FORT ERIE, Ont. -- Corey Fraser's first career Canadian Triple Crown thoroughbred victory was certainly a dramatic one.
Fraser guided Gallant, a 15-1 longshot, to the stunning win in the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes race Sunday at Fort Erie Racetrack. But the Toronto native, who grew up in nearby Niagara Falls, Ont., had to wait an agonizing 10 minutes before race stewards awarded Gallant the win over filly Milwaukee Appeal in a heart-thumping photo finish.
"I thought I won it but I tried not to think too much in case that was a jinx," he said. "When it was going along taking a long time I was thinking it was a dead heat and I was going to be just as happy with that.
"But I was dying on the way back just to find out."
So, too, was winning trainer Mark Casse, who watched the race from Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto.
"It was exciting," he said. "At first we thought we won, then we weren't so sure.
"Then we saw Corey go crazy and that's when we figured out."
Fraser had Gallant on the rail duelling a hard-charging Milwaukee Appeal from three quarters of a mile on, and there was very little separating the two when they hit the finish line.
The photo finish showed Gallant finishing a couple of centimetres ahead of Milwaukee Appeal, the 7-5 favourite, the result of a well-timed final head bob to earn the $300,000 winner's share in the 1 3/16-mile event at Fort Erie Racetrack.
"This is just like a dream," he said. "I hit the wire and it was a dream."
Gallant topped the six-horse field in 1:56.74 on a fast track in the second jewel of Canada's Triple Crown. Milwaukee Appeal was second, with Queen's Plate champion Eye of The Leopard, the 9-5 second pick, charging to finish third, a half-length back.
Keino West was fourth, followed by Mr. Foricos Two U and Flip for the Coin.
Gallant paid $33.10, $11.10 and $3.60. Milwaukee Appeal returned $3.60 and $2.30 while Eye of the Leopard paid $2.40.
Eye of The Leopard remained off the pace for much of the race but tracked the leaders effectively before coming on down the stretch. He had a legitimate shot at both Gallant and Milwaukee Appeal but couldn't reach them in time.
History certainly wasn't on Eye of The Leopard's side. Since 1959, only 13 Queen's Plate champions have gone on to win the Prince of Wales Stakes. And only seven of those have become Triple Crown winners, the last being Wando in 2003.
The race presented a different challenge for Eye Of The Leopard, as the track surface in Fort Erie is dirt compared to the polytrack at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack, the site of the Queen's Plate.
Casse elected to have Gallant skip the Queen's Plate and instead point the horse to the Prince of Wales race. The remaining horses in Sunday's field also ran in the Plate on June 21. Eye of The Leopard edged Milwaukee Appeal by a nose in that race.
"I kind of thought a lot of horses would knock themselves out in the Queen's Plate," he said. "If we had a shot it would be in the Prince of Wales because we would be coming in with a fresh horse.
"He trained really well but we needed some horses not to run their best race and our horse to run his best race. That's what he kind of did."
This marked the second photo-finish victory for Gallant, which prompted questions whether the three-year-old is starting to like having his picture taken. But Fraser, in his first-ever mount aboard Gallant, said such close finishes are no fun for jockeys.
"They're not good for the heart," he said with a chuckle. "At the quarter pole I was sure I had enough horse and I was, `Let's go, bring it on.'
"Milwaukee Appeal passed us (at about a quarter mile) and I'm like, `No, no, no.' I asked him for more and he dug back in and battled."
The win was Gallant's second in four races this season and maintained his run of finishing in the money (one second, one third). Overall, the three-year-old has two wins, a second and third in eight career events, with career earnings surpassing $400,000.
The third and final jewel is the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, a 1.5-mile turf event that will be run Aug. 2 at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. Casse was non-commital about whether Gallant will go to the post in the race.
"It's too early to tell," he said. "I'd like to sit down and analyze it all and see.
"The Breeders' could be a possibility or maybe stay on the dirt."