TORONTO, October 20, 2022 – The Grade 3 $150,000 Ontario Derby, for 3-year-olds, and the $125,000 Ontario Damsel, for 3-year-old fillies, co-headline Sunday’s 10-race card at Woodbine.
Trainer Willie Armata and his father, fellow conditioner Vito Armata, each have a legitimate contender in the Ontario Derby, a 1 1/8-mile main track tilt that includes multiple stakes winner Ironstone, trained by the younger Armata, and Luckman, campaigned by the elder Armata, who sent out the bay gelding to his first stakes victory last time out in the Toronto Cup.
A grey son of Mr Speaker-Casey’s Dreamin’, Ironstone has been a model of consistency throughout his 11 races. Sporting a record of 2-4-3 from 11 starts, the colt, who took last year’s Simcoe and Clarendon stakes events, was fourth in this year’s Queen’s Plate and second in the Prince of Wales, the opening two jewels in the Canadian Triple Crown.
Owned by Tequesta Racing Inc., and Jupiter Leasing Co., Ironstone has never finished lower than fifth in his career to date.
Although winless in 2022, the sophomore, bred in Ontario by Kingview Farms, has a second and a trio of thirds from five starts.
“I’m a 100 percent proud of him,” said Willie Armata. “He’s going out there and giving us the best he can every single time we bring him over. He’s coming into the race in really good order. He’s had a couple of nice works, he’s happy and he’s ready. Unfortunately, we have to run with ‘Papa Vit,’ but what are you going to do? I usually don’t like to run against dad if we don’t have to, but on this occasion, we will.”
Vito Armata, who sent out 82-1 T J’s Lucky Moon to win the 2002 Queen’s Plate, will once again saddle Luckman, who has fared exceptionally well since he claimed the horse for $25,000 on June 24.
Launching his career at Woodbine last August, Luckman posted a pair of seconds in four starts before heading south to open his 2022 campaign. After tough results at Fair Grounds, Keeneland and Churchill, he returned to Woodbine to break his maiden in June.
Luckman has won three consecutive races since arriving at his new stable, four straight including his win on the day he was claimed.
“I followed him as a 2-year-old,” said Vito Armata after the Toronto Cup. “He got beat by 31 lengths in Kentucky. My brother said, ‘What are you doing?’ I liked the horse since he was a baby. So, the rest is history. I’m really happy. The horse is in good order. He’s a good horse.”
Luckman, bred by Tenlane Farm, LLC, is 4-2-0 from 13 starts.
“Both horses, they have different styles,” offered Willie. “That helps. Dad’s horse likes to close, and our horse likes to be forwardly placed, so they will each run their own race.”
The Ontario Derby could mark the end of one facet of Ironstone’s career.
For now, the plan next season is to focus on sprint races.
“We’ll look at sprinting, trying to take over [retired sprint superstar] Pink Lloyd’s shoes if we can. Those are big shoes to fill and not an easy task, but we’ll give it our best shot. Whether it’s this race or any race to come, he’ll never stop and he’ll never give up. He’s a colt and he can be a little feisty, but he’s a gem.”
Fellow Ontario Bred, and 2022 Queenston winner The Minkster joins Ironstone in the Ontario Derby field. The English Channel colt was undefeated at two, and was sixth after setting the early pace in the 2022 Queen’s Plate.
The Danny Vella trainee will look to get back to his winning ways in his graded stakes debut, with David Moran in the irons.
Barabara Minshall trained Bringer of Rain is the third Ontario Bred in the field, stepping up to stakes company after breaking his maiden two starts ago at Woodbine.
First post time is 1:20 p.m. Fans can also watch and wager on all the action via HPIbet.com or the Dark Horse Bets app.
By Chris Lomon / Woodbine Communications
Image Credit: Michael Burns Photo