Pender Harbour wins Prince of Wales Stakes in photo finish

Pender Harbour nipped Bowman's Causeway to take the Prince of Wales Stakes, the second jewel in Canada's Triple Crown of horse racing, in a photo finish at Fort Erie Racetrack on Sunday.

Different horse, same result for Luis Contreras.

Contreras guided Pender Harbour to a stirring photo-finish win by a nose over Bowman's Causeway in the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes thoroughbred race Sunday.

Contreras rode high-profile filly Inglorious to victory in last month's $1-million Queen's Plate. But Inglorious's handlers opted to skip the Prince of Wales for the Alabama Stakes, a 1 1/4-mile Grade One event for three-year-old fillies slated for Aug. 20 at Saratoga.

That allowed Contreras to go back aboard Pender Harbour, a horse he rallied to a fourth-place finish in the $150,000 Victoria Park Stakes on June 11 at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack.

With Contreras aboard Inglorious, Chantal Sutherland rode Pender Harbour in the Queen's Plate, finishing third.

"I can't believe it," said a beaming Contreras, Woodbine's leading rider this season. "Winning the Queen's Plate was a real exciting race for me and to come and win the Prince of Wales with a different horse, that's amazing, that's great for me.

"But I knew he was a nice horse, I love this horse and he has a real future … I have to thank the owners and trainer for putting me back on him."

Oh Canada, a 24-1 longshot with Krista Carignan — Fort Erie's leading jockey last year — aboard, had the lead coming down the stretch. But she couldn't successfully hold off either Pender Harbour or Bowman's Causeway, the 2/1 second choice ridden by Eurico Eurico Rosa Da Silva.

Pender Harbour, the 4-1 fourth choice, secured the win over Bowman's Causeway, with Oh Canada finishing in third by a nose.

However, Contreras admitted he wasn't entirely sure the gelded son of Philanthropist had finished on top.

"I was a little worried," Contreras said. "I thought he [Bowman's Causeway] got me on the last jump but [after crossing finish] I knew I had it by a nose.

"My horse had a clean trip and gave me everything he had. I had a lot of horse at the top of the stretch and felt I would win it."

Contreras had Pender Harbour standing second behind Oh Canada following the final turn. But he said the long backstretch at Fort Erie worked to his advantage.

"When I turned for home I saw all kinds of room to spare," he said. "But I also heard a lot of horses coming from behind and knew it was going to be a very close finish."

The remainder of the field, in order of finish, included: Hippolytus, Welloiledmachine, Oban and Check Your Soul, who broke as the even-money favourite.

It was the second straight disappointing finish for Check Your Soul, which was the 3-1 early favourite for the Queen's Plate but ended up a distant seventh.

Contreras can cement the unofficial Canadian Triple Crown by winning the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, a 1 ½-mile turf event slated for Aug. 7 at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack. Trouble is, Contreras isn't sure if he'll be riding in the race, and if so, aboard which horse.

But Contreras left no doubt about his desire to ride Pender Harbour in the Breeders'.

"We'll have to see but I hope so," Contreras said.

Winning trainer Mike DePaulo said he couldn't see why Pender Harbour wouldn't run in the Breeders — despite having only run on dirt throughout his career — and certainly left the door open to Contreras being in the irons.

"We hope so," DePaulo said about having Contreras as his jockey. "I don't see any reason why he [Pender Harbour] wouldn't run [in Breeders'] . . . he should love grass.

"He has run good on the polytrack, he has run good on the dirt and I don't see anything really bothering him in terms of tracks."

DePaulo captured his second Prince of Wales win but said this one was much more satisfying than the first. That was in 2006 when DePaulo's horse, Shillelagh Slew, finished second but was moved up to first when winner Malakhoff was disqualified.

"This was a genuine victory," DePaulo said. "This one was much more rewarding, a win fair and square.

"My horse showed a lot of heart. This gelding might be one of the best horses I've ever trained."

With Inglorious not running in this event, Wando remains the last Canadian Triple Crown champion, accomplishing the feat in 2003. Dance Smartly was the last filly to win the Triple Crown in 1991.

Pender Harbour paid $10.30, $4.60 and $3.40 while Bowman's Causeway returned $3.40, $2.90. Oh Canada paid $4.40.

Pender Harbour secured his first win this year in four starts and third career victory in seven starts. the $300,000 winner's share boosted his career earnings to $531,697.