07/01/2016 10:40AM

Amis Gizmo, Gamble's Ghost give Dalos two good shots in Queen's Plate

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Michael Burns
Amis Gizmo, training this week at Woodbine, will try to give owner-breeder Ivan Dalos his first Queen's Plate winner on Sunday.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Owner-breeder Ivan Dalos has seen his colors represented by a homebred runner in the Queen’s Plate in back-to-back years. In 2014, Dalos’s first Queen’s Plate runner, Ami’s Holiday, encountered traffic trouble and finished second behind Lexie Lou. Last year, Ami’s Flatter was eighth behind winner Shaman Ghost.

This year, Dalos has two strong contenders in search of his first Queen’s Plate victory on Sunday. Dalos and trainer Josie Carroll will send out morning-line favorite and Plate Trial Stakes winner Amis Gizmo and Woodbine Oaks runner-up Gamble’s Ghost in the Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds and the first leg of Canada’s Triple Crown.

Amis Gizmo is a deserving favorite in the Queen’s Plate after his victory in the Plate Trial on June 12. He comes into the Queen’s Plate with a record of five wins from six starts.

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Amis Gizmo nearly fell into the hands of other connections after going through the sales ring at the 2014 Canadian premier yearling sale.

“He’s turned out to be a really nice horse,” Dalos said. “I’m very happy we didn’t end up selling him because he was in the sale. I didn’t get my reserve, so I bought him back. In hindsight, that turned out to be a very good thing.”

Gamble’s Ghost, meanwhile, is one of the most accomplished horses in the Queen’s Plate field. She’s a two-time graded stakes winner and nearly won the Woodbine Oaks three weeks ago. There was a chance that Gamble’s Ghost would skip the Queen’s Plate, but Carroll said the filly has shown that she’s ready to face males.

“She’s a really tough filly,” she said. “She’s just a competitor. We sort of set up parameters, and if she didn’t come out of the race well, she wouldn’t go, and then if she didn’t hit her mark when we worked her, then we simply wouldn’t go. At each checkpoint, she checked the boxes.”

Dalos, 74, has been involved in breeding and racing horses for nearly 40 years, but he said he got into it by accident after a colleague asked him if he would like to go to the races one day.

“I knew nothing about horses,” he said. “I had never seen a horse except in the movies until I was 38. I never knew that there was horse racing in Toronto until somebody came into my office and told me they were going to the racetrack.”

Dalos got involved in ownership shortly after his first trip to the racetrack and became fascinated by breeding. He began to read as much material on breeding as he could and has built a broodmare band that now stands at 20.

Dalos bred 1998 Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop and sent a number of mares to him during his stud career. Dalos now has some Victory Gallop mares who are producing impressive crops year after year, including this year’s 3-year-old crop, which includes Amis Gizmo, Glorious Song Stakes winner Ami’s Mesa, and Queenston Stakes winner Conquest Enforcer.

“I think his breeding program has gotten really, really strong, particularly out of those Victory Gallop mares,” Carroll said. “I would say the last five years he’s bred a lot of good horses. He’s winning a lot of stake races with them, both the ones he keeps and the ones he sells. He’s a very patient man, and he usually has a plan in mind of what he’d like to accomplish, and then he leaves it to you to get the job done, which certainly makes life easier.”

Among the main challengers to Amis Gizmo and Gamble’s Ghost in the Queen’s Plate is Coronation Futurity winner Shakhimat. Shakhimat ran second behind Amis Gizmo in the Plate Trial and will be looking to give trainer Roger Attfield a record ninth Queen’s Plate victory. Plate Trial third-place finisher Sir Dudley Digges will also run back in the Queen’s Plate.

Other leading contenders in the 13-horse field include Leavem in Malibu, Esposito, Scholar Athlete, and All On Red. Leavem in Malibu, Esposito, and Scholar Athlete each come into the Queen’s Plate off a win in an allowance race, while All On Red was second in his local debut. His trainer, Sid Attard, is seeking his first Queen’s Plate win.

Trainer John LeBlanc Jr. will have his first two Queen’s Plate starters this year, Mike and Rocket Plan. Mike is a full brother to 2011 Queen’s Plate third-place finisher Pender Harbour, while Rocket Plan is owned and bred by William Gierkink, the father of Daily Racing Form’s Woodbine handicapper, Ron Gierkink.

Rounding out the Queen’s Plate field are Narrow Escape, My Name Is Jim, and Cheburashka.