04/20/2011 11:33AM

Queen's Plate the goal for Oh Canada

Michael Burns
Oh Canada impressed with his win in the Woodstock Stakes.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Bob Tiller and owner/breeder Frank DiGiulio began their 2001 trek to the Queen’s Plate with Win City when that gelding finished third in the Achievement, which then was the first sprint stakes of the meeting for the division. This year, the longtime partners could find themselves on the same road with Oh Canada, who won the six-furlong Woodstock in his seasonal bow here last Saturday.

“Frankie’s got a dream of winning the Queen’s Plate,” said Tiller. “The next step is the Queenston; we’ll go from there. I’m reserving judgement, but if he’ll relax, I think he’ll go long.”

Win City won the seven-furlong Queenston, 1 1/16-mile Marine, and 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial before finishing a heartbreaking second in the Queen’s Plate. The homebred subsequently took home Sovereign Awards as Horse of the Year and top 3-year-old male.

Oh Canada obviously has a long way to go to match those exploits, but his success in the Woodstock certainly was a step in the right direction.

“We basically wanted to get a race into him, and he went out and won,” said Tiller. “He moved a little early, and he was out in the middle of the track. I was impressed.”

Oh Canada, who was ridden for the first time on Sunday by Luis Contreras, was bred by DiGiulio in Ontario and was gelded as a yearling.

“Bobby Wingo had him in Florida, and he liked this horse quite a bit,” said Tiller, crediting that late horseman for Oh Canada’s early preparations. “I was surprised. We had a few other foals out of the mare who weren’t that good.”

Oh Canada returned to his native land last spring and had a chip taken out of his ankle in early May.

“The operation was a success, and we gave him the required time,” said Tiller. “We got him back in training, and right from Day 1 he was an exciting horse. He was doing everything we asked him to do.”

On Nov. 21, Oh Canada made his first start and was a going-away winner at six furlongs. Back in action on Dec. 4 in a first-level allowance at seven furlongs, Oh Canada led to late stretch before coming up a half-length short and finishing second.

“Basically, he wasn’t fit enough to run seven-eighths that day, and he just got caught,” said Tiller. “I was impressed with both his races.”

Tiller believes that racing late in the season was an asset for Oh Canada coming into this 3-year-old campaign.

“He basically only had about six weeks off,” said Tiller, who sent Oh Canada to Paul Buttigieg’s nearby farm and training center following his seasonal finale. “We turned him out, and kept a close eye on him. He started jogging there Jan. 14. Then he came in here and worked six times, a couple of halves and a couple of five-eighths. He didn’t really back off.”