SPORTS

Uncaptured named the early 9/5 favourite for $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes

07/29/2013 10:58 EDT | Updated 09/28/2013 05:12 EDT
Mark Casse is covering all the bases heading into the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes.

The veteran trainer has four of the eight horses slated to run Tuesday night at Fort Erie Racetrack. Included is 9/5 early favourite Uncaptured, Canada's reigning horse of the year who will chase his first win as a three-year-old from Post 1 in the 1 3/16-mile dirt race.

The others include 3-1 second choice Dynamic Sky starting from Post 2, Spring in the Air, the 4-1 third selection going from the No. 3 spot and Jagger M at 6-1 from Post 6.

"When the dust clears I don't know how many are going to run," Casse said Monday. "In this business, anything is possible . . . a lot of times if I have options I'll enter them all but they're not all going to run.

"We could run two, possibly three but no way we're going to run four. Who says one wakes up (Tuesday) and isn't right? We've just covering our tracks."

Dynamic Sky was third in the Queen's Plate, ahead of Spring in The Air (fourth) and Jagger M (fifth). Uncaptured didn't run July 7 as Midnight Aria won wire-to-wire on a Woodbine polytrack made quicker by rain on a hot, muggy afternoon.

But the win took its toll as Midnight Aria won't run Tuesday. That leaves Wando as the last Triple Crown champion in 2003 but Midnight Aria's trainer Nick Gonzalez, a Fort Erie resident, will send River Seven, a 12-1 pick, from the No. 5 spot.

"I talk to Mark a couple of times a week and he told me, 'I'm coming at you with four,' and I said, 'OK, I'll be ready,'" Gonzalez said with a chuckle. "It's a friendly competition but I'm going to take the gloves off Tuesday.''

River Seven was 10th among 12 horses in the Plate but recovered better from that race than Midnight Aria. A Queen's Plate champion hasn't run in the Prince of Wales since 2010 when Big Red Mike, another Gonzalez-trained horse, was third.

But Gonzalez said Uncaptured is the legitimate favourite.

"His record speaks for itself," Gonzalez said. "He's the favourite and deserves to be."

Uncaptured was Canadian thoroughbred racing's top horse and champion two-year-old male in '12 after winning six-of-seven starts, including five stakes events. The lone blemish was a fifth-place finish as the 2/5 favourite in the Grade 3 $224,800 Grey Stakes won by River Seven on Woodbine's polytrack.

"There's contentious speed in the field, I believe," Gonzalez said of Tuesday's competition. "(River Seven's) best race is going to be sitting off of it and come running at the end.

"That's when he ran his best race last year in the Grey Stakes and we're hoping for a repeat performance."

Uncaptured was a horse many felt was a legitimate '13 Kentucky Derby contender but has been second in three-of-four starts. After finishing second as the 3-1 favourite in the $550,000 Spiral Stakes in March, Uncaptured was 10th in the Grade 1 $750,000 Bluegrass Stakes after being the 7/2 early favourite in the Derby prep race.

Roughly three weeks later, Uncaptured was the 2/5 favourite in the $116,600 Wando Stakes. But he finished second, 1 1/2 lengths behind Pyrite Mountain over 1 1/16 miles on Woodbine’s polytrack, edging third-place finisher Midnight Aria by a nose.

Uncaptured was also second in his last start, the $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. He lost by a head to Code West in the 1 1/16-mile dirt race.

"For some reason Uncaptured is fine running on the synthetic going short but he prefers dirt," Casse said. "After we lost to River Seven, we took him down and ran him at (Churchill Downs) and he ran super.

"He ran what I thought was a sub-par race in the Wando then came back and ran a great race in the Matt Winn. We think he just likes the dirt, I just hope he likes the dirt at Fort Erie."

Casse has been Canada's top trainer fives times and twice has won the Prince of Wales — '09 with Gallant and last year with filly Dixie Strike.

"If Uncaptured handles the racetrack, he seems to me to be the class of the race but funny things happen at Fort Erie," Casse said. "We won in '09 with Gallant and that was his last victory, it just happened to be the right day and right time.

"Last year we won it with Dixie Strike and she runs good everywhere and is a really good filly so it was a different story. But I always say anything is possible in horse racing and even more so at Fort Erie."

The field, with post, horse, jockey and odds includes:

1. Uncaptured, Miguel Mena, 9/5; 2. Dynamic Sky, Joel Rosario, 3-1; 3. Spring in the Air, Gary Boulanger, 4-1; 4. Rackman, James McAleney, 30-1; 5. River Seven, Eurico Rosa Da Silva, 12-1; 6. Jagger M, Shaun Bridgmohan, 6-1; 7. Niigon's Glory, Steve Bahen, 15-1; 8. Power Phil, Luis Contreras, 12-1.

The Prince of Wales is the lone Canadian Triple Crown event run on dirt. The $1-million Queen's Plate goes on Woodbine's polytrack while the $500,000 Breeders Stakes is a mile and a half on Woodbine's turf course.

This year's Prince of Wales features two breaks from tradition. It will be run during the week and in the evening rather than a Sunday afternoon. Tuesday nights are usually a solid draw at Fort Erie and track officials feel staging their marquee event then allows them to best capitalize on race interest.

Thoroughbreds at Fort Erie have more to contend with than just the dirt surface. The homestretch there is 1,060 feet (323 metres) compared to 975 feet (297 metres) at Woodbine's polytrack, giving horses more opportunity to mount a late charge on a tiring frontrunner.

"It is a long stretch but most of the time the horse that turns for home in front usually gets the job done," Casse said. "It looks like there's speed in there but Uncaptured has some serious speed and I don't see him being too far off of it."

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