TORONTO, July 7…Tucci Stables’ Midnight Aria, with Jesse Campbell, went right to the front in Canada’s most famous horse race, the Queen’s Plate, and proceeded to wire his rivals, desperately hanging on to defeat favoured Up With the Birds by a diminishing half-length Sunday at Woodbine.
The final time for the mile and one-quarter classic for Canadian-bred three-year-olds over Woodbine’s Polytrack during an afternoon of pelting rain was 2:04.72.
It was the second Plate win for trainer Nick Gonzalez, who also conditioned 2010 Plate winner Big Red Mike, who wired his field that year as well.
“He was the speed on paper,” explained an elated Campbell. “The thing is, he can go to the half in :48 or :50 (seconds). If I had to go (in) :48 I would, I didn’t see the clock, but I’m pretty sure we did. I could see (Up With the Birds) coming and I could feel him. I was praying for the wire.”
Dynamic Sky was third, eight lengths behind the winner, while Spring in the Air, one of two fillies in the field, wound up fourth. Woodbine Oaks winner Nipissing never threatened, finishing eighth, while trying to become the sixth filly to win both the Oaks and the Plate.
Midnight Aria, a son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Midnight Lute-Shebandowana, was claimed for $35,000 in January of this year at Gulfstream Park by Lou Tucci and his uncle Carlo. He then proceeded to win a maiden race there before finishing third on four consecutive occasions, including the Wando Stakes at Woodbine on May 5, when third to Plate rival Pyrite Mountain, then third to Dynamic Sky in the Plate Trial, after setting the pace in both races.
On Sunday, the tactics were the same, but the result was different, as Midnight Aria took the field through splits of :24.63, :48.58, 1:13.65 and 1:38.67 before bracing for the challenge from Sam-Son Farms’ Up With the Birds, who flew from sixth to second turning for home. But try as he might, the Malcolm Pierce trainee, the 8-5 choice, couldn’t quite get there in time with Eurico Rosa da Silva. Once again, the Plate favourite failed to win, as only two of 19 previous post time choices have succeeded.
The Plate victory was worth $600,000 to Midnight Aria’s connections. Tucci Stables had only one previous Plate entrant, Hot Deputy, who finished ninth in 2006. It was also Campbell’s first win, after finishing 17th and last with Okiyama in the 2011 renewal, his only previous Plate appearance.
“When he took on three at the three-eighths pole and did that comfortably, I felt pretty good about our position at that time,” said Gonzalez. “Carlo and Lou Tucci have been in the business forever and are the best owners you could ever have. They’ve paid their dues, paid their bills, love and have a passion for the sport. Anytime one of their horses got injured they found them a good home. They are very deserving and deserve everything they got here today.”
Midnight Aria became just the third Plate winner since 1956 to have also finished third in the Plate Trial. The only other Plate winners who also finished third in the Trial were Edenwold in 2006 and Golden Choice in 1986. He became the first Plate winner since Bompago in 1983 to be claimed by his owners, prior to winning the Plate.
“My uncle and I have been chasing this dream for over 40 years and it’s hard to express what you feel when a dream comes true,” added Lou Tucci. “It’s like the seventh game final of the Stanley Cup and scoring the winning goal times a thousand.”
Midnight Aria, overlooked on the toteboard at 16-1, paid $35.20, $13 and $8, combining with Up With the Birds ($3.90, $2.80) for a $170.20 (1-7) exactor. A 1-7-2 (Dynamic Sky, $4.40) triactor was worth $875.60 while a $1 Superfecta [1-7-2-4 (Spring in the Air)] returned $3,319.95.
The Queen’s Plate was the first leg in the Canadian Triple Crown. The second leg, the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, will be contested at one mile and three-sixteenths at Fort Erie on its main dirt surface on Tuesday, July 30, while the third and final leg is the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes, August 18 at Woodbine, over one and one-half miles on the turf. There have been seven Triple Crown winners since the concept was unveiled in 1959, the last being Wando in 2003.
The all-sources handle on the Queen’s Plate card was a record $9,739,879, shattering the former mark of $8,768,101 set in 2011.