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Updated on 09/16/2011 8:36AM
Looks aren't everything for Classic Mike
ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Classic Mike may not win any beauty contests, but that will be of little import to trainer Reade Baker and owner Dom Romeo. They only hope Classic Mike is looking like a million bucks after taking home the winner's share of that purse in Sunday's Queen's Plate here at Woodbine.
"He's certainly not a pretty horse, but he's a healthy horse," said Baker. "He's not very well balanced, and he's on the short side. But I've trained a number of big, beautiful slow ones."
Classic Mike, a 13-length winner when entered for a $50,000 claiming price in his only start at 2, disappointed in his first two starts this spring.
But the gelding has blossomed since stretching out and hooking up with jockey Jono Jones, winning a 1 1/16-mile allowance race that included older horses and then finishing a closing second behind Shaws Creek in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial after lacking room at a critical juncture.
"He's certainly easier to work, to work around and to rate than he was 30 days ago," said Baker.
Nevertheless, the Trial was an adventure from the post parade onward for Classic Mike, who emerged from the race bloodied but unbowed.
"He bit his tongue," said Baker, who was unaware of the incident until he went to unsaddle his charge. "Jono said he did it on post parade.
"He also was a handful in the gate, but we've schooled him a number of times since then. The gate crew's done an excellent job working with him. He'll be much better this time."
Baker also is unconcerned by the fact that Classic Mike's repertoire does not yet include changing leads.
"I'll leave that up to Classic Mike to decide, whether he wants to change leads," said the trainer.
In the Trial, Baker said, "From the eighth pole home, he looked to be going better then all of them."
Work tab heats up
Classic Mike was one of four Plate candidates - along with Ford Every Stream, Mountain Beacon, and Bravely - to work over the fast main track here Monday morning.
With Jones aboard, Classic Mike breezed five furlongs in 1:01, getting his first three furlongs in 35.20 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:16.20.
"We're going in the right direction," said Baker. "I wouldn't trade chances with anybody."
Ford Every Stream and Mountain Beacon worked six furlongs in company along with their Sam-Son Farm stablemate Soaring Free, another promising Canadian-bred 3-year-old who made a winning debut here recently.
Ford Every Stream, timed in 47 seconds for his opening half-mile, was clocked in 1:12.80, the fastest of seven works at the distance, and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:26.40 under regular rider Todd Kabel.
Soaring Free finished in 1:13.20 under exercise rider Rusty Hand while Mountain Beacon, with jockey Robert Landry in the irons, was timed in 47.40 seconds for his first half and 1:13.40 for the six furlongs before galloping out seven furlongs in 1:27.
"We didn't want to take too much out of them before the big race," said trainer Mark Frostad.
Ford Every Stream will enter the Plate off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Marine, an open race over 1 1/16 miles here May 18. Mountain Beacon ran ninth of 11 in the Trial.
Bravely, the seventh-place finisher in the Trial, drilled five furlongs in 59.80 seconds under new rider Constant Montpellier.
Working in company with stablemate Geraint, who finished 15th in the 1999 Plate, Bravely was clocked in 34.20 seconds for his first three furlongs and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.60.
Geraint, also timed in 59.80 seconds, worked under jockey Jake Barton, who rode Bravely in his first three starts this year but will be aboard Shaws Creek in the Plate.
"They broke off together and went head and head, all the way around," said trainer Catherine Day-Phillips, who also owns Bravely under the Kingfield Farm banner.
"He's sharp, on his toes, enjoying life. Hopefully, it's all systems forward."
Cree Power works in slop
Cree Power, who is heading to the Plate off a fourth-place finish over 1 1/8 miles in the open Victoria Park, worked four furlongs in 51.80 seconds on a sloppy training track under exercise rider Calvin Gyles here Sunday.
"He went nice and easy," said Mike Doyle, who trains Cree Power for the Hendrie Stable of Geordie Hendrie. "He actually went great--he went slow, but he went great.
"Now we just have to keep him happy, and bring him over."
Anglian Prince goes a mile
Anglian Prince, winner of the Marine before finishing third in the Trial for owner Leonard Prussky and trainer Mort Hardy, had his major Plate tune-up on a fast main track here last Saturday, working a mile in 1:41.20 and galloping out 1 1/8 miles in 1:55 under regular rider Jim McAleney.
"He had another horse jump in with him at the half-mile pole," said McAleney, who guided Anglian Prince through an opening half of :52 and picked up the pace through six furlongs in 1:16.
"It was a little exercise, having run at a horse and then run past him. Mort changed the blinkers a little bit.
"The time wasn't blistering, but it was what he needed. I've got a lot of confidence in him; he's spot-on."
* The list of Plate probables reached 13 with the addition of Streakin Rob, owned by Rob Cudney and Allan Kent and trained by Jim Day.
Streakin Rob, who won the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity at 2 but has been a major disappointment in three starts this year, will be ridden by apprentice Chantal Sutherland.
* Mr. Epperson breezed five furlongs in 1:02 on the main track Monday and will be looking to defend his title in the Plate Day supporting feature, the $200,000 Nearctic Handicap The Nearctic is a Grade 2, six-furlong turf race for 3-year-olds and upward.
"He went nice and easy," said trainer Scott Fairlie, who also owns Mr. Epperson in partnership with Brian Brolley and Ron Marlow. "He's all set."
* Montpellier has been fined $300 after the stewards ruled he struck his winning mount, Vorticity, on the head during the stretch run of last Wednesday's second race.
QUEEN'S PLATE CANDIDATES
Queen's Plate, $1 million, 1 1/4 miles, Sunday, June 23
|Adjalah||D Bell||R Dos Ramos|
|Anglian Prince||M Hardy||J McAleney|
|Barbeau Ruckus||R Armata||Luciani|
|Bravely||C Day-Phillips||C Montpellier|
|Classic Mike||R Baker||J Jones|
|Cree Power||M Doyle||E Ramsammy|
|Ford Every Stream||M Frostad||T Kabel|
|Forever Grand||R Tiller||P Husbands|
|Mountain Beacon||M Frostad||R Landry|
|Shaws Creek||J Ross||J Barton|
|Streakin Rob||J Day||C Sutherland|
|T J's Lucky Moon||V Armata||S Bahen|
|Twice Bid||R Attfield||M Walls|