Luis Contreras exhibited just why he is in demand these days.
The Mexican-born jockey, who leads all Woodbine riders in victories this season, rode the impressive filly Inglorious to victory in his first Queen’s Plate start on Sunday.
The 25-year-old Contreras has strutted his stuff at Woodbine for three years now, but since moving to Canada in March 2009 he was left in the jocks room to watch the two previous Queen’s Plates.
But this time was different.
This time, he sifted through five different offers to ride in Canada‘s biggest thoroughbred race, the first of Canada‘s triple crown. Contreras could have been on third-place finisher Pender Harbor or been aboard any of the back-of-the-pack finishers Oh Canada, Strike Oil or Okiyama.
Contreras' agent, Tony Esposito — no, not the Hall of Fame goalie — let his client decide. Contreras stuck with Inglorious, only the sixth filly to win the Queen’s Plate since 1956.
Trainer Josie Carroll, who won her second Queen’s Plate to go along with 2006 winner Edenwold, employed Chantal Sutherland for Inglorious’ two wins last fall at Woodbine and a pair of strong showings earlier this year at the Rachael Alexandra Stakes and Fairground Oaks in New Orleans.
It was the ultimate ladies side. But with Sutherland still racing in California when Inglorious came north to Woodbine this spring, Contreras got the call. He won on the filly on May 11 and again was impressive in victory at the Woodbine Oaks less than a month later.
"This is great, she's amazing," he told CBC Sports following the race.
"Everything is just amazing. I wasn't in a hurry off the start.
"I was watching the film before the race and I decided to follow the favourite [Check Your Soul] and it worked out. She gave me everything."
Inglorious came from behind off the final turn to pass and outlast 60-1 long-shot Hippolytus. A short while later, Contreras climbed aboard Bears Goal to win his third race of the afternoon and bring his total to 77 wins on the season.
Not bad for a young jockey who arrived at Woodbine 27 months ago to see and feel snow for the first time in his life and wonder where his future was going. He left Mexico to become a barn rider for one of the top U.S. trainers in Steve Asmussen at Sunland Park, TX. When Asmussen decided to open a stable at Woodbine he sent Contreras to Toronto to ride for him, but without a winter coat.
It didn’t take long, however, for him to acclimatize himself to his new home with 67 victories that first summer.
Last year, Esposito got a work permit for his star jockey to ride other mounts and wins continued piled up even more — 127, in fact.
Contreras likes living in Toronto so much, he has applied for permanent residency status in Canada and now lives in a condominium with wife Alma and their young sons, Luis and Alberto. All four shared the victory with in the winner’s circle with Carroll and owners Donna and Vern Dubinsky of Sherwood Park, Alta.
All this fits into two of his goals this season: win the Queen's Plate and become the leading jockey at Woodbine. He's halfway there.
Notes: The Queen’s Plate had a record day at wager window in terms of dollars bet on the race and the entire day. The race itself garnered $2,973,256 and the handle for the afternoon was $8,768,145 … Carroll would not commit Inglorious, who has won five of her seven starts, to race in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie on July 17. "We’ll let her tell us what she wants to do."