FORT ERIE, Ont. - Eurico Rosa Da Silva has his Canadian Triple Crown.
The veteran jockey took Coltimus Prime to the lead from the start, then cruised to a comfortable 3 1/2-length win in the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes on Tuesday night at Fort Erie Racetrack. With two Queen's Plate crowns ('09 with Eye of the Leopard and '10 aboard Big Red Mike) and a Breeders' Stakes score ('13 with Up With The Birds) already under his belt, the Prince of Wales was the lone Triple Crown event missing on Da Silva's resume.
"I've been riding 10 years in Canada . . . I've finished second and third in this race before but I never won," he said. "For me, I am so grateful to win this race.
"It was a very important race for me, I've got my Triple Crown. I'm so happy, it's like a dream."
The victory was also very special for trainer Justin Nixon, a 45-year-old native of Windsor, Ont., who got his start in at the Fort Erie oval and was based there from 1996 to 2002.
"It's a dream come true," Nixon said following his biggest career victory. "I've watched a lot of good horses run here and seen a lot of good horses get beat here.
"Learning the game here . . . it's something special to win the biggest race here."
Nixon brought Coltimus Prime to Fort Erie last week to get acclimated to the track conditions and felt the horse was as ready for Tuesday night's race as he could possibly be.
"We tried to do everything we could to put this horse in the best possible position to win," Nixon said. "He trained dynamite, he's eaten well, he's just done everything the way you'd want a horse to going into a race."
And Da Silva said it showed.
"That was a great move bringing the horse here early," the jockey said. "The horse today knew everything he was doing, he just showed me the way."
The dark bay, named after the leader of the Autobots from the Transformers series, was coming off a disappointing ninth-place finish in the Queen's Plate behind filly winner Lexie Lou. But Coltimus Prime, a 5/1 pick, set the pace right from the start, with Da Silva admitting he kept waiting for other horses to challenge him, but it never came.
"Justin told me to do what I want, I took the horse to the gate and he was sharp but very focused," the two-time Sovereign Award winner said. "I felt if it was a soft pace I would put him right in the lead and if somebody really chased I would take him back, it would be no problem because he's a very quiet horse.
"But he went all the way, he was so happy . . . when I turned home, I didn't even wait. This is a long stretch but because I have so much horse it would be no problem. I was worried someone would make a run on him but I have so much horse it would be very tough to catch him."
Lexie Lou didn't run in Tuesday's race.
Coltimus Prime finished the 1 3/16-mile event in 1:54.58 on a fast track. Lynx, also a 5/1 pick, finished second ahead of Ami's Holiday, the 8/5 favourite who started badly but rallied to take third in his first career start on dirt.
The remainder of the field, in order of finish, included: Smart Spree; Rhythm Blues; East Side; Lions Bay; Ascot Martin; Matador; and Money Talks.
Jockey Frankie Pennington moved Lynx behind Coltimus Prime at the quarter-mile point and felt he had the leader within range coming around the final turn. That is, until Coltimus Prime took off for home.
"The winner was sitting easy," Pennington said. "I thought I had him going around the turn but when he opened up, he took off and we were just second-best today.
"I had a good trip. (Lynx) handled the course great. We were sitting in a great spot and he ran a big race."
Luis Contreras, the jockey aboard Ami's Holiday, said his horse ran well once he settled down after the bad start.
"My trip was fine after the first three-sixteenths (of a mile)," he said. "There were three or four horses outside of me that tried to get to the rail but I let my horse run.
"After that I had a perfect trip. My horse was running really well at the end, he just ran out of room."
Coltimus Prime paid $12.80, $6.50 and $3.90 while Lynx returned $6 and $3.80. Ami's Holiday paid $2.70.
Coltimus Prime earned his third win to go with two second-place efforts in nine career starts for earnings surpassing $414,000.
The third and final jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown is the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes on Aug. 17 at Woodbine. Nixon was non-commital about Coltimus Prime running in 1 1/2-mile turf event but didn't exactly endorse it, either.
"We certainly wouldn't hesitate to try him again on dirt," he said. "I don't like running them on grass after they win on the dirt.
"We'll just play it by ear for now. We'll enjoy today and not worry about what's next."