U, who would be piloted by Mike Smith. Instead, it was the newcomer to the triple crown picture that surprised the betting public at odds of 15-1.
A race that seemed destined to feature the lone speed of Mr. Foricos Two U, turned into a slow-paced affair when none of the six entrants wanted the lead. By the half, Fraser made his move taking Gallant to the front where he would duel with Milwaukee Appeal deep into the stretch. As the two horses fought side-by-side down the lane, Milwaukee Appeal took a brief lead steps from the wire only for Gallant to fight back bravely creating a dramatic photo finish. Eye of the Leopard pursued gamely through the stretch to finish third, just a half length behind the pace.
In the agonizing minutes following the race, the two foes circled in front of the grandstand as the crowd 'ooohed and ahhhed' over endless replays. Fraser's face made for an anxious picture as he squinted at the tote board with one hand over his face as though he couldn't bare to watch what was happening in front of him.
Corey Fraser can't bear to watch!
Stewart Elliott, aboard Milwaukee Appeal, appeared calm but also had an eye on the tote board waiting for the stewards to make their call. And then it happened - the tote board cleared with Gallant declared the winner and Fraser erupted pumping his fist in the air and bellowing into the grandstand. The crowd chanted, "Corey, Corey, Corey" as the rider clapped his hands and hugged his silver-bullet steed.
Yessssss! Fraser erupts with joy!
With arms raised above his head, Fraser and Gallant headed onto the turf course in search of the winners circle to have their photo taken for what is certainly the biggest win of both their careers thus far.
The big grey horse is the champ!
As the Woodford Racing connections made their way across the track, Fraser paraded along the turf course ripping flowers from the floral blanket and tossing them in the air.
Fraser tosses flowers in the air
When the photos were finally completed, an emotional Fraser latched on to assistant trainer Ricky Griffith for a victory hug. Head trainer Mark Casse was on duty at Woodbine where he had seven horses running and could only watch the event on television from The Finish Line.
Ricky Griffith and Corey Fraser Hug It Out
It was a Prince of Wales that will live long in the memory of all who attended. A glorious afternoon with a $500K race decided by the slightest of margins defining the measure of a champion.
Can you tell the difference?
Following the race, there were great quotes in the press box from both Fraser and Casse.
On winning the race:
"It was just like a dream. I hit the wire and it was like a dream."
Watching from the press box, Fraser still cannot believe it!
On the move to the lead:
"He carried me to the front. Into the first turn they were kind of dawdling along. He (Gallant) wanted to go and there was a hole so I let him go. Mark (Casse) and myself spoke and he said 'don’t grab this horse too much. However he wants to run, let him run'."
The Champ is here!
On his thoughts at the wire:
"I thought I won it and I was trying not to think it too much in case that was a jinx. When it was taking a long time for the photo I was thinking it was a dead heat and I'd have been just as happy with that. I was dying the whole way back just to find out. He did come back on, I knew he came back on and my horse's body did seem to be a bit further up..."
A gruelling stretch run as the trio approach the wire
On whether or not he had enough horse:
"At the quarter pole I was really sure I had horse. I was like 'let's go, bring it on.' Milwaukee Appeal passed us and I was like, 'no no no no no.' I asked him for more and he dug back in and got it."
Eye of the Leopard in the post parade
On why this horse likes having his photo taken. (Second straight nose win for Gallant.)
"He sure does. It's not good for the heart."
Keino West would close to finish fourth.
On if he expected a good performance:
"I worked him for two weeks in a row in Toronto. I love how he travelled over the dirt."
Mike Smith and Catherine Day-Phillips head to the paddock
On trainer Mark Casse:
"Mark has been a great supporter of my career in the past couple of years."
Team Keino West make a stunning pre-race appearance
On his biggest win previously:
"that would be Active Duty in the Coronation (Futurity). That was a huge win. We're going up in increments $250K, I'm going up in increments of $250K I guess i better find a $750K now."
TRAINER MARK CASSE - On speakerphone from Woodbine
On whether or not he thought they had won.
"At first we thought we won, and then we weren't sure we won and then they showed Milwaukee Appeal with the pony so we thought we lost. And then they showed both horses with the pony and then we saw Corey go crazy and that's when we figured it out."
Steve Bahen happy to be commanding Flip For The Coin
On why they chose the Prince of Wales
"I thought a lot of horses would knock themselves out in the Queen's Plate and if we had a shot it would be in the Prince of Wales as we'd be coming in with a fresh horse. The other thing is this horse is really bred for the dirt and i thought maybe some of the other horses weren't."
The horses head through the tunnel to the track
On the pre-race strategy:
"I talked to Corey yesterday and told him that one of two things is going to happen. either there's going to be a speed duel up front or there's going to be no pace. So i said if there's a speed duel just sit back and relax and if there's no pace go get the lead...after about 3/8 of a mile, Corey decided there was no pace and off he went."
The filly sure is a beauty!
On the filly Milwaukee Appeal:
"She showed a lot of class and determination today."
* TDH Note. To be fair, Casse praised the filly at length and was impressed at how resilient Milwaukee Appeal was trying the Plate just two weeks after winning the Oaks.
Stewart Elliott is not going to like what he sees
All in all, It was a superb day of racing at Fort Erie.
When you're this big, they call you MR!
A second photo essay will be posted tomorrow featuring results from the Ernie Samuel and Daryl Wells Sr Stakes.
Clap your hands, say yeah!