09/23/2010 1:29PM

Queen's Plate 1-2 meet again in Ontario Derby

Michael Burns
Jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva celebrates Big Red Mike's front-running victory in the $1 million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Big Red Mike and Hotep, the top two finishers in this year’s Queen’s Plate, will meet Saturday at Woodbine in the $150,000 Ontario Derby. The nine-furlong route has lured seven other 3-year-olds, including Grade 1 Blue Grass winner Stately Victor.

Big Red Mike is trained by Nick Gonzalez, who won the 2007 Ontario Derby with longshot Artie Hot.

Big Red Mike notched his stakes debut June 13 in the nine-furlong Plate Trial, which set him up nicely for the 151st running of the Plate on July 4. With Queen Elizabeth in attendance, Big Red Mike went right to the front and rode a speed bias to a daylight score in the 1 1/4-mile event.

Three weeks later, Big Red Mike was a stalking third behind the unbeaten Golden Moka in the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes on the dirt at Fort Erie.

Gonzalez said Big Red Mike was over the top after the Prince of Wales, so he sent him to Huntington Farm for a freshening.

“I turned him out where he was born and raised for exactly two weeks,” Gonzalez recalled. “We brought him back in and breezed him three times. I was pleased with the way he came back. He was always a big horse, but he was always tucked-up and fit looking. He put 100 pounds on during that two-week rest. Even after I breezed him three times, he kept most of it on. I’m happy with him. We’ve got a nice, fresh horse.”

Hotep, trained by Mark Frostad for Sam-Son Farm, was on the Kentucky Derby trail last winter at Fair Grounds, before shipping back here to take the May 8 Wando Stakes. He subsequently ran second in both the Marine Stakes and the $1 million Plate, in which he tracked Big Red Mike all the way around.

Frostad said he decided to give Hotep a break after the son of A.P. Indy finished fourth in the Prince of Wales.

“He’d had a hard campaign getting there,” Frostad said. “He had been going pretty strong all winter.”

Stately Victory had a breakout performance in the April 10 Blue Grass at Keeneland, winning the nine-furlong Polytrack stakes at 40-1. He was never in the hunt in each of his three starts since then, which included eighth-place finishes in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Hotep and Stately Victory are both adding blinkers.