Stronach Stables’ homebred Shaman Ghost, ridden by Rafael Hernandez, hauled down Danish Dynaformer inside the sixteenth pole to win a thrilling 156th edition of the $1 million Queen’s Plate, Canada’s most famous horse race, by one and one-quarter lengths, Sunday at Woodbine Racetrack.
It marked the third Plate win for Frank Stronach, following two other homebreds, Basqueian in 1994 and Awesome Again in 1997, but it was the first for trainer Brian Lynch and the first for Hernandez, with his first Plate mount.
It was also the fourth consecutive win for Shaman Ghost, who hadn’t raced since winning the Marine Stakes at Woodbine on May 16. Two other recent Marine winners, Strait of Dover in 2012, and before him, Wando in 2003, also parlayed their victories into Plate triumphs.
Shaman Ghost is a son of Ghostzapper, who Stronach raced with great success, including a Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2003. He in turn is a son of Stronach’s Plate winner Awesome Again, who also won the Breeders’ Cup Classic win in 1998.
Sent postward a 3-1 co-favourite with Danish Dynaformer, Shaman Ghost was tucked back in seventh position for much of the mile and one-quarter Polytrack classic as first Academic, the recent Woodbine Oaks winner and the only filly in the field, then Sweet Grass Creek, set blistering fractions of :22.99, :45.76 and 1:10.82.
Almost instantly, going around the far turn, the leaders were swallowed up by Billy’s Star, one of two in the race trained by Hall of Famer Roger Attfield, as the field straightened for home. Then, on the outside came Danish Dynaformer, the other Attfield trainee, who took over in mid-stretch with Patrick Husbands aboard and appeared on his way to giving his conditioner a record ninth Plate win.
But looming large in behind was Shaman Ghost, who, under constant urging, got up in the closing yards to win the mile and one-quarter classic for Canadian-bred three-year-olds in 2:03.45. Conquest Boogaloo, who trailed early in last after getting away poorly, once again closed up a lot of ground to finish third, just a half-length further behind, while Billy’s Star faded to fourth.
“I just wanted to make sure, me and Brian where talking about it, just by the quarter-pole try to be outside the horses,” recalled Hernandez. “He [Danish Dynaformer] make a move too early, I let him pass me. I know my horse always got a kick. So he did his thing. He made his kick down the lane. Brian said he had been training well. Been training very good because he won this race. He is a great horse. He gave me everything today.”
Said Lynch, who was second in the 2008 Plate with Stronach’s filly Ginger Brew, beaten a head by Not Bourbon, “We’ll certainly have a good night. It’s a prestigious race. But to win it for the Stronachs [it’s great]. I thought it was a great ride, very patient. I thought a few jocks panicked at the quarter-pole, but you can see him [Hernandez] sort of sitting. We had the best horse on the day.
“I could just see Rafael’s red cap moving forward, moving forward, trying to get himself in a good position. I knew this horse would have some finish to him and I knew I had the right rider. He is very patient and would give this horse a fabulous ride.”
“Just as I was walking in the grass near the saddling area I looked down and saw a four-leaf clover,” said Stronach. “That’s usually a good sign. But I had a good feeling all day long because the horse beat every horse in the race before in better times. I think this time we got a real good horse and he was hardly breathing when he came over here [to the winner’s circle].”
It proved a very formful Plate, as Shaman Ghost and Danish Dynaformer both went postward at 3-1 (Danish Dynaformer was the official favourite at $3.25/$1) with Conquest Boogaloo the 6-1 fifth choice.
“They [Danish Dynaformer and Billy’s Star] were both excellent, but they got beat by the horse I was worried about,” said Attfield. “They both ran well, there's no question.”
Shaman Ghost earned $600,000 for the win, dwarfing his pre-Plate earnings of $134,431. He paid $8.60, $5 and 3.20, combining with Danish Dynaformer ($4.30, $3) for a $28.30 (1-7) exactor.
A 1-7-8 (Conquest Boogaloo, $3.90) triactor was worth $156.60 while a $1 Superfecta [1-7-8-5 (Billy’s Star)] returned $639.90.
The day produced a record handle at Woodbine (except the 1996 Breeders' Cup) of $11.06 million, smashing the 2013 mark of $9.7 million.