Updated on 06/27/2012 4:04PM

Woodbine: Queen's Plate goes to front-running Strait of Dover

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Michael Burns
Strait of Dover sets a Woodbine track record for 1 1/4 miles by winning the Queen's Plate in 2:01.99.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario—Strait of Dover went right to the front under Justin Stein and never looked back to win a rapid renewal of the $1 million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine on Sunday.

Strait of Dover lowered the 1 1/4-mile Polytrack record by .19 of a second to 2:01.99 in the 153rd running of the Canadian classic. Trained by Danny Vella, Strait of Dover returned $9.60 as the second betting choice, and earned $600,000 for owner Canyon Farm.

Woodbine Oaks winner Irish Mission, an 8-1 shot, rallied four-wide from mid-pack to finish 1 1/4 lengths  back in second. Dixie Strike, another good filly, closed belatedly for third, and the stalking Colleen’s Sailor tired to complete a superfecta worth $4,271.35. Ultimate Destiny edged out 7-2 favorite River Rush for fifth in the 14-horse field of Canadian-breds.

On a track that was noticeably favoring speed, Strait of Dover set honest but not taxing fractions of 23.85 seconds, 47.74, and 1:12.31, with light rain falling.

“I’ve loved this horse all along,” said Stein. “He’s shown me that he’s a racehorse. He wants to win. He calmed right down as we went into the gate. I didn’t have to be on the lead, but no one else wanted to go. We were going pretty easy, so I just let him roll on up there. He galloped around there like a champ.”

The Plate was the fourth straight win for Strait of Dover, and hehas finished first in all five starts on Woodbine’s Polytrack, counting a maiden race in which he was disqualified. He was coming off an easy victory in the May 12 Marine Stakes, and then missed the Plate Trial Stakes due to a minor blood disorder, which wasn’t a major concern for Vella.

“I wasn’t scared to miss the Trial,” Vella said.

It was the second Queen’s Plate victory for Vella, who said pre-race strategy included the option of making the lead with Strait of Dover.

“We talked about it with Justin, analyzed the race, and thought it was a possibility that we’d end up on the front end,” Vella explained. “We really didn’t want that. You’re doing the work for everyone else, but if you’re there, you’re there. Justin is a great rider, with a lot of confidence. He knew when he was out there that he’d have to try and slow it down. He’s a great horse, and it was a great ride.”

Vella said Strait of Dover, a son of English Channel, is not a cinch to run back in the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes on the dirt at Fort Erie on July 15. Strait of Dover ran poorly on the dirt at Hastings as a 2-year-old.

Alex Solis said he had a good trip aboard the huge chestnut Irish Mission, trained by Mark Frostad.

“She ran really hard,” Solis explained. “She was trying to get that horse, and he’s a very nice horse. Every time I would get close to him, he had another gear. It was a great race. It took a track record to beat [her].”