Hidden Brook Purchase Skywire a 2019 Queen's Plate Favorite

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Lou Tucci has fond memories of his first Queen’s Plate victory as an owner in 2013 when Midnight Aria took the field gate-to-wire to spring a 16-1 upset over favored Up With the Birds. Tucci is back on the Queen’s Plate trail this year, as co-owner of the highly regarded Skywire, but admits the lead up to the $1 million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine on June 29 is much different this time around.

“It’s a different story altogether,” he said. “With Midnight Aria, we claimed him for $35,000 just months before and he was a longshot going in. We were a little more relaxed. We had two horses in the race and we were actually thinking that the other horse, River Seven, would do better that day. Now, we’re going to be one of the favorites and it’s a little more nerve wracking than last time. For me, anyways, it’s a little more nerve wracking. Maybe [co-owner] Mr. [Gary] Barber and Mark Casse are more used to it.”

Tucci’s ownership of Skywire began at the Fasig-Tipton Mid-Atlantic 2-year-olds-in-training sale in May 2018. Bred in Ontario by the late William Graham, Skywire had gone through the sales ring previously as a short yearling at the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale in 2017, where he was purchased by De Meric Stables for $47,000. Hidden Brook purchased Skywire as a 2-year-old for Tucci for $45,000.

“Hidden Brook did a great job in picking a few horses for me,” Tucci said. “This was the lone Canadian-bred of the three.”

Following the sale, Tucci sent Skywire to trainer Sid Attard to begin his racing career. He made his career debut last December in a six-furlong sprint at Woodbine, coming from off of the pace to win by three-quarters of a length. Tucci gave credit to Attard for Skywire’s development over the course of his 2-year-old season, although the colt did not start until the last month of the Woodbine meet.

“He just needed to grow,” Tucci said. “He’s a big horse and he’s just a late bloomer. We didn’t want to rush him and Sid did a great job of not rushing him and running him late in the year. I have to say that Sid did a great job with him as a youngster in getting him ready for this type of racing.”

Following Skywire’s start at Woodbine, Tucci got a call from Barber with an offer to purchase an interest in the colt privately. Tucci described the offer as “fair” and the new partnership was formed. Meanwhile, Skywire was transferred to Casse’s barn to resume his training.

“I got the phone call from Mr. Barber’s team member and he made a reasonable offer,” Tucci said. “I don’t mind partnerships. I’ve done it most of my racing career. I accepted the offer and I’m glad I did. Some people ask, do I regret selling part of him? But I really don’t. I have no regrets. I’m more than happy to have a partner with a great horse.”

Over the winter, Skywire’s Queen’s Plate prospects began to blossom following a six-length win in allowance company over a sloppy Gulfstream Park dirt track Feb. 13. Following that start, Skywire made his stakes debut in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park on March 9, but encountered a troubled trip and finished eighth. Tucci said that despite the unfortunate result the connections’ confidence in the colt never wavered.

“It was a combination of things,” he said. “We found out later he didn’t really like the track, number one. Number two, he did get a rough trip. I don’t know if we would have caught the winner, but I think we would have done better. We kept running into a little bit of traffic along the way and the race didn’t go his way for a number of reasons.”

Since returning to Woodbine, Skywire has found another gear. He won the Wando Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths with an 88 Beyer Speed Figure on April 28, and followed that up with a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Marine Stakes this past Saturday. Skywire will now train up to the Queen’s Plate, and his recent performances have both Casse and jockey Eurico Da Silva speaking highly of the colt, which has Tucci looking forward to the first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown.

“The comments Mark has made and the comments the jockey has made about the horse gets you excited because they don’t tend to do that with every horse,” Tucci said. “They don’t tend to get high on every horse and they’re very realistic.”

Hidden Brook Farm is also factoring in the springs classics in the U. S. with Florida graduate Bourbon War. The son of Tapit races for Bourbon Lane Stables and Lake Star Stable and finished a surging second to Code of Honor on the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and was one of the favorites for the Preakness Stakes (G1). He's slated to make his next start in the final leg of the Triple Crown, the June 9 Belmont Stakes (G1).

-edited from www.drf.com