06/03/2012 5:43PM

Woodbine: Irish Mission wins Woodbine Oaks; Queen's Plate may be next

Michael Burns
Ridden for the first time by Alex Solis, Irish Mission wins the Woodbine Oaks on Sunday.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Irish Mission probably punched her ticket to the $1 million Queen’s Plate with a determined score under Alex Solis in Sunday’s $500,400 Woodbine Oaks.

Irish Mission pressed a slow pace on the outside in the nine-furlong route, and then hit the front at the sixteenth pole before holding off the closers to prevail by three-quarters of a length in 1:50.50.

Northern Passion, the 2-1 second choice, came on strongly on the outside from far back to finish second by a head over 35-1 shot Awesome Fire. Pacemaker Black Bird Rock was another 1 1/2 lengths back in fourth, a head in front of heavily favored Dixie Strike, who flattened out after making a wide bid. Waitinginthewings checked in sixth in the nine-horse field of Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Irish Mission had beaten maidens on the grass in her previous start, which came at Keeneland. The Oaks was her first race with Solis aboard. She paid $20.50.

“I worked her a few times, and really liked what I had underneath me,” said Solis. “We had in mind to just keep her close to the pace. The more that I asked her, the more she gave. She was a very classy lady today.”

It was the fourth Oaks triumph for trainer Mark Frostad, who was non-committal about the June 24 Plate, but said it was a serious possibility. He said the large daughter of Giant’s Causeway has been slow to develop.

“She’s nearly 17 hands, and she was very backward as a 2-year-old,” Frostad said. “She’s grown into herself and is a lot stronger than she was. She seems to be getting better all the time.”

Irish Mission collected $300,000 in her first stakes victory. She is owned by Robert Evans, who purchased her for $375,000 as a yearling from breeder Sam-Son Farm.