07/27/2013 1:40PM

Fort Erie: Uncaptured tops Prince of Wales

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FORT ERIE, Ontario – The Prince of Wales Stakes suffered a setback with the news that Midnight Aria, trained by Fort Erie-born Nick Gonzalez, had come out of his taxing victory in the Queen’s Plate a little bit the worse for wear and wouldn’t be running.

But, Fort Erie has landed another worthy performer for its signature race in Uncaptured, who was Canada’s Horse of the Hear and champion 2-year-old male last year for trainer Mark Casse.

Casse also has entered Dynamic Sky, Spring in the Air, and Jagger M for the $500,000 Prince of Wales, a 1 3/16-mile race which is the second jewel of the Triple Crown for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds. It will be run for the first time on a Tuesday and has attracted eight entrants.

Uncaptured, Dynamic Sky, and Spring in the Air are owned by John Oxley, while Jagger M races for Gabe Grossman.

Uncaptured, who has been competitive in three graded stakes on the dirt at Churchill Downs, looms as an odds-on choice for the Prince of Wales.

Taken off the Queen’s Plate trail after Casse decided that he was not at his best going long on synthetic surfaces, Uncaptured returned to Louisville for the June 15 Matt Winn and was beaten a head by the talented Code West in that Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile stakes.

“He fought all the way down there and galloped out stronger than the winner,” said Casse. “The Prince of Wales distance is definitely a question mark, but on dirt he seems to carry himself a little farther.”

Miguel Mena, who has been Uncaptured’s regular rider in the United States since guiding him to an impressive win in the one-mile Iroquois at Churchill last fall, will be aboard Uncaptured and is riding at Fort Erie for the first time.

Dynamic Sky and Jagger M also are proven on dirt, with the former having run well in three starts at Tampa Bay Downs, including a win in the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes.

Winner of the Plate Trial prior to finishing a distant third in the Queen’s Plate, Dynamic Sky also ran second in the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis at Tampa and was fourth behind subsequent major stakes winners Verazzano and Java’s War in the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby.

“He’s held up fine,” said Casse. “He may be a touch better on the dirt.”

Joel Rosario, aboard for Dynamic Sky’s last two starts at Woodbine, rides Dynamic Sky. Rosario will be making his Fort Erie debut in the Prince of Wales.

Jagger M ended sixth in the Plate Trial and fifth in the Queen’s Plate after finishing second in the seven-furlong Queenston, three-quarters of a length ahead of Dynamic Sky.

Two dirt starts at Gulfstream Park this winter yielded second- and fourth-place finishes for Jagger M.

“He trained regularly on the dirt at Palm Meadows,” said Casse. “His one race at Gulfstream was good. Then I think I ran him back too fast.”

Shaun Bridgmohan, who also will be making his first trip to Fort Erie, retains the mount on Jagger M.

The filly Spring in the Air made her dirt debut at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, finishing fifth and reportedly bleeding after racing without Lasix for the first time. Prior to her fourth-place finish in the Queen’s Plate, Spring in the Air had run second behind Nipissing in the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks.

“She’s probably training better than all of them,” said Casse.

Facing the Casse juggernaut will be River Seven, Niigon’s Glory, Power Phil, and Rackman, each of whom is making his first start on dirt.

River Seven was a Sovereign Award finalist in his division last year after finishing second in the six-furlong Vandal and winning the Grey. But after opening up his sophomore campaign with a fourth-place finish in the seven-furlong Queenston, River Seven ended eighth after stumbling badly at the start of the Plate Trial and then was 10th in the Queen’s Plate.

“He’s doing great,” said Nick Gonzalez, who conditions River Seven and Midnight Aria for the Tucci Stable of Carlo and Lou Tucci. “He’s just got to rebound from the subpar performance. As elated as I was for the other guy, I was disappointed in ‘River.’ I’ve always held him in high esteem. He’s just going to have to step it up, and I think he’s going to.”

River Seven tuned up for the Prince of Wales with a five-furlong breeze of 1:00 on the Woodbine training track July 21, his second solid move over the surface this summer.

“I had him at Gulfstream over the winter and he worked dynamite on the dirt there, too,” said Gonzalez.

Eurico Rosa da Silva, aboard for River Seven’s Grey victory, regains the mount.

Niigon’s Glory also has worked well on Woodbine’s training track, including a 47.40 half-mile breeze last Thursday under his regular rider Steven Bahen.

“We put some blinkers on him to focus him up,” said Rob Landry, general manager of Chiefswood Stable, the owner and breeder of Niigon’s Glory. “His last couple of races, he’s run a little spotty. He’s not intimidated – it’s just a focusing issue.”

Niigon’s Glory, who is trained by Rachel Halden, is coming off three consecutive second-place finishes in 1 1/16-mile restricted allowance races.

“Rachel thinks he’s a little bit better than his record, that he has a good race in him, and I agree,” said Landry. “A couple of those second-place finishes could have been wins if he was more focused.”

Power Phil, owned by Frank DiGiulio and trained by Bob Tiller, finished third when making his seasonal bow in Woodbine’s open Woodstock at six furlongs and then defeated Niigon’s Glory by 4 3/4 lengths when stretching out to 1 1/16 miles. But in his last two starts, which came in second-level restricted allowance races at 1 1/8 miles, Power Phil finished second as an odds-on choice.

“He’s had a couple of real tiring Polytracks his last two starts,” said Tiller. “He does a lot of training on the dirt, and I’m not afraid of the distance. I think he’ll handle it.”

Luis Contreras, who guided the gelding to his maiden win last October, will ride Power Phil for the first time this season in the Prince of Wales.

Rackman finished last of 12 in the Queens’ Plate, but Nick Nosowenko, his trainer and co-owner, remains optimistic.

“He had a little issue there,” said Nosowenko. “He’s doing great now.”