06/28/2012 12:31PM

Woodbine notes: Strait of Dover will bypass Prince of Wales Stakes

Michael Burns
Strait of Dover will be pointed to the Breeders’ Stakes over 1 1/2 miles of turf at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Nominations for Fort Erie’s Prince of Wales Stakes on July 15 are due Sunday, but one prominent name will be missing when they are made available next week – Strait of Dover, the impressive winner of last Sunday’s Queen’s Plate, will not be carrying on for the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

Danny Vella, who trains Strait of Dover for the Canyon Farm of Wally and Terry Leong, suggested after the Queen’s Plate that the colt would skip the 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales due to his lackluster previous experiences racing and training on the dirt.

And following serious discussions with the Leongs this week, Vella confirmed Thursday that Strait of Dover would train up to the $500,000 Breeders’, a 1 1/2-mile turf race which concludes the Triple Crown series for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds here Aug. 5.

“He tries so hard,” Vella said. “When a horse gives you what he gave you in the Queen’s Plate, carrying 126 pounds over a mile and a quarter and setting a track record, you can’t run a horse like that on a track he might struggle on.

“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse, for me and the owners. We’re looking forward to a long career with him. We don’t want to jeopardize that.”

River Seven debuts in Clarendon

Trainer Nick Gonzalez has an intriguing prospect for Saturday’s $125,000 Clarendon in River Seven, who will be making his first lifetime start in the 5 1/2-furlong stakes for Ontario-foaled 2-year-olds.

Bred in Ontario by Bill Graham, River Seven sold for $80,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale and was re-entered in Fasig-Tipton Florida’s select 2-year-old sale in March.

Owners Carlo and Lou Tucci were interested in River Seven, who is by Johannesburg out of Sans Souci Island, a turf stakes winner here for trainer Roger Attfield. Gonzalez had approached consignor Lynne Boutte with an offer of $60,000, which was turned down.

But when Boutee hit a home run with a $1.2 million yearling and River Seven failed to meet his reserve, she accepted the Gonzalez offer and the colt went down as a $60,000 post-sale purchase.

“Ever since he came up here to me, this race has been the target,” said Martha Gonzalez, wife of the trainer and his assistant based here at Woodbine. “I didn’t want to run him 4 1/2 furlongs or five furlongs; he needs to get his feet underneath him.

“He’s a big, good-looking horse and he’s an early February foal, which is a plus. He’s a nice horse now, but he’s kind of weedy. I think he’s going to get better as he gets older. He’s still growing, developing.”

River Seven had his final tune-up for the Clarendon last Saturday, breezing five furlongs in 1:00.60 while going in company with stablemate Man Stuff, a fast 3-year-old filly who is 2 for 3 and finished a close third in the Alywow Stakes last time out.

Emma-Jayne Wilson has the call on River Seven, who is one of three first-time starters in the field of eight.

Bison City, Dominion Day top Sunday card

Woodbine will be presenting a stakes doubleheader here Sunday with the $250,000 Bison City and the $150,000 Dominion Day sharing the spotlight.

The 1 1/16-mile Bison City follows the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks as the second leg of the triple tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Irish Mission, who won the June 3 Woodbine Oaks, and Dixie Strike, a disappointing fifth as the favorite, returned to run second and third in the Queen’s Plate.

Northern Passion, Awesome Fire, and Black Bird Rock finished second through fourth in the Woodbine Oaks and will be back in action for the Bison City.

Blue Heart, winner of the open Mazarine Stakes at 1 1/16 miles here last fall and a close second when making her 2012 bow in the June 3 Alywow over 6 1/2 furlongs of turf, also should attract significant support.

Casa Loma, coming off a third-place finish behind Northern Passion and Alywow winner Dene Court in the seven-furlong Fury here April 29, and the maiden Simple As That round out the field of six.

The Grade 3 Dominion Day, a 1 1/4-mile race for 3-year-olds and up, also came up light in numbers with a field of six.

Hunter’s Bay, impressive winner of the Grade 3 Eclipse Stakes over 1 1/16 miles here May 26, is the top local contender for the Dominion Day.

Pender Harbour, ninth when making his seasonal bow in the Eclipse but then successful in the restricted Steady Growth at the same distance, and longshot Medidocihospisurg, who was supplemented at a cost of $4,000, are the other Woodbine-based horses in the lineup.

Straight Story, Stately Victor, and Newsdad are expected from points south of the border.

DiMarco gets an emotional victory

The winner’s circle was overflowing with emotion here Wednesday night after Gallop’n Miss won a $25,000 maiden claiming race for trainer John Di Marco.

Di Marco’s wife and assistant, Mary, died this spring at age 65 and on Thursday morning the trainer wanted to acknowledge the outpouring of support that his family had received from the backstretch community.

Di Marco had special words of thanks for trainer Sam DiPasquale, who had organized a fundraising raffle, and the jockey agents who had supported and promoted the venture.

Steve Koch, Woodbine’s vice president of Thoroughbred racing, contributed on behalf of the Avelino Gomez Foundation and HBPA president Sue Leslie on behalf of her group to help the family cover the cost of the funeral and its attendant expenses.

“Mary was so fond of everybody back here, and they must have thought highly of her,” said Di Marco, whose sons Frank, John, and Ralph all work on the backstretch.

◗ Woodbine television personality Renee Kierans will be hosting a tour of the backstretch here Saturday. A continental breakfast will be available in the trackside tent at 10:30 a.m., and the tour begins at 11 a.m. Pre-registration is available at WoodbineEntertainment.com/seminars.

◗ Bidding on the saddlecloths worn by the 14 Queen’s Plate participants will be available on eBay until about noon Tuesday. Proceeds from the sale of the saddlecloths, which were donated by the Woodbine Entertainment Group, will go to the LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society.

◗ Justin Stein, who piloted Strait of Dover to victory in the Queen’s Plate, will be signing commemorative photos from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. here Saturday on the second floor of the grandstand.