06/25/2007 12:00AM

Mike Fox's team put together late


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Heading into the 2007 Woodbine meeting, trainer Ian Black and jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson did not have even a remote connection to Mike Fox.

But Black and Wilson now will be mentioned in the same breath as Mike Fox for years to come after the colt registered an upset victory here in Sunday's $1 million Queen's Plate.

Owned by D. Morgan Firestone, Mike Fox was trained here last year by Reade Baker and over the winter in Florida by Cliff Hopmans.

Black had taken on a couple of other horses for Firestone here this spring but did not discover until mid-April that Mike Fox would be joining his string.

The trainer then approached Wilson's agent, Mike Luider, to see if Wilson might be interested in riding Mike Fox.

Wilson galloped Mike Fox shortly after his arrival here in late April, and breezed the colt for the first time on May 2.

The team that would give Wilson, Black, and Firestone their first Queen's Plate victory was in place.

Media flock toward Wilson

Wilson, 25, came into the current season off back-to-back Sovereign Awards as Canada's outstanding apprentice, and she also won an Eclipse Award in that category in 2005.

But becoming the first female jockey to win the Queen's Plate, just one year after trainer Josie Carroll made a similar breakthrough with Edenwold, put Wilson at the center of a media frenzy.

"It just seems like a dream," said Wilson, after making her first of what would be several television appearances and amidst a host of radio interviews here Monday morning while requests continued to pour in. "Part of the way I see it, this is a significant piece of history. I'm not one to play the 'female' card. I don't see myself as a female jockey, but as a jockey who happens to be female.

"But, I'm not going to overlook something that's so significant."

Mike Fox was the second Queen's Plate mount for Wilson, who had finished 12th of 13 aboard the 50-1 Bridgecut last year.

Black no stranger to Queen's Plate winner's circle

While Wilson found herself in the media spotlight Black was content to go about his business in relative anonymity here Monday morning.

Black, 63, lives at Kinghaven Farm and was the farm manager there for 30 years before taking out his trainer's license in 2005.

In his Kinghaven role, Black had been part of five Queen's Plate winner's circle celebrations with trainer Roger Attfield but Sunday's was his first in his own right.

Mike Fox was Black's 152nd career starter and 24th winner.

On Monday morning, Black was typically low-key and seemed most pleased for owner Firestone, racing manager Hugh Graham, and Wilson.

"It's amazing, for Morgan and Hugh, to breed a horse like this and have him turn out the way he did," said Black. "You imagine it happening, but you still find it hard to believe it when it does. And, I can't say enough about Emma."

Black also was quick to credit Bruce Smither, who also is a trainer here but galloped Mike Fox in Florida this past winter and since his return to Woodbine.

The Queen's Plate also was a family affair for Black, whose two daughters were raised at Kinghaven.

Sarah, his younger daughter, is married to Jeff Bowen, who is Black's valued assistant trainer. The couple has two children.

Firestone, a retired businessman who has been involved in racing since 1984 and has invested significant amounts through the ensuing years, was a popular winner, even among his Queen's Plate competitors.

Although in ill health and mostly confined to a wheelchair, Firestone was a presence at all the events building up to the Queen's Plate and was on the winner's circle stage to celebrate the victory.

Smart Enough may return for Woodbine Mile

Sunday could have been an even better day for Wilson but Stradivinsky, her mount in the $201,200 Highlander, finished third as the odds-on choice over six furlongs of turf.

Smart Enough, 4-year-old gelding based in Maryland, shipped in to capture the Highlander as the 5-2 second choice under Patrick Husbands.

"It's almost impossible to find a six-furlong turf race," said trainer John Fisher, citing that distance and the $200,000 pot as convincing reasons for bringing Smart Enough to Woodbine.

Smart Enough is scheduled to make his next appearance at Belmont in the Grade 3, $100,000 Poker, a one-mile turf race on July 14.

"If he ran well enough there we might consider him for the Woodbine Mile," said Fisher.

The Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, a $1 million turf race, will be run here Sept. 16.

Fisher also will be keeping a long-term eye on the Grade 2, $500,000 Nearctic, a six-furlong turf race here Oct. 21.

Handle up impressively

Business was brisk Sunday with all-sources handle of $5,525,468 on the 11-race Woodbine card, an 11 percent increase from last year's $4,967,164.

Of that total, $1,599,160 came ontrack, an increase of 33 percent from last year's $1,197,159.

Despite an eight-horse field as opposed to 13 last year, the 2007 Queen's Plate attracted $1,672,689 from all sources, an increase of 13 percent compared with $1,475,947 in 2006.

A crowd estimated at 15,500, which is a serious number in Woodbine's modern era, was on hand for the occasion.