07/23/2010 1:07PM

Big Red Mike looks for second leg of Canadian Triple Crown

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FORT ERIE, Ontario – Big Red Mike, a front-running winner of Woodbine’s Queen’s Plate on July 4, will be looking to add the second jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown to his portfolio here in Sunday’s Prince of Wales Stakes.

The $500,000 Prince of Wales, a 1 3/16-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds that is the showpiece of the Fort Erie meeting, attracted eight entrants and is scheduled to go postward at 5 p.m. Eastern.

Sunday’s 10-race program also includes a pair of $50,000 turf sprints, the Daryl Wells Sr. Memorial and the Ernie Samuel Memorial.

All eyes will be on Big Red Mike, however, as a partisan ontrack crowd will be pulling for the gelding trained by Fort Erie-based Nick Gonzalez.

While Big Red Mike will be racing on dirt for the first time in the Prince of Wales, he began training here last summer with Gonzalez and also worked on the dirt at Palm Meadows this spring.

“I think he’s versatile,” said Martha Gonzalez, wife and assistant to Nick Gonzalez. Martha is based at Woodbine and has been an equal partner in Big Red Mike’s development for his owner and breeder Dom Romeo.

Big Red Mike was making his stakes debut when winning the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial, leading virtually throughout on a moderate pace while turning back a strong stretch bid by runner-up Mobilizer.

Eurico Rosa da Silva, aboard for the first time that day, again let Big Red Mike go to the front in the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate and held safe an ever-threatening Hotep to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths.

Martha Gonzalez believes Big Red Mike is coming into the Prince of Wales on an equally high note.

“He’s in good shape; he’s the best we can get him,” she said. “He’s a very confident horse right now. You can see it in the way he walks around the shed row.”

Hotep performed admirably in defeat in the Queen’s Plate, despite falling into the unintended role of having to press Big Red Mike through the early going.

Keeping Big Red Mike honest had been the job of Hotep’s stablemate, Dark Cloud Dancer, but when that one broke a step slowly and his jockey took a hold, that scenario went out the window.

“Hopefully, he’ll get a good stalking trip this time,” said Mark Frostad, who trains both Hotep and Dark Cloud Dancer for owner/breeder Sam-Son Farm.

Frostad believes that the presence of newcomers Mobil Unit and Golden Moka in the Prince of Wales can lead to a quicker pace, and Dark Cloud Dancer was cross-entered for Saturday’s Toronto Cup at Woodbine.

Hotep also is experienced on dirt, having raced four times on the main track at Fair Grounds this winter, and breezed five furlongs in 59.80 seconds on the dirt training track at Woodbine last Sunday under regular rider Patrick Husbands.

“I know Patrick’s very confident,” Frostad said.

Mobthewarrior, who finished a respectable fifth in the Queen’s Plate, trained on dirt at Palm Meadows, and trainer Greg De Gannes believes his gelding will handle the switch in stride under his regular rider, Emile Ramsammy.

“He’s a pretty easy-going horse,” De Gannes said. “He moves well over any surface.

“I just hope for an honest pace, so Emile can give him a fair shot. He has a very potent late kick.”

If all goes according to plan, Husbands, Da Silva, and Ramsammy will be making a grand entrance here Sunday afternoon as they will arrive by helicopter from Woodbine about 3:30 p.m., after riding in early races on the card there.

Who We Gunna Call, is the other returnee from the Queen’s Plate, where he finished ninth.

After winning his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs this winter, Who We Gunna Call was transferred to trainer Tino Attard at Woodbine and has been on the grounds here since breezing five furlongs last Sunday.

Mobil Unit, trained by Mike Keogh, pressed the pace en route to a 1 1/2-length victory when making his first start around two turns in a 1 1/16-mile restricted first-level allowance at Woodbine last time out.

“The distance is kind of an unknown,” Keogh acknowledged. “But he just has trained so well on dirt at Woodbine and in Aiken.”

Captain Canuck, whose last start was a fifth-place finish in the Plate Trial, shipped down from his Woodbine base to breeze here on July 6 and on July 18 and has schooled here during those overnight trips.

“He seemed to handle it fine,” trainer Josie Carroll said.

Golden Moka also shipped down for a solid drill here last Sunday and is the X-factor in the Prince of Wales.

Purchased privately out of Panama, where he was undefeated in three starts as a 2-year-old, Golden Moka will be making his first start for his new owners and for trainer Brian Lynch on Sunday.

Coming off an eight-month layoff, traveling beyond six furlongs for the first time, and facing some seasoned stakes competition would not seem to be much of a recipe for success, but Lynch is taking the exercise seriously.

“He’s trained like a horse that’s gifted,” Lynch said. “It’s a big ask, but you don’t get another chance to go into a race like this, and we’re going to take a gamble.”