Trainer Brian Lynch believes jockey Rafael Manuel Hernandez will be a key figure Tuesday night at the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes.
Hernandez will ride Queen's Plate champion Shaman Ghost in the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown at Fort Erie Racetrack. And with just seven horses in the field, Lynch believes the 1 3/16-mile event will be a jockey's race.
"Tactically (horses) can put you in awkward positions, pin you in or someone might try to stretch them out and show speed," Lynch said Monday. "Traditionally that track can be a bit fast this time of year and usually it does cater to speed-favouring horses.
"Rafael is a very patient, shrewd rider and hopefully he's the better tactician out of the gate."
Shaman Ghost rallied late under Hernandez to overtake Danish Dynaformer and register a 1 1/4-length victory in the $1-million Queen's Plate on July 5 at Woodbine Racetrack. The win was the fourth straight for the three-year-old, Stronach Stables-owned colt, the early 7/5 favourite who'll break from the No. 4 post Tuesday night.
"He comes into the race in good order," Lynch said. "Usually when they come out of a 1 1/4-mile race you've taxed them a little bit so it's a matter of trying to read him properly to get him to come back in three weeks and duplicate the second performance.
"Our horse will have a target on his back for sure. The public expects him to win and there's a lot of pressure on him."
Lynch is certainly bucking recent tradition by having Shaman Ghost at Fort Erie. He'll be the first Plate winner to run in the Prince of Wales since 2010 and attempt to become the first horse to claim the opening two legs of the Triple Crown since '03 when Wando accomplished the feature en route to becoming the last to sweep the series.
"No doubt about it, it would be quite an accomplishment to be able to pull it off," Lynch said. "It's just a nice situation to be in to even be able to talk about these opportunities.
"We'll get through this one first and re-evaluate it after that."
The Prince of Wales is the lone Triple Crown event run on a traditional dirt surface. The Plate goes on Woodbine's poly track while the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Stakes will be run on Woodbine's E.P. Taylor turf course Aug. 16.
But Lynch, who won the 2010 Prince of Wales with Golden Moka, isn't concerned about running on dirt because Shaman Ghost's first two career wins came on that surface at Gulfstream and Keeneland.
"He shortens up a little bit but tactically he's a horse Rafael knows well," Lynch said. "He knows when to move on him and so fortunately that combination goes in our favour.
"He's been a good horse and showed up at a lot of places he's never really seen before . . . he'd never been to Keeneland and went there and won. He's an adaptable sort of horse."
The field with post, horse, jockey and odds, includes: 1. Scorch, Emma-Jayne Wilson, 12-1; 2. Conquest Boogaloo, Shaun Bridgmohan, 4-1; 3. Field of Courage, Eurico Rosa da Silva, 8-1; 4. Shaman Ghost, Hernandez, 7-5; 5. Danish Dynaformer, Patrick Husbands, 9-5; 6. Breaking Lucky, Jim McAleney, 6-1; 7. Cut to the Chase, Luis Contreras, 15-1.
This will mark the third straight race that Danish Dynaformer and Shaman Ghost will face one another. Danish Dynaformer finished third to Shaman Ghost in the Grade 3 Marine Stakes on May 16.
Roger Attfield, the Hall of Fame trainer of Danish Dynaformer, has won the Prince of Wales five times, the last being in 2005 with Ablo. Gordon McCann holds the record for most victories by a conditioner with seven.
The temperature Tuesday for Fort Erie, Ont., is expected to soar past 30 C but thankfully for horses and jockeys, they'll go postward in the evening. However, Lynch isn't concerned about weather negatively affecting his horse.
"He's a very level-headed horse, he takes everything in stride," Lynch said. "He's not one that gets a bit antsy or fired up . . . we're very lucky he's got that sort of mentality."
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press