04/19/2012 2:26PM

Woodbine: Strait of Dover takes first step on Queen's Plate trail


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Strait of Dover, who made a good impression here last fall in two starts for trainer Danny Vella, will be beginning his 3-year-old campaign here Sunday with a long-term eye to the Queen’s Plate.

“I’m excited about him,” said Vella, who will send out Strait of Dover in a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs. “I hope he’ll be a Plate horse.”

Strait of Dover had raced without distinction in two maiden events on the dirt at Vancouver’s Hastings when he was sent to Vella here late last fall. His owner and breeder, Wally Young of Canyon Farm, had been steered to Vella by R.J. Bennett, who has campaigned a couple of horses with the trainer here at Woodbine.

“I liked to him right from the first time I had him,” said Vella. “He’s a well-bred horse, by English Channel out of a Danzig mare.”

Strait to Dover took to the synthetic surface here, finishing first at 43-1 in a six-furlong maiden race on Nov. 6 only to have his number taken down. Three weeks later at 6 1/2 furlongs, Strait of Dover made no mistakes with a 1 /2-length victory under returning rider Justin Stein.

“I thought it was a pretty tough field and that he won easily,” said Vella. “He got in trouble and was going away at the end.”

With a eye toward the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate, Strait of Dover wintered at Nelson Jones Farm in the Ocala area.

“He blossomed very well, but he didn’t work very fast,” said Vella. “He didn’t like the dirt there. He’s had a couple of good works since he come back. He’s ready now. He’s looking like a racehorse.”

Sunday’s allowance field also includes the promising Prince Raphael, a Queen’s Plate hopeful who was an impressive winner in his second start , which came at seven furlongs here last September. Prince Raphael, trained by Debbie England, worked five furlongs in a bullet 59.20 here last Sunday.

◗ Andy Serling, the popular New York Racing Association television analyst and handicapper, will be on hand here Saturday for a one-hour seminar beginning at 11 a.m. The session will take place on the third floor of the grandstand. Serling will discuss a variety of topics including New York racing and the upcoming Belmont meet.