TORONTO – Ami’s Holiday couldn’t find a clear path to the winner’s circle in the Queen’s Plate or the Prince of Wales Stakes, so he got another chance in the Breeders’ Stakes.
Under a clean ride from jockey Luis Contreras on Sunday afternoon, Ami’s Holiday cruised by horses on the outside to win the $500,000 final jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown.
Second to Lexie Lou in the Queen’s Plate on polytrack and third to Coltimus Prime in the Prince of Wales on dirt, Ami’s Holiday validated trainer Josie Carroll’s confidence by winning on the turf course at Woodbine Racetrack.
“I think it says a lot about this horse,” Carroll said. “Not many horses can do all three and do them well, so I just think we have an exceptional horse.”
Ami’s Holiday, who beat long shot Interpol by three-quarters of a length, was the only horse to run all three legs of the Canadian Triple Crown. The morning-line favourite who went off as the second choice at odds of 2-to-1 showed no fatigue from his third race in seven weeks and looked to be on top of his game at 1 1/2-mile.
After the Prince of Wales last month, Carroll had some reservations about bringing Ami’s Holiday back for the 124th running of the Breeders’ Stakes. He had never run on turf before, but she told owner Ivan Dalos it was worth seeing what Ami’s Holiday had to offer.
“When I put him on the course he just lit it up. I said, ‘Boy, we’ve got to take a serious look,”‘ Carroll said. “The last three days he’s been wanting to eat meat. He’s been really serious. Here we are and he got it done.”
Ami’s Holiday got it done in 2:30.12, paying 6.70 to win, 3.80 to place and 2.80 to show. He impressed Carroll by saving some acceleration for the finish and galloping out strong.
With Big Red Bugsy setting the pace as the early leader, Contreras kept Ami’s Holiday in stalking position “sitting behind the speed” but not too far back in the pack.
“I wanted to keep him with the other horses, keep him busy,” Contreras said. “I know my horse is very brave, he’s been in trouble before. He was going great.”
Carroll told Contreras that “trouble always seems to find this horse and instructed him to use the big, wide turf course at Woodbine. The 28-year-old who won the 2011 Breeders’ Stakes aboard Pender Harbour did just that.
“It was really well done on Luis’s part,” Carroll said. “I think because we run so few mile and a half races in North America, the jockeys don’t ride as many and sometimes they think they have to take back, have to take back and when everybody’s taking back you’ve got no pace in front and you can’t close.
“And I think he just really read this race well at every stage.”
Rolling along the outside down the stretch, Ami’s Holiday passed final-turn leader Squeeze the King and Interpol to hit the wire first. It was the horse’s “tremendous kick at the end” that Contreras said made it happen.
Eurico Rosa da Silva, who rode Up With the Birds to last year’s Breeders’ Stakes title, thought he had a winning trip with Squeeze the King, who finished third.
“When we got to the stretch, the pace was very slow, so I thought I’m going to kick it in here because I had so much horse and I thought I was going to get the money,” da Silva said. “But he ran a great race.”
Bangkok was fourth. Unikat, the post-time favourite at 2-to-1, finished last in the 12-horse field.
Interpol’s jockey, Jesse Campbell, was thrilled the 18-to-1 shot made such a huge run to get up for second.
“He was getting tired in the end, but he kept hanging in there,” Campbell said. “He ran so hard. You have to be proud of him. The best horse won the race. I’m tickled to run second.”
Carroll was glad to run second to Lexie Lou in the Queen’s Plate on July 6, even if a better trip might’ve landed Ami’s Holiday in first with a legitimate shot at the first Canadian Triple Crown since Wando in 2003.
“It’s really tough to second guess a trip in the Queen’s Plate,” Carroll said. “You can’t take anything away from the filly that won that race. At the end of the day, she ran her race, she won it, she gets all the credit and we did it today.”
© The Canadian Press, 2014