Profiles

Sovereign Award Winning Horse of the Year: Wonder Gadot

Wonder Gadot, owned by Gary Barber, claimed the 2018 Horse of the Year Sovereign Award, and was named Champion Three-Year-Old Female.

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By: Dave Briggs |

David Anderson’s family has been blessed to have been associated with a number of exceptional horses, but for David, as far as life-changing horses go, none can compare to Wonder Gadot, the 2018 Canadian Horse of the Year and 3yo Champion Female.

“We were fortunate enough to be around a lot of good horses growing up on the farm that were on my dad’s watch, but, certainly under my watch, Wonder Gadot, that’s been the greatest thrill that I’ve had,” Anderson said of producing the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro—Loving Vindication—Vindication at his Anderson Farms of St. Thomas, ON.

The filly with the superhero name won the 2018 Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales, finished second by a ½ length to Monomoy Girl in the Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks, posted a record of 5-5-4 in 18 starts and had earned over $1.5 million lifetime en route to her country’s top year-end honour. It was the second Canadian Horse of the Year Award in four years for Wonder Gadot’s core team of owner Gary Barber and trainer Mark Casse, who also won the award in 2014 with another stellar filly and Plate winner, Lexie Lou.

Barber, a South African native and former CEO of MGM Studios Inc., was the one that gave Wonder Gadot her movie-inspired super name. She is named for Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot.

As for David Anderson, it was the first Horse of the Year he has produced at Anderson Farms since he took over the operation shortly after his father, farm founder Bob Anderson, died in 2010.

“Any time you breed a Queen’s Plate winner and a Prince of Wales winner, it certainly puts you on the map in Canada,” David said, “but what she really did for me was she almost won the Kentucky Oaks. That was unbelievable. Here I was at Churchill Downs and there was 100,000 people there and the filly went off at 15-1. I said to my wife, ‘If we hit the top five, I’ll be absolutely ecstatic’ and here she was at the top of the lane in the lead and we were thinking we were going to win this thing. I almost fell off the second-floor of the balcony. I’ve never jumped that high in my life. It was so exciting. That really put us on the map.”

Bob Anderson, a legend of the game that died at age of 64 after suffering a heart attack, was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2015.

“Next to his farm, Woodbine was the most important place on earth to him,” David said of his father. “He spent over 30 years in the boardroom and never made a nickel from it, putting blood, sweat and tears into it. I’m glad he’s not around to see what happened through SARP (Slots at Racetracks Program) and everything. I like to think that if he were alive, it would’ve never (have been cancelled) because I know the fighter he was, and I think that he would’ve been a big influence for it not to happen.”

As it was, Bob Anderson was a big influence on the next generation of his farm and David likes to believe his dad even played a role in the Wonder Gadot story.

“After my father died, I went to the January Keeneland Sale and I bought three mares. The first mare I bought was Wonder Gadot’s mother. I had an angel on my shoulder and my father is part of this,” David said. “This mare has gone on to be an incredible producer.”

But did David or his long-time farm manager Ray Carroll have an inkling of the greatest to come when Wonder Gadot was a foal?

“If I said ‘Yes’ I would be lying to you. We like to think that they are all going to be champions when they are born, and they can fool you. The ones you think are going to be great, turn out to be duds. She was definitely, I think, a surprise,” Anderson said.

Originally sold to Eisaman Equine for $80,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Eisaman then pinhooked her to TM Investments for $325,000 at the 2017 Ocala Breeders’ Spring Sale for Two-Year-Olds in Training.

At two, Wonder Gadot won three of five starts and over $300,000. She was third in the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes at Woodbine, won the Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes at the Toronto track and, after a sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar, ended the year by winning the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct.

At three, the well-travelled filly was third in both the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes and Grade 2 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks, second in the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park, second in the Oaks at Churchill, second in the Woodbine Oaks in Toronto and posted her first win of 2018 in the $1 million Queen’s Plate on June 30 at Woodbine, crushing the field by 4 ¾ lengths.

“Anytime you can win a Queen’s Plate, that’s the ultimate goal as a Canadian breeder and to do it with a filly, in the fashion that she did it in, was just a tremendous thrill for me and our entire family and the whole team at Anderson Farms,” David said.

Wonder Gadot followed up her Plate triumph with a win on July 24 in the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie, then tested the boys again in the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga, finishing 10th. Despite the finish, David said it was a thrill to see a horse he bred compete in the premier event at Saratoga.

“I basically grew up at Saratoga as a kid, so that was the thrill of a lifetime to be in the biggest race at Saratoga,” he said.

Wonder Gadot finished up the year with a third in the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing and a ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs. She is back racing in 2019.

For his part, David Anderson is not only bullish on Anderson Farms, he believes the future is bright at Woodbine, as well.

“I’m really excited about the future at Woodbine,” he said. “I know a lot of people are poo-pooing it right now, but I think they’ve got a vision and I think (thanks to developing the property) that five years from now you’re going to see Woodbine with the biggest purses in the world.

“For those of us breeders that can stick around and continue to tough it out through these tougher times, I think we’re going to reap the rewards one day.”