Wonder Gadot races to victory in $1M Queen's Plate
Wonder Gadot, with jockey John Velazquez aboard, wins the Queen's Plate at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto on Saturday, June 30, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, June 30, 2018 6:00PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, June 30, 2018 8:11PM EDT
TORONTO -- Filly Wonder Gadot beat the heat and her frustrating streak of second-place finishes Saturday.
John Velazquez rode the 2/1 favourite to an impressive 4 3/4-length victory in the $1-million Queen's Plate on Woodbine Racetrack's Tapeta course. The 1 1/4-mile first jewel of Canada's Triple Crown was run in 35 C temperatures, which felt more like a sweltering 47 C with the humidex.
But Wonder Gadot, wearing blinkers for the first time following consecutive runner-up finishes, proved to be one cool customer. Velazquez rallied her from fourth after three-quarters of a mile past leader Telekinesis and from there she breezed to victory in 2:02.26.
"Gary (owner Gary Barber) asked me if this (heat) would affect her," trainer Mark Casse said after capturing his second Plate victory. "I said it would help her because it's going to affect others, it's not going to affect her.
"She's kind of been all over the place. She's an extremely talented filly."
Velazquez said he had plenty of horse coming home.
"By the 3/8ths pole there were two horses in front of her and I got to them pretty easily," he said. "When I asked here down the lane she responded really well.
"She was awesome."
Aheadbyacentury, with Woodbine's Luis Contreras aboard at 28/1 odds, was second in the 16-horse field while Jesse Campbell guided 45/1 longshot Cooler Mike to third.
The remainder of the field, in order of finish, included: Strike Me Down; Telekinesis; Say the Word; Boyhood Dream; Alternative Route; Real Dude; Neepawa; Inge; Silent Poet; Pawnbroker; Rose's Vision; Marriage Counselor; and Dixie Moon.
Wonder Gadot paid $6.40, $3.80 and $3.20 while Aheadbyacentury returned $17.60 and $10.30. Cooler Mike paid $15.90.
Wonder Gadot earned her fourth win in 12 career starts and the $600,000 winner's share boosted her earnings past $1.3 million. But the victory was her first in seven races this year although she hasn't finished out of the money (win, four seconds, two thirds).
Wonder Gadot, named after Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot, came into the Plate off frustrating second-place finishes in the Kentucky Oaks and $500,000 Woodbine Oaks. So, Casse blinkers on the horse in order to help her focus more.
"You'd think it did," Casse said when asked if blinkers helped his horse. "Maybe I just wasn't smart enough to figure that out, I've been a slow learner on occasion.
"It's tough to make that kind of call and finally we just said, 'Look we've got to do it.' She has been so unlucky but she's so tough."
Added Velazquez: "Finally, we got her to pay attention and pass horses. I think the blinkers got her to pay more attention and do her job."
Barber said after two second-place efforts, it was time for something good to happen for Wonder Gadot.
"This was her due, definitely," he said. "I feel like she got her deserved reward and I couldn't be more thrilled."
Casse and Barber won the '14 Plate with Lexie Lou, another filly. Casse said the two horses are very similar.
"She reminds me a lot of Lexie Lou even though she probably weighs 200 pounds more than Lexie did but Lexie just thrived on running," he said. "There are horses that will just run and run and run and luckily this (Wonder Gadot) is one of them."
Casse had two other horses in Saturday's race -- Telekinesis and Neepawa. Casse was quite reserved as Wonder Gadot approached the finish line, partly due to the filly's recent bad luck but also because of how his other two mounts fared.
"Well, she has tricked me a few times," he said. "In all honesty, I was excited for her to win but then I was watching my other horses run too and I was a little disappointed they didn't run better.
"It's a little bitter-sweet. They're all kind of my kids and I don't like my kids to get beat up."
And shortly after Wonder Gadot crossed the finish line, Casse purposely cooled the horse down himself after the race.
"The Queen's Plate ceremony is much longer than the average winner's circle ceremony," he said. "She's just run 1 1/4 miles, it's hot and I could see where it was going to last 15 minutes and she was having a little time catching her breath.
"I wanted to feel like she'd caught her breath and she was happy. That's why you saw me walking around talking to her ... I just wanted her to relax."
Casse left the door open for Wonder Gadot to chase the second jewel of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown, the $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes on July 24 on Fort Erie Racetrack. If the filly does go, it could set up an interesting battle with another Casse-trained horse, Kentucky Derby runner Flameaway.
"I still have to speak with Gary but the Prince of Wales may set her up really well for the (Grade 1 US$500,000 Alabama Stakes over 1 1/4 miles in August at Saratoga)," Casse said. "Would Flameaway not like to see Wonder Gadot?
"Yeah, he'd probably rather she not be there but I don't do that. The same as today, all my riders did their thing, nobody was helping the other. It makes sense for Flameaway and it probably makes sense for Wonder Gadot. They'll probably meet."