Sure, right. What was that again?
The horse that won the first King’s Plate in 72 years is owned by a guy who had never bought a yearling before from a woman who breeds only one or two mares a year? And oh yes, this horse, Paramount Prince, had to break from lucky post 13?
Doesn’t sound like the recipe to win Canada’s most important race, worth $1-million to boot.
But in a year when the world seems to be turned on the backside of its axis, Fate stumbled through Mike Langlois’s door and handed a victory to the little guy.
Paramount Prince took care of the rest. The Prince, as race caller Robert Geller said, became a King.
The race, which had been the Queen’s Plate for a lifetime, well, since 1952, is now called the King’s Plate, with the ascendency of Charles III to the throne. The last winner of a King’s Plate was E.P. Taylor’s lightly regarded Major Factor, a gelding and a former $2,500 claimer. There were 21 horses in that year’s Plate. They had to borrow a couple of gates from Dufferin track and still that wasn’t enough. Major Factor came from the back of the pack.
Not so Pampered Prince, who went off at 8 to 1 odds, despite winning the Plate Trial by an easy five lengths. The son of Society’s Chairman scampered to the lead from the start, set a decent pace, never let anyone near him and then just legged it to the wire to win by 1 ½ lengths, another easy win.
The clocking for 1 ¼ miles? 2:01.93, with a final quarter in 25.56. The time was just .45 seconds slower than it took the filly, Moira, to win last year’s Queen’s Plate. And her clocking was a synthetic record at Woodbine.
In the stands, owner Mike Langlois was jumping up and down and throwing his fists. As he led Paramount Prince to the winner’s circle, jockey Patrick Husbands (winning his third Plate) mashed a handful of flowers from the garland onto his cap. Langlois didn’t seem to mind. Maybe he didn’t notice.
Langlois, in the financial business, admits he’s an emotional guy. But this was the right time to trot all of that out, considering what ride he had taken to this moment.
Last Wednesday, at the Plate draw, Langlois had said: “I think he’s a special horse. We were at the right place at the right time. I think he’s going to surprise some people on Sunday. That’s what I really hope.”
And he did.
Langlois’s late son, Roger, was best buddies with Jamie Attard when they were kids. “Jamie pretty much lived at our house,” Langlois said. After a time, they went their separate ways, but Langlois eventually bumped into Jamie’s parents, trainer Sid and Janice Attard in Florida. Jamie was to become a trainer, so the Langlois family thought they would help him out by buying a horse and letting him train it.
They intended to buy a yearling at the Toronto sale and had circled a feisty coppery-coloured colt by Society’s Chairman. But they arrived at the sale too late, and the colt had already gone through the ring. He had a reserve price of $25,000 on him, and nobody wanted him enough to pay that much. So he walked back out of the ring, still the property of breeder Ericka Rusnak.
The Langlois clan got talking to Sid and Jamie, who thought the colt was a “pretty good colt,” and maybe they should try to buy him from the breeder.
They got him for $21,000.
The entire family, new to all of this, searched for a name. Everybody in the family put in their suggestions. They came up with 10 finalists. Langlois wanted to have “Prince” in the name. But before they narrowed the choices down to one, Langlois’s wife, Charmaine called him at work. She had done a little homework, and found that “Paramount Prince” was an available name.
“It’s not been taken,” she told him. What do you think?”
“Well, what does that mean?” Mike said.
Said Charmaine: “Above all else. Special. Champion.”
“That sounds like a winner to me,” Mike said. “Let’s do it.
“And he hasn’t proven me wrong.”
They had to register silks, too. Once again, that was a family affair. “We got the grandchildren to draw what they thought the colours should be,” he said.
A grandson came up with a rather conservative option. Langlois liked it. But the rest of the family began pushing the design of a granddaughter. They took a vote. The granddaughter won.
When the silks were made, Jamie Attard called Langlois and told Mike he had received them.
“What do you think,” Mike asked.
“Ehhhh, they’re okay,” Jamie said.
“Don’t give me the baloney,” Mike said. “Give me your honest opinion. “
“It’s a little different,” Jamie said diplomatically.
Mike had to go over and have a look. “It looked like a clown suit,” he said. “It was pink and purple.”
He sent a photo of it to his wife and said: “Charmaine, no jockey is going to ride our horse wearing that.”
Charmaine had to agree. They adopted more conservative colours. And used them because in 2021, they claimed a horse called Magic Spin, that raced five times and broke his maiden last October. That was Langlois’s first win as an owner.
Paramount Prince was slow to come to hand. It was almost season’s end last year – Nov. 22 – when Paramount Prince finally made it to the races. But he won by nine lengths at Woodbine and the Langlois family celebrated.
