Interest in the 151st edition of the Queen's Plate reached a new level in March when newspaper reports suggested that the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown might be witnessed by its namesake monarch, Queen Elizabeth.
"There is no question we hope the queen will come, but haven't heard confirmation from the palace," said Glen Crouter, chief spokesperson for Toronto's Woodbine racetrack, in a Montreal Gazette report. "We keep our fingers crossed."
The Queen’s Plate is set for July 4th at Woodbine and undefeated three-year-old Hollinger is the early 5-2 favourite in the Winterbook. Last year, Sam-Son Farm’s Eye of the Leopard came on in deep stretch to defeat Mr. Foricos Two U and Milwaukee Appeal to take the winner's share of the $1 million purse.
This morning, owner and breeder Earle I. Mack announced that he was throwing his hat in the royal ring by purchasing interest in Captain Canuck.
Earle Mack To Race 3YO Captain Canuck
Earle I. Mack, the owner of Canadian Hall-of-Famer Peteski, has purchased an 80% interest in Captain Canuck, a 3-year-old he will point to this year’s Canadian Triple Crown races.
Captain Canuck was a fast-closing second in his debut on March 6, 2010 in a Maiden
race on the turf at Gulfstream Park.
“I like everything about Captain Canuck. He is a big son of Pulpit, showing great potential. I’m also a big fan of trainer Josie Carroll”, said Mack.
Mack acquired the Canadian-bred gelding by Pulpit, out of Magna Cum Laude, from Centennial Farms (Niagara), whose offices are in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. Captain Canuck will be managed and race in Mack’s colors.
A long-time owner and breeder, Earle Mack is a former Ambassador to Finland and Chairman of the New York Racing Commission. He previously served on the Board of Trustees for the New York Racing Association and has been an advisor on Thoroughbred matters to three former New York Governors.
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Mack previously won the Queen's Plate with Peteski in 1993 and the son of Affirmed went on to win the Canadian Triple Crown.
Peteski gallops to victory in the 1993 Queen's Plate
Following his Triple Crown win, Peteski met two of that year's U.S. Triple Crown race winners in the Molson Million at Woodbine. Facing Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero and Belmont Stakes winner Colonial Affair, Peteski demonstrated his considerable class, winning easily.
Peteski much the best in the Molson Million
In purchasing Captain Canuck, Mack partners up with trainer Josie Carroll who in 2006 became the first female trainer to win the Queen's Plate with Edenwold.
Mack and Carroll will hope to guide the gelding to the guineas in July. Mack's racing manager Aaron Cohen is impressed with their latest acquisition.
"He’s a big good looking horse and we’re really pleased with him," said Cohen. "We appreciate Domenic DiLalla allowing us to particapate in the horse. We would love to participate in the Queen's Plate and hopefully do well."
Cohen is excited about the potential closing power witnessed in Captain Canuck's debut when the gelding rallied to finish second in an MSW turf tilt at Gulfstream on March 6th.
"That was a very visually impressive race," stated Cohen. "We hope the race was made up of decent horses so that kind of move was made into decent company. He’s somewhat immature and will improve with racing."
That first start came on the turf at Gulfstream. On March 24th, Captain Canuck breezed six furlongs at Palm Meadows in 1:14.60 on the dirt.
Up next for the gelding is a start on the polytrack.
"He is now at Keeneland," advised Cohen. "We shipped him there the day after the breeze and he’s working towards a maiden special weight race on April 8th at Keeneland. Josie (Carroll) tells us before she had him, that he had handled the poly in training so we hope he runs well on the poly."
Should Captain Canuck pass his poly test, he could soon be leading the list of 2010 Queen's Plate contenders.
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Earlier this month, I had a chance to speak with Centennial Farms shareholder Brandon Boone in a post entitled Queen's Plate Profiler: Captain Canuck:
If ever a horse was named to win Canada’s most prestigious race it is Centennial Farms (Niagara) Inc. charge Captain Canuck.
The Pulpit - Magna Cum Laude gelding debuted March 6th and he rallied to finish second in an MSW turf tilt at Gulfstream despite a troubled trip at odds of 26-1. Checked at the start of the 1M 1/16 turf event, jockey Eibar Coa showed remarkable patience racing from tenth position early before circling horses five-wide turning into the stretch failing only to pass the winner Beau Choix.
Captain Canuck earned a 73 Beyer Figure for his effort.
Captain Canuck skates home second at Gulfstream
I recently corresponded with Brandon Boone, a shareholder in Centennial Farms regarding their exciting Queen’s Plate prospect. The stable was represented in the 2008 Queen's Plate by Sebastian's Song and now look to have another very good horse on their hands.
TDH: How did you acquire Captain Canuck?
