TORONTO, July 6…Gary Barber’s Lexie Lou, confidently handled by jockey Patrick Husbands, took over in upper stretch from pacesetter Asserting Bear and went on to a comfortable one and one-half length victory over Ami’s Holiday in the $1 million Queen’s Plate, Sunday at Woodbine.
Sent postward the 3-1 second choice behind favoured We Miss Artie, Lexie Lou thus became the 35th filly to win the three-year-old Canadian bred classic since 1860 and the sixth filly to win both the Woodbine Oaks and Plate since 1956. The last to do so was Inglorious in 2011. She was also the only filly in the field of 15 going postward in the 155th edition of Canada’s most famous horse race.
Lexie Lou thus provided six-time Sovereign Award-winning trainer Mark Casse with his first Plate win, after he’d finished second in 2011 with longshot Hippolytus and was third with both Dixie Strike in 2012 and Dynamic Sky in 2013.
For Husbands, it was his second Plate triumph. He was aboard Wando for his 2003 win en route to a Triple Crown. For Barber, it was his first.
The mile and one-quarter race dynamic was altered immediately when We Miss Artie leaped at the start losing lengths.
Asserting Bear and jockey Chantal Sutherland-Kruse took the field through an opening quarter in :23.23, then continued to lead through a half in :47.09, three-quarters in 1:11.54 and the mile in 1:36.88. But the pressure on the pacesetter was turned up coming off the far turn.
Lexie Lou, placed in ninth early before moving up to sixth, glided up to challenge turning for home, while behind her, We Miss Artie was also being hustled into contention by jockey Javier Castellano. However, down the stretch, Lexie Lou proved more than full value and was a handy winner at the wire, reached in 2:03.94.
Ami’s Holiday, with Luis Contreras, rallied strongly along the rail from well back to finish second, while Asserting Bear faded slightly to third, another length and one-half behind. After putting in a rally five-wide turning for home, We Miss Artie drifted a bit to finish fourth.
Longshot Niigon Express was fifth, keying a Jackpot Hi-5 20-cent payout (the first five finishers in order) of $4,270.70.
“I called everybody in Barbados on Saturday to say I was coming home to celebrate the Queen’s Plate,” said Husbands. “Everybody left (the gate) running. My filly was so relaxed. I had so much confidence in her going into this race. I begged Mark at the (post position) draw, I just want the outside (Casse wound up choosing post 14).
“It’s an honour and a pleasure to ride for these connections and Mark. I won this Queen’s Plate for you.”
“I think with the big field, my horse got a little nervous in the gate,” said Castellano, about We Miss Artie. “He completely sat down behind the gate. That’s why he broke straight in the air. It took a lot out of him. He was too far behind, I lost a lot of ground going around horses.”
“I don’t think I believe it quite yet,” said an elated yet relieved Casse. “Maybe tomorrow. It was thrilling. It was really nice to have my family here. My son Colby started crying afterwards, and caused me to cry. It’s a great day.
“I was as confident as you can be. But there’s so many things that have to go right. And there’s so many things that can go wrong. But we were fairly confident. We’ll see (about running in the July 29 Prince of Wales, the second leg in the Canadian Triple Crown at Fort Erie). It’s a possibility.”
Purchased privately from owner-trainer John Ross after her first outing this year, following a banner juvenile campaign which saw her earn over $300,000, Lexie Lou, a daughter of Sligo Bay-Oneexcessivenite, finished a closing third in her first outing for Barber and Casse in the Fury Stakes on May 10.
Casse then took the blinkers off his filly for the Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, on June 15 and she romped, winning by four and one-half lengths, in a final time for the mile and one eighth that was more than a second faster than it took We Miss Artie to win the Plate Trial a race earlier.
"I had a perfect trip, it couldn’t have been any better," said Contreras, about runner-up Ami’s Holiday. “We didn’t need to be on the lead and I could see all of the horses from the outside position. My horse gave a tremendous kick and we almost got there."
Lexie Lou, who carried 121 pounds versus her male rivals who lugged 126, earned $600,000 for the win to join millionaire’s row, now with a bankroll of over $1.2 million.
As the second choice, Lexie Lou paid $8.20, $4.50 and $3.30, combining with Ami’s Holiday ($9.70, $5.80) for a $63.90 (14-15) exactor. A 14-15-4 (Asserting Bear, $6) triactor was worth $387.40, while a $1 Superfecta [14-15-4-6 (We Miss Artie)] came back $695.80.