● The so-called curse of Apollo, under which no horse had won the Kentucky Derby when unraced as a 2-year-old since 1882, was lifted this year by Triple Crown winner Justify. Canada has its own version of that now-extinct jinx as no horse since Norcliffe in 1976 has parlayed victory in the Coronation Futurity into success in the Queen's Plate.
● Trainer John Ross, who won last year's Coronation Futurity with Aheadbyacentury, is aware of this fact but sees no logical reason for the drought. "We're going to try and put an end to that," said Ross. "He's good and fit, and he's ready. "
● Aheadbyacentury, named for the Tragically Hip song which was the encore at that group's farewell concert in Kingston, Ontario, was purchased for $67,000 at the local select yearling sale in partnership with the newly-formed Jack of Hearts Stable.
● The Midnight Lute colt performed well in his first two stakes sprints but Ross had always believed that his forte would be two-turn races. "He was coming from the back, and he'd come on," said Ross. "You could tell he wanted more ground."
● Aheadbyacentury verified his trainer's opinion by graduating over 1 1/16 miles and then doubling up in the Coronation Futurity. Wintering at Payson Park, Aheadbyacentury was back at Woodbine in early April and made his sophomore bow in the seven-furlong Queenston here April 22. "It was a good starting point," said Ross.
● Aheadbyacentury has followed up with third-place finishes in the 1 1/16 mile Marine and 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial, running similar races. "He was coming on well," said Ross. "Now we've just got to up the ante; his numbers are just a shade lower than I'd like."
●After racing without blinkers for the first time in the Plate Trial, Aheadbyacentury will be reverting to his shaded state for this most important appearance. "He's a little more attentive to things, with the blinkers on," said Ross.
Owner – Jack of Hearts Racing & J.R. Racing Stable Inc.
Jack of Hearts Stable was formed by Jim Aston and Neal Mednick in 2015 with the purchase of three horses including Raglan Road and Cool Catomine. The name, and the silks with "JH" prominently displayed, honors the late Jack Harrington, who was a good friend to Aston, Mednick and subsequent Jack of Hearts member Bob Hunter. Raglan Road was multiply stakes placed at 2 and Cool Catomine won the Prince of Wales Stakes last year.
Aston, a retired insurance broker, is the only Jack of Hearts member who has previously owned horses. He had nine, between 2002 and 2009 with trainer Reade Baker, including multiple stakes winners Executive Choice and Tothemoonandback. Mednick, whose varied careers have included the fields of private investigation, journalism and public relations, currently is the director of communications for Historic Plaster, which specializes in architectural plaster conservation in historic buildings. Hunter, a longtime executive in the steel industry, is enjoying his "retirement" gig as a supervisor of ushers for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
J.R. Racing is the nom du course of trainer John Ross.
Trainer – John Ross
John Ross, 66, got his initial horse experience as a groom and warm-up rider for Tom Gayford and the Canadian equestrian team. He arrived on the Thoroughbred scene in the early 1970's as an exercise rider for the powerful Conn Smythe Stable. He also worked for Laurie Silvera, Mac Benson, Minshall Farms and Huntington Stud Farm. He then joined the 'front-side' of the track, part-time, as a television cameraman in the 1980's, before returning to the backstretch full-time as a trainer in 1989.Top horses conditioned by Ross through the years include King Corrie, a two-time Sovereign Award-winning sprinter (1991-1992); John the Magician (Breeders' Stakes, 1997); and Plate Trial winners Catahoula Parish (1999) and Shaws Creek.
Jockey – Luis Contreras
Born in Mexico City, Luis Contreras, 32, began his career in Mexico at age 16 and rode more than 100 winners in four consecutive seasons before moving to Golden Gate in Northern California. Since arriving at Woodbine in 2009, Contreras has won three riding titles from 2011 to 2013 and back-to-back Sovereign Awards as Outstanding Jockey in the first of those seasons. He won the Queen's Plate with Inglorious in his first try then took the Prince of Wales and Breeders' Stakes with Pender Harbour to become the first rider to win all three Canadian Triple Crown races with different horses. Last year, Contreras took the first two Triple Crown legs with champion Holy Helena and the John Ross trainee Cool Catomine.