Blinkers on and another furlong provided a potent 1-2 punch to allow Wonder Gadot to knock out 15 rivals and win the Queen’s Plate on Saturday at Woodbine.
Coming off disappointing runners-up finishes in the Kentucky and Woodbine Oaks, Wonder Gadot left no doubt about her superiority against Canadian breds with a decisive move on the far turn to win going away in 2:02.26 for 1 ¼ miles on Woodbine Tapeta.
“The Kentucky Oaks was disappointing to lose,” Casse said. “I thought it would have been cool to win that one for Canada then point here. She’s unlucky but tough. This is a special win.”
Casse trains Wonder Gadot for Gary Barber. The pair also won the 2014 Queen’s Plate with Lexie Lou making Barber the first owner in the 159-year history of the race to win with two fillies.
“Mark told me this was a special filly from the start and that I should pick out a special name for her,” Barber said. “My friend at Warner Bros. was coming out with a film [Wonder Woman], and we named Wonder Gadot after the star, Gal Gadot.”
A Canadian Triple Crown does not appear in the cards this year, as Barber said he hopes the summer target for his Medaglia d’Oro filly is the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, which like the Queen’s Plate is 1 ¼ miles (but on dirt). That said, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown—the Prince of Wales Stakes at 1 3/16 miles on dirt at For Erie—could be her next start.
“It’d be fun to race in the Prince of Wales, and I’d love to see her in the Alabama,” Barber said. “It’s up to Mark; I never make any demands on my trainer.”
“I’ve never strayed from her being a mile-and-a-quarter horse,” Casse said. “The Prince of Wales could set her up for the Alabama, so we’ll just see how she comes out of this.”
Another variable facing the Queen’s Plate runners was the heat. Temperatures in excess of 90 degrees hovered over Woodbine, and Casse said that extreme conditions actually helped Barber’s filly in that he knew it wouldn’t hurt her while more likely to affect other starters.
“She’s such a cool customer, she’s just cool as a cucumber out there,” Casse said. “She’s been in all conditions. She’s raced at Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, Churchill; she handles everything.”
Wonder Gadot’s stablemate, Plate Trial winner Telekinesis, was the pacesetter with Casse’s other entrant, Neepawa. Six furlongs in 1:11.05 proved too much for those foes as they backed out of it through a mile in 1:36.20, which is when Wonder Gadot made her decisive move under John Velazquez. The filly the opened up to win by 4 ¾ lengths while Telekinesis faded to fifth and Neepawa 10th.
“She’s tricked me a few times,” Casse said about waiting for the final strides to let out a root for his second Queen’s Plate winner. “I thought we were going to win the Kentucky Oaks, so I was excited for her to win this. I was also watching my other horses finish. I was surprised to see them both so close, so I’m disappointed for them. It’s bittersweet.”
Aheadbyacentury finished second, 2 ¾ lengths ahead of Cooler Mike in third with Strike Me Down in fourth.