The Minkster, under David Moran, made his three-year-old debut a winning one, taking the $125,000 Queenston Stakes, Sunday at Woodbine.
A seven-furlong sprint for Canadian-foaled three-year-olds, the Queenston is one of the key prep races leading up to the $1 million Queen’s Plate on August 21.
If today’s race was any indication as to what it’s in store for the 163rd edition of the Plate, it could be one of the most memorable runnings to date.
His Time, under Patrick Husbands, grabbed the early lead in the seven-furlong main track feature, as David Moran, aboard The Minkster, sat just off the pacesetter, with Ironstone and mutuel choice Duke of Love occupying the third and fourth spots, respectively, through an opening quarter in :22.54.
As the seven-horse field (Perfect Day was scratched) reached the half-mile mark in :45.16, Moran then made his move, putting The Minkster on top, as Ironstone and Duke of Love maintained their positions.
Heading into the final turn, The Minkster was asked for his best run, while Ironstone, hemmed in along the rail, found daylight and began his quest to tackle the leader. Rondure, coming off a spectacular maiden-breaking performance, began to rally to the outside, as Duke of Love looked to keep pace with his rivals.
At the wire, The Minkster, trained by Dan Vella and owned by Sea Glass Stable, held on for a head score. Rondure finished a head in front of Ironstone for the runner-up prize, with Duke of Love taking fourth.
The final time for seven panels was 1:21.01.
“He travels good,” said Moran, of last year’s Coronation Futurity winner. “I knew Patrick [jockey, Husbands, aboard His Time] would be in front and I was wondering if Justin [jockey, Stein, aboard Duke of Love] would go on. So, when I was sitting second to Patrick, I was happy. The plan was to stalk him anyway. I was happy to have Ironstone locked in on my inside.”
He [The Minkster] traveled lovely and I saw Patrick struggling half-way around the bend. My guy had come on the bridle at that point, so I just let him at it, and he ran right to the wire. Actually, he got a little bit bored for a couple of strides until the other ones came and then he galloped out nice again. He has matured, even in the morning, his works are very nice. Hopefully, this is a stepping-stone for the right way.”
Vella, who has two Plate triumphs to his name, in 1994 with Basqueian and in 2021 with Strait of Dover, will look to net the hat trick with his sophomore son of English Channel-Cabriole.
“A good friend of mine, Mike Cook, had him in Florida, and he did a lot of work and got him ready for us. He’s a horse that trains well in the morning and we didn’t have much trouble getting him ready. He developed a lot from two to three. Not every horse does, but he’s matured a lot. He’s training at a better level than last year, so we’re very excited.”
Vella, a multiple graded stakes winning conditioner with 863 career victories and counting, has high praise for the bay colt bred by Dr. Tan Hyka.
CONTINUING HIS CAMPAIGN
Where does The Minkster, now three-for-three, rate on the list of the top horses he has campaigned?
“He’s as good or better than anything I’ve ever had. The Plate Trial is probably our next goal.”
Ray and Debbie Burke of Sea Glass Stables are happy to be along for the ride.
“We’ve been in the business about five years, and we had some Kentucky-breds and those we raced for a couple of years,” noted Ray. “We teamed up with Danny and Mike Cook down in Ocala and bought some Canadian-breds. Obviously, we are really excited about The Minkster and his development. We were very anxious waiting from age two to age three, to this day, to see that development. It’s been a long nine months, but we’re pretty happy.”
“It’s very exciting,” added Debbie.
The Minkster paid $19.10, $7.50 and $4.50 and combined with Rondure ($4.90, $3.50) for a $94.50 exactor. Ironstone ($3.60) completed a $474.40 triactor. Duke of Love rounded out a $1 superfecta worth $610.85.
Live Thoroughbred racing resumes Thursday with a first post of 5:05 p.m.