“We really didn’t understand the magnitude of it,” Mike said. That changed in a hurry. The next day they got a call from a U.S. agent, who said he had a client that wanted to buy the horse. Langlois said no. “We’re sticking with Jamie,” he told the man. “We didn’t buy it for the money. We bought it to help Jamie out.”
But that wasn’t the end of it. The agent called back again, and said the client really wanted a piece of the horse. They offered $140,00 for a half-interest, they would be partners, Langlois could have top billing and keep any awards, and they’d split the costs down the middle.
Jamie Attard gave Langlois his blessing. He told him that he really had to do it.
Langlois’s new partner? Gary Barber, former chairman of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who was executive producer of more than 50 films. He lives in Los Angeles, but has long been a major owner of Canadian racehorses with Mark Casse, winner of 15 Sovereign Awards as Canada’s leading trainer. Barber owned both of Casse’s previous Queen’s Plate winners, Lexie Lou in 2014, and Wonder Gadot in 2018.
And of course, this deal meant that Casse would take over training duties. It meant that Paramount Prince could be trained over the winter in Florida. Looking back, Langlois realizes it was the best move he could have made.
It also meant he didn’t have to worry about silks. Paramount Prince would wear Barber’s distinctive and eye-splitting pink colours.
“Mark Casse is amazing,” Langlois said. “And [Woodbine assistant] Catherine [Sullivan.] They have been so kind to us. We’re nobodies, and we don’t know anything. But they treated us like somebodies. We had only one horse, but that was irrelevant. And we got a great rider. [Patrick Husbands.].”
Before the deal was done, Paramount Prince finished third in the Clarendon Stakes as a 2-year-old at the end of the Woodbine season. Back home at three, he finished second in an optional claimer, and then second in the Queenston Stakes to the good colt Kaukokaipuu.
Before the Plate Trial, Casse told Langlois in the paddock, that “I know you are thinking about the Queen’s Plate, but that’s a whole different level of racing,” he said. “You’ve got a great horse, but I don’t want you to get your hopes up. Even if he doesn’t do well, you know there’s going to be other big races he’s going to be in. Let’s just see how it goes.”
He added that if Paramount Prince finished in the top five, they would talk about the Plate.
Paramount Prince dominated the Plate Trial. Won it by five lengths. Langlois and Casse watched it from the owner’s box. Afterwards, Casse turned around and said: “Correction. I don’t want you to get your hopes up. But we’re going to the King’s Plate, my friend.”
After Paramount Prince’s final work, Husbands told Casse he had better bring his suit.
Other horses were getting more attention. The Plate had a large field, 17, largest in years. The race favourite was Kalik, a flashy U.S, stakes winner, trained by Chad Brown, and owned by a powerful partnership that also owned stars like Monomoy Girl, Midnight Bisou, Catholic Boy, Whitmore. Kalik had never run on synthetics, but went off as a narrow favourite at 4 to 1.
He ended up 13th, after fading in the stretch.
Others were Stanley House, at $4.40 to 1, who had thrown a clunker in the Plate Trial, but was usually consistent, and had Javier Castellano on him. Castellano has been having a banner year, having won the Kentucky Derby with Mage and the Belmont Stakes with Arcangelo. Trainer by Mike De Paulo, Stanley House finished third after having to truck three and five-horses wide.
Also figuring in was Casse’s filly, Elysian Fields, who had won the Woodbine Oaks as impressively as Paramount Prince had won the Plate Trial. She went off at $4.60 to 1 and finished second, giving Casse a one-two punch.
Kaukokaipuu, the first Plate horse for trainer Tedston Holder, was bet down to 8 to 1, but finished 15th after being caught four and five-wide on the first turn. The filly Wickenheiser, second in the Oaks, was 11th.
Touch’n Ride had run only twice for Chiefswood Stables. But both efforts had been impressive, his last a 6 ½ length victory. The son of Candy Ride went off at 6 to 1 and finished fifth.
Enjoythesilent was a last-minute also-eligible draw-in (remember Rick Strike in the Kentucky Derby?) and at 63-1, finished sixth.
As for Langlois, he’s a treat for Casse, because he’s a new owner, excited by everything. It’s a refreshing vibe for him.
Langlois visits Paramount Prince as often as he can on the Woodbine backstretch. He thinks the gelding is starting to recognize him. Before the Plate, he asked the colt to “do it one more time.
“Stay healthy. Stay fresh. Give it to those guys. Nobody expects us to be anywhere. Anything more we do is a bonus.
“I kept saying to my wife at every race: ‘Do you think this is the end of the ride? Do you think he is going to do something special today?’”
“And he hasn’t let me down.”