Daaher born a contender

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

It wasn't the first time the Canadian racing establishment thought Frank Stronach had lost his mind.

It wasn't the first time they were dead wrong, either.

Ten years ago, the charismatic head of auto parts giant Magna International had the nerve to enter in the Queen's Plate a horse that had just two previous starts.

By the end of the day, Queen Elizabeth was handing over the winning trophy to Stronach after Awesome Again's dynamic 31/2 length victory over Cryptocloser.

Presumably, then, no one was snickering when New York-based trainer Kiaran McLaughlin entered Daaher for Sunday's 148th running.

If the $375,000 US yearling purchase is successful for owner Shadwell Stable, the Plate will indeed be awesome again.

A son of the 1997 Plate champ, Daaher also has just two career starts and like his daddy was impressive in breaking his maiden in his most recent outing.

That performance at Belmont Park and the fact that this year's Plate has come up light -- a field of just nine is expected -- was enough for McLaughlin to take a shot.

How serious are the connections? Because the owners didn't make all the necessary early payments, they had to pony up a $25,000 supplemental fee just to become eligible.

"He's fit enough and he's bred the right way," McLaughlin said, adding that his running style is ideal for the Plate's 11/4 mile distance. "That's what he wants to do (go long).

"We thought there are not that many chances to run for a million bucks, so we decided to point him that way."

Daaher, who is expected to arrive at the track today, is one of three U.S.-based colts shipping in to chase a big chunk of the $1 million purse.

McLaughlin, a former assistant for training legend D. Wayne Lukas, hasn't been shy about racing at Woodbine in the past. In 1998, his colt Zaha captured the important Coronation Fururity for two-year-olds before finishing sixth to Woodcarver in the Plate the following spring.

As for Awesome Again, though the colt and his accomplishments received only a lukewarm embrace by the local racing fraternity, he brought great acclaim to Canadian breds.

Not only did he capture the 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, but one of Awesome Again's offspring, Ghostzapper, followed suit in the 2004 Classic at Chicago's Arlington Park.

For those efforts, Awesome Again now stands at Stronach's Adena Springs farm in Kentucky where he commands a healthy breeding fee of $150,000 to produce potential future stars such as Daaher.


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