06/26/2004 11:00PM

Niigon gives Landry first Queen's Plate

Michael Burns
Owners Mark (left) and Robert Krembil lead Niigon and Robert Landry to the winner's circle following their victory in the 145th Queen's Plate at Woodbine on Sunday.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Niigon, the 5-1 third choice in a 13-horse field, held 6-5 favorite A Bit O'Gold at bay throughout the stretch to capture the 145th running of the $1 million at Woodbine Sunday.

It was the first Plate victory in 14 tries for journeyman Robert Landry, who was Canada's Sovereign-award winning rider in 1993-94. Trainer Eric Coatrieux finished first and seventh (Alleged Ruler) with his first two Plate starters, while Catherine Day Phillips was second in her bid to become the first female trainer to win the mile and a quarter event for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

After breaking from the outside post, Niigon got hung out six-wide on the clubhouse turn, and ended up pressing front-running Silver Ticket through fractions of :23.31 seconds and :47.83 seconds.

Niigon hit the front at the half-mile pole, as A Bit O'Gold commenced a wide rally from mid-pack under Jono Jones. A Bit O'Gold chased Niigon around the far turn and through the stretch, but never got closer than three-quarters of a length, which was the winning margin. The final time was 2:04.72 seconds.

"He broke well, and I had a nice stalking position," said Landry. "He was running along comfortably, and basically just took me around there. I still had a lot of horse at the top of the lane, and when I asked him to run, he kicked on. When A Bit O'Gold got within a length of him, he picked up the bit again, and wouldn't let him by galloping out.

"He's a big, long-striding horse, and the whole plan was to let him find his stride," Landry continued. "The track was favoring outside speed today. You had to be close to the pace, and that's what I let him do."

Will He Crow closed wide from 12th to finish another seven and three-quarter lengths back in third, completing a triactor worth $742.40. Just In Case Jimmy, another longshot, rounded out a $5,343.70 superfecta. The exactor returned $33.80.

His Smoothness, Strike Em Hard, Alleged Ruler, Silver Ticket, Copper Trail, Kent Ridge, Archer Fleet, Night Sky and Long Pond completed the order of finish.

Niigon ($13.80) banked $600,000 in his first stakes win for owners Mark and Robert Krembil, who race as Chiefswood Stable.

A son of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, Niigon has won two of nine starts, for earnings of $723,264.

The betting handle on Sunday's 11-race live card at Woodbine was $4,952,151.