One for the Queen

No matter how many Queen’s Plate races Eurico Rosa da Silva wins, the second will likely always be the sweetest.

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II

TORONTO — No matter how many Queen’s Plate races Eurico Rosa da Silva wins, the second will likely always be the sweetest.

Rosa da Silva staked Big Red Mike to a wire-to-wire victory in the $1-million race at Woodbine Racetrack on Sunday. Included in the crowd of between 25,000 and 30,000 on the hot, breezy summer afternoon was the Queen, who made her fourth appearance at the Toronto track, but first since 1997. She presented the race trophy to Rosa da Silva and Big Red Mike’s connections in the winner’s circle.

“I just told her I am so happy to see her, to meet her,” Rosa da Silva said. “It was a great feeling.

“Winning the Queen’s Plate is great, but doing it with the Queen here is so special. Very, very special day.”

Trainer Nicholas Gonzalez, a Fort Erie, Ont., resident who emerged victorious in his first Queen’s Plate, wasn’t sure if he actually spoke to the Queen.

“Actually, I can’t remember,” he said. “I don’t think I said anything to her.

“I let Rico do the talking, he’s good at that. The last eighth was a blur. I asked by how much he won by and Rico didn’t know, I didn’t know, my son didn’t know, my wife didn’t know but hey, it was just a wonderful ride.”

Rosa da Silva claimed North America’s longest continuously run stakes event for the second year in a row after winning the 2009 edition aboard Eye of the Leopard. He became the first jockey since Craig Perret did so aboard Alydeed and Peteski in 1992 and 1993, respectively, to win consecutive Queen’s Plates.

But not before having a heart-to-heart chat with Big Red Mike prior to the race.

“Before the race I told him, at least one time, ‘My friend we’re going to do our best but the Queen is here, OK,”’ Rosa da Silva said with a chuckle. “’No pressure.”’

Big Red Mike, who went off at 5-1 odds, captured the $600,000 winner’s share by finishing the 1 1/4-mile race in 2:04.89 on Woodbine’s poly track. Hotep was second with filly Roan Inish taking third in the 13-horse field.

Hotep pressed Big Red Mike at the top of the stretch but didn’t have enough to overtake him as he was able to pull away for a comfortable length victory.

“He was very, very relaxed. Even during the race I tried to talk to him and say, ‘Baby, relax, relax my friend, relax, relax,”’ Rosa da Silva said. “When Hotep came and started to press me I had a lot of horse.

“When I turned home I had a lot of horse and he gave that kick and it was home, baby.”

It marked the second straight race that Big Red Mike — a gelding owned by Terra Racing Stable — has won wire-to-wire. He captured the Plate Trial on June 13, leading virtually every step of the way after holding off a stretch challenge from Mobilizer for the half-length victory.

“Well, you know something? He’s a fighter and he showed that when he won the Plate Trial,” said Gonzalez. “He looked like he was going pretty comfortable all the way around.

“He didn’t get a whole lot of pressure and I knew when they came to him he’d dig in and fight and that’s exactly what he did.”

Big Red Mike becomes the 25th Plate Trial winner to win the Plate and the third consecutive horse to do so, following Not Bourbon (2008) and Eye of the Leopard (2009). He earned his third career victory to boost his earnings over $660,000 and maintain a perfect record of finishing in the money through six career starts (three wins, two seconds and a third).

The remainder of the field, in order of finish, included: Giant’s Tomb, Mobthewarrior, Dark Cloud Dancer, Smart Sky, Moment of Majesty, Who We Gunna Call, Mobilizer, Ghost Fleet, Vicar Street and D’s Wando.

Big Red Mike paid $12, $6.30 and $4.40 while Hotep returned $6.90 and $4.70. Roan Inish paid $4.30.