Leavem In Malibu gives team hope in Prince of Wales

- -

The $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes is set for Tuesday, the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown following on the heels of the Queen’s Plate and a race that the connections of Leavem In Malibu probably wish he could leave behind.

“If everything comes together I think he is going to show up, he’ll run his race and he should win,” said Gary Boulanger, who will ride Leavem In Malibu in the Canadian classic at Fort Erie Racetrack.

“He got really hot and washed out pretty bad. Probably more lack of experience – big day and he didn’t handle that day that well. He still ran sixth, wasn’t beaten that far, but he didn’t fire like he had been.”

As the heat continued to rise on the backstretch at Woodbine last week, the seasoned Boulanger hopped from one horse to another during a busy morning training session.

Boulanger, who suffered a life-threatening fall in 2005 at Gulfstream Park, stepped away from the saddle for eight years before resuming his career in the silks in 2013. For the last three years Boulanger ridden out of Woodbine and worked for several trainers that include Mark Casse, who trains Leavem In Malibu for Gary Barber and Conrad Farms.

Leavem In Malibu, a 3-year-old son of Malibu Moon, made his fourth start in the Queen’s Plate three weeks ago and started his career in mid-April at Woodbine. Purchased for $140,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, Leavem In Malibu has trained at Woodbine since March under the watchful eye of Casse assistant David Adams. Working with Casse for more than a decade and currently overseeing the training of 50 horses in the outfit, Adams remains confident of the colt’s chances going into the Prince of Wales.

“He’s trained really well over the dirt and he’s bred to run on the dirt so we think we have a really good chance this time,” Adams said.

Unlike the Queen’s Plate, which is run on the synthetic Tapeta surface, the Prince of Wales is run on the dirt. While the first leg is run at a 1 1/4 miles, the second leg will be contested at the slightly shorter 1 3/16 miles.

Leavem In Malibu turned in his final work for the Prince of Wales over Woodbine’s dirt training track under the guidance of Boulanger. The colt breezed 5 furlongs in company with Valentine’s Pearl, another Casse trainee.

“We spotted another horse 5 or 6 lengths – Mark wanted to kick some dirt in his face and made sure he handled that fine,” Adams said. “A little different kickback and that wasn’t even an issue for him. He didn’t flip his head or shake or anything, he just sat back there, he came to the horse pretty easily, sat by him and as soon as he got in front perked his ears up and cruised. He went :57.80 but it felt like he went in 1:02 – I mean he just does it really easy.”

Jet Lee, Leavem In Malibu’s current exercise rider couldn’t agree more.

“I saw the work the other day,” Lee said. “He breezed really good and he came out of the work excellent. You couldn’t ask for anything better than how he came out of that work.”

Lee has been ridden Leavem In Malibu over both the dirt training track and Woodbine’s main track since the colt’s last race.

“The distance is not a problem for him,” Lee said. “In the Queen’s Plate the race did not goes his way but I think he has a big shot and he’s been training really good on the dirt.”

Looking beyond the surface, Leavem In Malibu will be facing a smaller field in the Prince of Wales but will again meet some familiar faces from the Queen’s Plate. The winner, Sir Dudley Digges, is back, and so are Amis Gizmo (second), All On Red (third) and Narrow Escape (10th). New challengers include Leo From Heaven, Niigon’s Edge and the Todd Pletcher-trained Battery.

Adams isn’t overly concerned about the competition but thinks the key to this race is at the start.

“He’s just got break much better than how he broke the last time and if he breaks better he will be right there,” Adams said of Leavem In Malibu, who drew the rail in the field of eight.

Speaking on the backstretch after his last set of the day earlier this week, Boulanger didn’t voice any concerns over the post or the break. There is only one thing on his mind when it comes to Leavem In Malibu.

“I like the horse a lot; I mean, he’s got a ton of talent,” Boulanger said. “My only concern is how he is going to handle the day. First time shipping and running you don’t know how they are going to handle that. There’s no doubt in my mind that he has the talent to beat this kind.”

If Leavem In Malibu can get it done it will give Casse his fourth Prince of Wales title. Casse has previously won this race with Gallant in 2009, Dixie Strike in 2012 and Uncaptured in 2013.

Meanwhile, Boulanger is seeking his first Prince of Wales Stakes win. The jockey came close to capturing the race in 2001 with Dancethruthedawn, who finished a close second to Win City. In 2013, Boulanger was set to ride Spring In The Air but the Canadian champion was scratched prior to the race.

Nevertheless another opportunity has presented itself and the jockey remains steadfast about his horse’s abilities.

“He does things so easily,” Boulanger said. “He is just a big strong colt. Anytime I breeze him and the two times I’ve won on him he’s just done it so easy. It never got to the bottom where he had to exert himself to the fullest. I hope I don’t have to find out Tuesday that I’ve got to get to the bottom, but if I do I do and I think he has it.”

Entries for Tuesday’s Prince of Wales