Like many Canadian horse owners, Carmen DiPaola has dreamed of winning the historic Queen’s Plate. The Markham-based real estate businessman has spent three decades chasing his Queen’s Plate dream and hopes this year D’s Wando turns his Queen’s Plate fantasy into reality.
And after all this time, DiPaola can’t even take credit for purchasing the son of Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando.
Maybe D's Wando can win the Queen's Plate by a neck?
“My son Santino picked him out at the select sale,” laughed DiPaola. “He called his mother as we were looking for a yearling to buy. He got his mother over to take a look and she liked him, so she got me over there and I thought he looked okay. Laurie Silvera was my trainer at the time and I said 'Laurie take a look at his horse and tell me what you think of him’. Laurie said ‘Carmen you buy this horse. You hear me. You buy this horse.’ So we bought him.”
A little more than a year later, D’s Wando came charging down the centre of the track in the Coronation Futurity, won by Hollinger, finishing third while demonstrating a powerful late kick. Tellingly, the compact colt galloped out well in front of the field and quickly became a buzz horse for the Plate.
The stocky D's Wando stretching it out on the Woodbine backstretch
It hasn’t always been so easy. DiPaolo recounted the cautionary tale of the first horse he ever bought - - Tessie in Motion.
“My brother used to come to the races. One time we went together and he'd bet his $5 or $10 and I was just watching,” began DiPaola. “While there I met someone who had bought a yearling and wanted to become partners.”
The yearling grew and through six starts as a two year-old, Tessie in Motion never beat a single horse. DiPaola was not alone in his misery.
“My lawyer also had a horse that was a maiden and never beat a horse either,” laughed DiPaola.
And thus set up a legendary race featuring two horses that had always finished last. Not quite a Queen’s Plate, in fact, it was more of a Pu Pu Platter but the competitive DiPaola wanted to “win”.
“These two horses are in the last race of their career,” recalled DiPaola in earnest. “The rest of the field is finished and our two horses are just coming around the turn for home. And there we were, two madmen yelling at the top of our lungs. I was yelling ‘come on Tessie, come on Tessie’ and my friend was yelling for his horse. They went neck and neck down the stretch and he beat me at the wire!”
Though Tessie would never win a race, the racing bug had bitten DiPaola. But it turns out that horse racing was in his genes all along.
“I put Tessie on a farm and brought my dad to take a look at this horse,” said DiPaola “My dad gets underneath the horse to inspect his feet and I said ‘dad get out of there, you're going to get yourself killed'. At the time, I was scared of horses and standing fifteen feet on the other side of the fence. So my dad comes out from under the horse and says ‘son, this is not a thoroughbred’."
Stung, DiPaola shot back, “Dad how do you know? This horse is descended from Man O' War!”
“Son,” came his father’s cool reply. “I was in the cavalry in Italy and my General had racehorses. I was his jockey in Milan and this horse isn’t good enough to pull a buggy!”
In time DiPaola would find stake success with horses such as Lord Elgin and Queen Riviera, but as time passes it seems the Markham based real estate developer is turning his hobby into a family affair, which explains why D’s Wando is owned in part by a triumvirate of owners.
“Yorktech is my wife’s stable, I have Riviera Racing stable and the four kids have D's Stable. The “D” is for DiPaola,” explained DiPaola.
The DiPaola family gather in the Woodbine walking ring
The racing knowledge so expertly dispersed by the General’s jockey would appear to flow through the veins of DiPaola’s 17 year-old son Santino who owns a percentage of the Queen’s Plate contender. The youth runs his own horse racing blog and clearly knows a thing or two about the breed as he explained the selection of D’s Wando.
“He was small, which I liked,” stated Santino. “I don't like really big horses but he had the perfect body. He was compact and had a really nice chest on him and a big hind end, but the thing that really got me to like him was how good his conformation was and how he walked perfectly not swinging his legs out or toeing in or out. I also liked how he was related to My Vintage Port and his mom was a stakes placed horse and was really good on the grass so just wait for the Breeders’ Stakes!”
