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The American Triple Crown remains first and foremost on Canadian-bred Messier's radar but part-owner Tom Ryan isn't closing the door on the horse returning north to run in the $1-million Queen's Plate.
The three-year-old colt — named after former NHL star Mark Messier — is the early 8-1 third choice for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs. The Preakness is slated for May 21 with the Belmont scheduled for June 11.
That would still leave Messier time to return to Canada on Aug. 21 for the Plate, North America's oldest continuously run race and the first jewel of Canada's Triple Crown, at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack. In March, Messier was the even-money favourite in the Plate Winterbook.
Ryan is the managing partner of SF Bloodstock/SF Racing LLC — which has an ownership stake in Messier. And while Ryan wouldn't say definitely that the heralded three-year-old colt will run in Toronto, he didn't close the door on it, either.
"It's a race that's impossible to ignore," Ryan told The Canadian Press. "It's $1 million and I'm not sure either the distance (1 1/4 miles) or surface (Tapeta) would trouble this horse, I think both would be to his satisfaction.
"I think we've gone from year to year to month to month to now day to day. Let's see where we get to … I think we'd like to keep our options open on that."
Messier was born and bred at Sam-Son Farm, in Milton, Ont., and sold for US$470,00 as a yearling. The horse has won three of his six career starts and never finished worse than second.
Messier heads into the annual Run for The Roses following a second-place finish last month in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.
Jim Lawson, the CEO of Woodbine Entertainment, said having Messier at the Plate would certainly be a boon for both the event and racing industry.
"I think it would be good for the sport, just starting with the name Messier (being) recognized in Canada," said Lawson. "I think it would be a very positive thing for Canadian racing if they came, I think it would be a very positive thing for Canadian racing and breeding if Messier runs well Saturday so we as an industry here in Canada are certainly cheering for him.
"There's obviously the historical connection to the Samuel family … it would mean a lot in so many ways for the horse to run well and in turn possibly come to Canada."
Ernie Samuel founded Sam-Son Farm in 1972 and built it into a formidable racing/breeding operation. Following Samuel's death in 2000, his daughter, Tammy Samuel-Balaz took over before her passing in 2008.
In 2020, the Sam-Son Farm announced it would be dispersing its breeding and racing stock.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2022.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press