Updated on 07/10/2013 8:36AM

Woodbine: Midnight Aria wins Queen's Plate at 16-1

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Michael Burns
Midnight Aria (No. 1), with Jesse Campbell aboard, won the Queen's Plate by a half-length Sunday for his first stakes victory.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Midnight Aria led all the way at 16-1 in Sunday’s $1 million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, holding off a charging Up With the Birds in the 154th running of the Canadian classic.

On paper, Midnight Aria was the lone speed in the 1 1/4-mile route. Under Jesse Campbell, he was allowed to set uncontested fractions of 24.63 seconds, 48.58, and 1:13.65 over a speed-favoring Polytrack surface that had taken heavy rainfall. He opened up a three-length cushion on the far turn before holding on for a half-length tally in 2:04.72.

“The trip was just like we were hoping,” Campbell said. “He broke good and was very comfortable from the get-go. I thought we were going a tick slower than what the fractions were, but with the rain, it does tighten up the track a little bit. I wanted to press the button at the three-eighths pole, which sounds too soon, but I wanted some separation turning for home. I didn’t care about opening up and getting beat at the wire. That’s the way I wanted it, and it worked.”

Up With the Birds, the 8-5 favorite trained by Malcolm Pierce, raced well back early before commencing a three-wide rally on the far turn under Eurico Rosa da Silva.

“I had a dream trip,” da Silva said. “Everything opened up for me, but [Midnight Aria] got away. In this rain, I was really scared of the speed. I moved my horse early to try and get a little closer, but we could not get there.”

Dynamic Sky and Spring in the Air, two Mark Casse-trained runners, finished a distant third and fourth. After failing to rate kindly, Nipissing, the 5-1 second choice, never reached contention and wound up eighth in the 12-horse field of Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

Midnight Aria ($35.20) earned $600,000 for his first stakes score. He was claimed for a bargain $35,000 last winter at Gulfstream Park by Tucci Stable and trainer Nick Gonzalez. Gonzalez also won the 2010 Plate with the front-running Big Red Mike.

“I remember filling out the slip before we claimed him, [thinking] that he had to be a big, good-looking horse because they paid $80,000 for him as a yearling,” Gonzalez said.