BB: He was purchased at the Ocala two year old in training sale last February for $190,000. I picked him out of the catalogue and our trainer, Donnie MacRae, inspected him and, ultimately, bid on and signed the ticket for him. Donnie did not go to Florida this year, so we sent the Captain down to Florida with Josie Carroll.
TDH: Who are your fellow partners in Captain Canuck - Centennial Farms. How did you meet?
BB: The sole shareholder, director and officer of Centennial Farms (Niagara) Inc. is Domenic DiLalla, who owns Centennial Construction and Contracting (Niagara) Inc. and a related group of companies, whose offices are in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
The shareholders of Farms were originally Domenic, Mario Formica, Dr. George Zimakas and I. Mario is a former electrician who has known Domenic for most of his adult life and now manages our farm.
George is a doctor of internal medicine in the Niagara Health System.
I am a real estate and business lawyer. Domenic, Mario and George are my clients. Dom took over sole ownership about a year and a half ago, but Mario, George and I are still very much involved, as are Domenic's nephews, Antony Candeloro and Joseph Candeloro, and future brother-in-law, Dino Sorge.
TDH: Initially, I thought that Captain Canuck was named for Vancouver Canuck legend Trevor Linden but that’s not the case is it?
BB: The Captain is named for our majority shareholder's nephew, Antony Candeloro, who was captain of our local junior B hockey team, the Niagara Falls Canucks, last year.
TDH - How did you first become interested in horse racing?
BB: Mario has been involved in horse racing for most of his adult life. He started to wind down his involvement in the early 2000's, but had a hard-knocking mare, Cinderita, who he bred to Trajectory, and later gave birth to a colt, Matty Gazoo.
Domenic and George agreed to go partners with Mario in Matty and put him in training with Alec Fehr. Alec convinced them to claim Colorful Judgement, who won the With Approval in his first start off the claim in August, 2006, and they were hooked. I got involved shortly thereafter and we went on a buying and claiming spree in late 2006 and early 2007.
Centennial Farms Sebastian's Song raced in the 2008 Queen's Plate won by Not Bourbon
If the Centennial Farms group sounds familiar to American readers it is because they had had a 1/3 interest in Patena prior to selling to IEAH. Click on this link read about the sale of Patena.
TDH: How did you select Patena?
BB: Patena was purchased by John Sikura and Glen Sikura at the Keeneland yearling sale in September, 2007. I believe that Hill n Dale (Kentucky) bred him. They were looking for a partner, so we jumped at the opportunity.
TDH. You picked Captain up at Ocala for $190K - what was it about the horse that stood out to you?
BB: Captain was Canadian bred and very well put together. First foal out of a well-bred stakes winning dam. Our research indicated that he had been purchased as a yearling for $225,000, so we set a ceiling price of $200,000 (the market had dropped since then) and were fortunate to get him.
TDH: Why is Captain only getting started now?
BB: Captain is a very big horse and we want to let him grow into himself. When he finally made it to the track, he got loose on Donnie and nearly ran through a fence. We had to lay him up for a few months and geld him.
TDH: I understand Captain Canuck is being pointed towards The Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland. (A race memorably won in 1990 by Izvestia.) - Do you think Captain is a potential turf specialist? How do you think his form will translate to synthetic?
BB: Captain has definite poly ability, according to Donnie. His work at Ocala (poly) was a good one and he trained on it, at various times, this year. It sounds like he will be equally talented on poly or turf. We are looking forward to Keeneland, that's for sure. Either the Transylvania Stakes on April 2 or the MSW on the 8th.
TDH: What other horses do you have in training currently? Which of them are you excited about?
BB: We have about 40 horses now, about 20 of which are runners. Niagara Thunder is also at Palm Meadows with Josie. We have 9 two year olds starting this year. Other runners include Abruptly, Bent Attorney, Luigi's Honour, Casimiro, Sebastian's Song, Salomea, Briskly.
I was not alone in recognizing some potential in Captain Canuck. David Harris recently wrote the following piece for FoalTrack:
His female family is not exactly a conventional match for Pulpit: although his first four dams were all stakes horses, they did it in Michigan, where they run some of the slowest stakes. Captain Canuck’s dam Magna Cum Laude is by Pleasant Tap, but the dam sires before that are all the best of Michigan sires: Monetary Gift, Private Thoughts, and Rattle Dancer. You have another old Michigan sire, De Jeau, under the 4th dam. I’m afraid I’m probably the only one who understands the sheer improbability of anything coming to prominence out of a Michigan female family, but you’ll have to indulge me the space to try to convince you.
Captain Canuck breaks off the family tradition of Michigan breeding; he’s bred in Canada, and based on what I saw on Saturday, he’s my pick for the Queen’s Plate.
For more information on the first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, please visit Triple Dead Heat's list of Queen's Plate Contenders.