Queen's Plate winner Mighty Heart tops field for $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes

He captured the Queen's Plate as a 13/1 longshot, but Mighty Heart won't have the element of surprise in the $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes.

The one-eyed colt is the 7/5 early favourite for the second jewel of the OLG Canadian Tripe Crown, slated for Tuesday night in Fort Erie, Ont. He'll break from the No. 2 post in the field of nine horses for the 1 3/16-mile dirt race at Fort Erie Racetrack.

"Certainly there's much more of an expectation of him, absolutely," trainer Josie Carroll said during a telephone interview Monday. "But he's pretty laid back, he's a pretty relaxed horse and so hopefully he'll handle it all well. I think he will.

"I think we can expect him to be laying close but he doesn't necessarily have to have the lead. We're just going to run our race and I suppose his performance in the Queen's Plate might affect the strategy of the other horses."

Fort Erie Racetrack will be closed to spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mighty Heart served notice in the Plate, going wire-to-wire for a dominant 7 1/2-length victory Sept. 12 before no spectators at Woodbine Racetrack to earn Carroll a third Plate win. Mighty Heart's time of 2:01.98 was the second-fastest since 1957 when the race was first run at the new Woodbine over its current 1 1/4-mile distance.

That effort was second only to Izvestia (2:01 4/5 in 1990).

Winning the Canadian Triple Crown is difficult because not only do all three races vary in length, they're also run on different surfaces (Tapeta, dirt and grass). But the challenge facing Mighty Heart there's less time than normal between the opening two legs due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In 2019, there was 24 days between the Plate and Prince of Wales — compared to 17 this year. The COVID-19 pandemic forced all three legs of the Triple Crown to be rescheduled.

But at least Mighty Heart has experience on dirt. He ran on that surface over the winter at The Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

"Even though he's comfortable on dirt, he is switching tracks and surfaces," Carroll said. "I think it's tough to come back in 17 days and then come back three weeks later and try to do the Breeders.

"We thought he deserved a chance for a run at the Canadian Triple Crown."

The final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown is the $400,000 Breeders' Stakes. The 1 1/2-mile turf event is slated for Oct. 24 at Woodbine Racetrack.

If Mighty Heart wins the first two legs, there'll at least be a 25-day gap between the Prince of Wales and Breeders', the same as 2019.

Carroll won the '16 Prince of Wales with Amis Gizmo after the horse finished second to Sir Dudley Digges in the Plate. Sir Dudley Digges was a distant sixth at Fort Erie.

Canada hasn't had a Triple Crown winner since 2003 when Wando, with jockey Patrick Husbands and trainer Mike Keogh, achieved the feat.

In 2018, filly Wonder Gadot won both the Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales for owner Gary Barber and trainer Mark Casse. The dark bay Ontario-bred eventually ran in the Travers instead of the Breeders' Stakes.

The Ontario-bred Mighty Heart has two wins from five career starts, all coming this year. Might Heart lost an eye in a paddock accident with his mother as a foal.

"Early on it presented a few challenges, not to him particularly as that's just life as he knows it because it happened so early," Carroll said. "But I think we did have to accustom him to being in behind horses (and having dirt/debris kicked up into his face).

"In a new situation he'll size things up before he's confident so you must have somebody with him who's confident and I think he draws from that. I always tell the riders who are on him to keep contact with him so he knows you're there and knows you're confident."

Jockey Daisuke Fukumoto, who rode Mighty Heart in the Plate, will be aboard again Tuesday night.

Plate Trial winner Clayton, who finished third in the Plate, is the 5/2 second choice. The Kevin Attard-trainee will break from the No. 9 post with jockey Rafael Hernandez.

Tecumseh's War, fourth in the Plate, is the 4/1 third pick. Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson will take the horse trained by Catherine Day Phillips from the No. 7 post.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2020.

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