Trainer Ian Black and wife Janet - appropriately dressed to meet the Queen!
DiPaola agrees with his son’s pedigree assessment, but for different reasons.
“Wando is a great horse,” stated DiPaola emphatically. “I love his bottom line. Kathie’s Colleen is a long distance winner and I just love the way she ran. D’s Wando is out of a stakes winner (Silver Taler who won the La Prevoyante). He's a small horse but the way he looked was great.”
Wando wins the 2003 Queen's Plate
And did he ever look great on the track as a two-year old winning two starts and thundering home a rousing third in the Coronation Futurity to end the 2009 campaign.
“The Coronation Futurity showed the potential to go a mile and a quarter because he galloped out ten lengths in front of the field,” said DiPaola. “I knew then this horse could go a distance of ground.”
Emma-Jayne Wilson and D's Wando getting to know each other
D’s Wando is working towards the Queen’s Plate under the tutelage of Ian Black who partnered up with jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson to win the 2007 edition of the race with Mike Fox.
“Ian does such a great job and his team does a good job,” said DiPaola. “And with Emma on board it's exciting.”
A suited Skippy Bowen leads D's Wando to the track
An important part of Ian Black’s team is assistant trainer Skippy Jeff Bowen. The affable assistant recalls the moment when a two year-old D’s Wando first stood out in a stocked stable.
“Chad Beckon used to ride this horse for us in the morning and we had a work where Chad put him right into the work and he went very aggressively against Stormy Lord, another two year old that we really liked, and from that day on we really liked the horse,” stated Bowen.
Bowen recognizes the importance of the DiPaola family tree putting down roots in Canadian racing and is pleased for the clan’s Plate prospects.
“It’s great for Carmen because he keeps plugging away at it and keeps spending his money and investing,” said Bowen. “His kids are into it and he’s the kind of owner this game needs because one day when he’s done with it his kids are going to take over the reins and keep it going.”
To watch D's Wando work five furlongs in 59.80 click this link
Could this be the year DiPaola finally realizes his Queen’s Plate dream?
“It’s going to take a nice pace up front and for him to sit a little bit closer than he has been and to stay out of trouble like you’d want for any horse,” admitted Bowen. “But I really do believe he’ll get the distance and he’ll love it and he’s going to make it a very exciting finish that’s for sure.”
Perhaps D’s Wando will be the horse that helps introduce the son of a General’s jockey to Her Royal Highness.
D's Wando working his way to the Queen's Plate
* * *
I have to apologize for the lack of posts lately. It has been a very busy ten days for TripleDeadHeat! Since my last post, I have:
* Played, and won, three soccer games
* Organized a birthday party
* Played host to two visiting friends
* Enjoyed watching Iggy Pop and the Raveonettes in concert at Yonge and Dundas Square.
* Booked a trip to Ireland in the fall
* Watched approximately 15 World Cup games
* Cursed at approximately 15 World Cup refs
* Continued to update the Woodbine News and Entries/Results
The best bit of news however was receiving notice that I have won an award! Last Saturday, TROT Magazine was honoured with a variety of awards at the 2010 American Horse Publications Conference and my piece on COSA, OHHA and the state of Ontario harness racing entitled Finding Leadership took honours in the news category. TROT reported:
Trot also won in three other categories -- News Reporting (Breaking News Story), Feature Story (circulation 10,000 - 20,000), and Magazine Cover Page (circulation under 20,000).
"Well-sourced, informative, and authoritative," the judges said of Keith McCalmont's 'Finding Leadership,' the winning story in the news reporting category. "The writer goes beyond just reporting the facts, but explains what's at stake as well as what remains to be seen. He covers the issue from all angles."
After a busy week, the announcement of the award brought a huge smile to my face. And has inspired me to get stuck back into my blog reporting. Expect more photos and posts relating to the Queen's Plate as the big race date draws near.
Raveonettes - Let's Rave On!!