Sam-Son bar none

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

With a steady string of talented, champion thoroughbreds through the years, the late Ernie Samuel had ample opportunity to teach his family how to root one home.

It was infectious, the love the Oakville-based clan had for the Sport of Kings -- from the patriarch and his wife Liza and especially to his daughter, Tammy.

The missing family members will make Sunday's 150th Queen's Plate lump-in-your-throat different for the Sam-Son Farm operation, which, despite the loss of those three, are very much still in business.

The stable's strapping homebred colt, Eye of the Leopard, was made the second choice in the morning line yesterday at odds of 7-2 after drawing Post 7.

The son of A.P. Indy, who is bidding to win the Plate in just his fourth career start, is sandwiched between a pair of fillies in the early prognostications: Woodbine Oaks winner Milwaukee Appeal (3-1, Post 4) and Tasty Temptation (4-1, Post 11.)

After Ernie Samuel died in 2000, Tammy took the reins and did so admirably and under the watchful eye of her mother, Liza. But when both ladies passed away in 2008, there was fear that Sam-Son might lose some of its will and heart.

Eye of the Leopard, an impressive winner of the Plate Trial in his most recent race, will be their first Plate starter since 2004 and a refreshing return of the red and gold colours to a race the family has always revered.

"It's not the same," longtime Sam-Son trainer Mark Frostad admitted yesterday. "Tammy isn't here. Liza isn't here and Ernie ... we miss them all.

"It's kind of a funny year going in. It would be nice to get the victory for the rest of the family. It would be emotional for sure."

Though they have scaled down by selling some horses and breeding less, Sam-Son isn't going anywhere just yet. Tammy's husband, Rick, still is involved as is her brother, Mark Samuel, and sister, Kim Samuel-Johnson.

But a win certainly could help ensure that the fire still burns for future generations.

"It would be a great thing for everyone," Frostad said. "I'm sure it will be as emotional as it was when Dancethruthedawn won (in 2000) not long after Ernie died."

If they were to hand out the $600,000 winner's share of the $1-million Plate purse on pedigree alone, this would barely be a contest.

Bred by Sam-Son to their own Woodbine Oaks winner Eye of the Sphynx, A.P. Indy's stud fee is a whopping $250,000 U.S.

With those bloodlines and assuming he didn't stand crooked, Eye of the Leopard could easily have brought $1 million or more had he been sold at auction.

When the 16 A.P. Indy colts sold as yearlings in 2007, the average price was $938,438.

"Put it this way, I wouldn't trade with anybody," Frostad said when asked if he thought his colt should be the betting favourite on Sunday. "He has a tendency to be a little silly and buck around, but he's more focussed than he was.

"He's a tall, lanky horse with a nice big stride. For sure we would rather get a couple more races into him, but the horse is dead fit right now, just a little light on seasoning."

But, you've got to believe, the right mix of everything else.


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