It was a sweet Breeders' Stakes victory Sunday for trainer Mark Frostad.
The veteran trainer captured his fourth career Breeders' Stakes title at Woodbine when filly Irish Mission took the lead down the stretch and held on to win the $500,000 1 1/2-mile turf race by half a length. What made the victory so special for Frostad was it came after Irish Mission successfully fended off second-place finisher Aldous Snow, a horse owned and bred by Sam-Son Farms.
Frostad conditioned horses for Sam-Son Farms from 1994 until last fall when the two sides mutually agreed to part ways. Over that stretch, Frostad trained four Canadian horses of the year (Chief Bearhart in '97-'98, Quiet Resolve in 2000 and Soaring Free in '04) and on three occasions was named the country's top trainer (1997, '99 and 2000). As well, his three previous Breeders' Stakes victories came with Sam-Son runners and owner Robert Evans bought Irish Mission from Frostad's former employer.
However, Frostad said Sunday's win wasn't one of redemption for him.
"Well, I was regretting having bought the dam of that horse (Aldous Snow) for Sam-Son at about the eighth-pole," Frostad said with a chuckle. "But no, this is this business I'm afraid.
"It's what it is."
Capturing the Breeders' Stakes highlights a very successful three-year-old campaign for Irish Mission, who won the Woodbine Oaks on June 3 and finished second to Strait of Dover in the $1-million Queen's Plate on June 24. In seven starts in 2012, Irish Mission has three wins and two second-place finishes with earnings of more than $840,000.
However, Irish Mission was coming off a very disappointing sixth-place finish on the dirt in last month's $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, something that concerned Frostad heading into the Breeders'.
"I was very anxious going into this race," Frostad said. "If you look at her pedigree, it's all turf so it's not really surprising that she didn't handle the dirt.
"Coming into this race she has been through an awful lot (running) every three weeks and has shown a little wear and tear. But surprisingly she came out of (Prince of Wales) and just went right back and after a couple of days was eating up a storm so we decided to give her a shot. This is made to order for her, it's turf, a mile and a half and she ran like it."
Strait of Dover had skipped last month's Prince of Wales Stakes due to struggles on dirt and was being pointed towards the Breeders'. However, those hopes were dashed when Strait of Dover suffered a season-ending leg injury training for the race.
Aldous Snow finished second, ahead of Quaesitor in the 14-horse field — the second-largest field in the Triple Crown era — for the third jewel of Canadian racing's Triple Crown. Irish Mission took the win in 2:30.90 on a firm turf.
Irish Mission paid $11.80, $6.10 and $4.70 while Aldous Snow returned $5.80 and $4.20. Quaesitor paid $12.10.
The remainder of the field, in order of finish, included: Seen It All Before; Sammy Maudlin; Dixie Strike; Lateegra; Ultimate Destiny; Street Fight; Peyton; Dragon Tail; Colleen's Sailor; Big Kick and Wilcox.
Winning jockey Alex Solis said patience was the key to the victory.
"I didn't have to do much, to be honest with you," he said. "I just had to find a nice spot and get into a nice rhythm . . . and she did her thing. She's very game.
"This guy [Frostad] did a great job. It takes someone to do a great job to bring her back to run this kind of race."
Eurico Rosa da Silva, the jockey for Aldous Snow, said he felt he had a winning horse at the top of the stretch but that Irish Mission simply wouldn't be denied.
"She's awesome," he said. "I have only good things to say about her.
"I came at her with a lot of horse and he could not pass her. She wouldn't let him by. She's a really good horse."
Frostad said he believes the best is still yet to come for Irish Mission, but that will have to wait because the filly is going to earn some well-deserved down time.
"I don't think you've seen the best of this filly, I think as a four- and five-year-old she could be any kind of horse," he said. "She hasn't really matured fully yet and when she does I think she'll be world-class, she'll be able to go anywhere.
"But she's going to get a bit of a rest now, for sure. I'm sure I could get her back training, she'd probably jump right into the bit the day after tomorrow but we're not going to do that. Just going to give her a little lighter time."