Shaman Ghost rallied to capture the $1-million race Sunday at Woodbine Racetrack. The three-year-old chestnut finished 1 1/4-lengths ahead of Danish Dynaformer in a battle of the two race favourites, delighting an overflow crowd that produced a record handle of $11.06 million, breaking the 2013 mark of $9.7 million.
In 2008, Lynch could only look in disappointment as Ginger Brew finished second by a head to Not Bourbon, earning legendary trainer Roger Attfield a record-tying eighth Plate victory. On Sunday, Lynch not only celebrated winning the first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown for the first time, but forced Attfield to wait another year for the historic win.
"I still wake up thinking of Not Bourbon . . . and I look at that photo finish and I still think I won that so it's justice. Well, it's racing," Lynch said. "I've been beat by a nose one day and I walked away from here like I was carrying the weight of the world but now I feel I'm on top of the world.
"It's a prestigious race, it's an old, traditional race, it's a classic distance at a mile and a quarter, it's a big field and to do it for Frank and Mrs. Stronach, that's just fantastic."
Attfield had two horses in the race as Billy's Star led Danish Dynaformer late before finishing fourth.
"They both were excellent but they got beat by the horse I was worried about," Attfield said.
Jockey Patrick Husbands, who rode filly Lexie Lou to victory in last year's race, settled for second aboard Danish Dynaformer.
Jockey Rafael Hernandez, in his first Plate mount, led Shaman Ghost from fourth in the straightaway. They took an outside line to move past Billy's Star, Danish Dynaformer and Breaking Lucky en route to a fourth straight victory — all coming after his blinkers were removed — and fourth win in five races this year. The $600,000 payday more than quadrupled his career earnings to over $749,000.
"He (Danish Dynaformer) made a move too early, I let him pass me," Hernandez said. "I know my horse always got a kick . . . he made his kick down the lane and we got them back."
Heady stuff, indeed, considering Shaman Ghost had two fourths and a sixth-place finish in his first three races as a two-year-old.
"He was never a precocious two-year-old, he was a slow learner," Lynch said. "When he first started going to school he had to sit at the back of the bus, he wasn't the smartest.
"He always showed he was talented but it took him a few starts to get it together. He seems like he's the ultimate professional now. He's settles, he's got a turn of foot, he does everything right."
The Plate win was the third for owner-breeder Stronach Stables but first since Awesome Again in 1997. Basqueian earned Stronach its first victory in 1994.
"It's exciting . . . maybe the first one is the most exciting one but it's nice to win a race like that," said Frank Stronach. "No matter how good the horse is you always need a little luck.
"Shaman is a holy man and the Holy Ghost so I prayed to heaven (for) a little help from them."
Shaman Ghost won the 1 1/4-mile race in 2:03.45 with Conquest Boogaloo finishing third. Shaman Ghost paid $8.60, $5 and $3.20 while Danish Dynaformer returned $4.30 and $3. Conquest Boogaloo paid $3.90.
The remainder of the field, in order of finish: Breaking Lucky; Oakton; Ault; Ami' Flatter; Easy Indygo; Bear At Last; Portree; Sweet Grass Creek; and Academic.
Milwaukee Mist was a pre-race scratch.
After Shaman Ghost captured the Grade III Marine Stakes on May 16, Lynch opted to skip the Plate Trial to ensure having a fresher horse for Sunday's race. Shaman Ghost certainly didn't look taxed after Sunday's win and Lynch said the plan is for the horse to run in both remaining legs of the Triple Crown, the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes on July 28 at Fort Erie Racetrack and $500,000 Breeders' Stakes on Aug. 18 at Woodbine.
"We have some gas in the tank for the Prince of Wales and then on to the Breeders'," Lynch said.
Note to readers: This is a corrected version of an earlier story. The horse's name is Milwaukee Mist not Milwaukee Best as previously stated.Suggest a correction