Profiles

2011 Prince of Wales Stakes: PENDING PRINCE

Pender Harbour wins a squeaker at Fort Erie, taking the second jewel of Canada's Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes.

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By: Jennifer Morrison |

It was four days after the 76th Prince of Wales Stakes, the second jewel in Canada’s Triple Crown, and Bob Giffin’s phone was still humming.

“I just got another call from a friend of mine congratulating us, it’s been happening quite a bit believe it or not,” said Giffin.

Actually it is quite easy to believe that Giffin and his wife Roberta, who live in Edmonton, Alberta, are getting a lot of attention for the victory by Pender Harbour in the $500,000 Prince of Wales at Fort Erie, a gelding they own with friends Denny Andrews and Sandra Lazaruk.

The Giffins have been in thoroughbred ownership for more than 20 years, have had some success here and there and are considered two of the nicest people you will meet in the business.

The Prince of Wales win, which came on a sweltering hot July 17 at the border oval, was the richest event ever won by the partners, who have owned horses together sporadically for the last two decades.

“What a wonderful weekend it was,” said Giffin about his initial trip to Fort Erie. “It is such a lovely track, with a lovely view, and I was saying that to anyone who would listen before we won the race.”

It was a gratifying win for the Pender Harbour team which has been guided by trainer Mike DePaulo, no stranger to Canadian classic horses, he won the 2006 ‘Wales when Shillelagh Slew was placed first through disqualification.

The handsome chestnut gelding had been a stakes winner at two but underwent knee surgery to remove a chip and he was well behind his classmates as preparations began for the Queen’s Plate.

The son of young stallion Philanthropist out of the Hail the Ruckus mare Uproar was given lots of time to get into shape by DePaulo, but the June 26 Plate was essentially ruled out.

In his comeback outing on May 13, Pender Harbour ran into traffic trouble, fought rider Emile Ramsammy and then gave up on his way to a 10th place finish. It was a somewhat discouraging return to action for the $17,000 yearling purchase.

“Oh, the Plate was out as far as we were concerned,” said Giffin. “He didn’t even have his first workout of the season until late in the spring. We didn’t even nominate him to the Plate.”

Pender Harbour, known as Skippy around the DePaulo barn, came back a month later and competed against American-bred three-year-olds in the Victoria Park Stakes on June 12 and under new rider Luis Contreras, rallied to be fourth, just two lengths behind winner Moonshine Mullin.

DePaulo and the owners were encouraged enough to take a shot, a $25,000 shot (the fee to supplement the gelding’s entry) at the Plate.

It turned out to be money well spent as the gelding, under Chantal Sutherland (Contreras bade him farewell to ride the filly Inglorious, the eventual winner) put forth a strong stretch bid to get third-place and pick up nearly $70,000.

A trip to Fort Erie was the next logical step.

With Inglorious by-passing the ‘Wales in favour of the Grade I Alabama Stakes later in August, the ‘Wales turned out to be a renewal of a rivalry between Plate second Hippolytus, Pender Harbour, Bowman’s Causeway (fourth in Plate) and beaten Plate favourite Check Your Soul. Incredibly, Contreras, Woodbine’s runaway leading rider, regained his mount on Pender Harbour.

At the finish, Pender Harbour and Bowman’s Causeway, came storming down to the wire to catch Frank DiGiulio’s Oh Canada and in the middle, it was Giffin’s long chestnut three-year-old who won the photo.

“I think I was riding the horse more than the jockey was down the stretch,” said Giffin. “It was a very exciting race, great competition.”

For Contreras, he became only the second jockey in the history of any of the three Triple Crown races to win the first two on two different horses. No jockey has won all three legs on three different runners (the Breeders’ Stakes was to be held on Aug. 7).

Giffin is a director of Horse Racing Alberta who rode horses when he was a child growing up in Ireland. He emigrated to Alberta in 1953 and became an executive director with the Alberta premier’s office.

Andrews, who has predominantly been a breeder-to-sell is a shareholder in Philanthropist, who stands at Gardiner Farms in Caledon East, Ontario as well as Old Forester, last year’s leading first crop sire who stands at T.C. Westmeath Stud in Shelburne, Ontario. Andrews and Lazaruk keep their horses at Gail Wood’s Woodlands Farm in Hillsburgh.

Pender Harbour, described as a laid-back horse around the barn, is named for a tourist destination of unique villages in British Columbia.