From Claim to Fame: Long Shot, Midnight Aria Steals Queen’s Plate

Story originally published on July 9, 2013, on

Moments after winning the Queen’s Plate aboard Midnight Aria, Jesse Campbell said that the horse proved “he’s a stayer and he’s a fighter.” The same could be said of the journeyman jockey, who captured the prestigious plate for the first time on Sunday.

“I’ve been working 18-years for this,” Campbell said, while holding back tears. “I’m fourth generation and this is for my family.”

Amazingly, Midnight Aria was previously claimed for a mere $35,000 at Gulfstream by Tucci Stables, which also celebrated its first Queen’s Plate.

“We watched the video (before claiming him) and he had a big long stretch move that I really liked,” said Lou Tucci, who, along with his uncle Carlo, first spotted Midnight Aria.

“We both liked this horse because he was Ontario bred,” Tucci said. “I knew we’d have a real nice horse…my uncle and I always talk about the Queen’s Plate, we have been for 40 years.”

The Tucci’s dream of capturing the plate was realized on Sunday after Midnight Aria set soft early fractions, while facing minimal pressure on the lead. It was the exact pace scenario that trainer, Nick Gonzalez, had hoped for.

“You gotta get lucky in this business, ” said Gonzalez, after capturing his second Queen’s Plate. “We never got pressed really that hard.”

Gonzalez was also grateful for a massive downpour before the race, which dumped a large amount of rain onto the Woodbine polytrack.

“Did it help us?,” Gonzalez rhetorically asked. “I think it did. Makes it a little more speed favoring… and he just did what he was supposed to do today and that’s why we’re standing here.”

Midnight Aria prevailed at odds of 16-1, holding off a fast-closing, Up With the Birds, who was the race favorite.

Midnight Aria in the Woodbine walking ring before winning the Queen's Plate
Midnight Aria in the Woodbine walking ring before winning the Queen’s Plate

Next up for the Queen’s Plate winner is the Prince of Wales Stakes on July 30, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. The race at Fort Erie is being held, for the first time, on a Tuesday night.

Campbell will be there too, likely still riding high from the plate victory. A native of Wisconsin, Campbell was a regular on the Chicago racing circuit (where his father rode and still trains) before moving to Woodbine. The Queen’s Plate purse is the largest he’s ever claimed.

“This is the Canadian version of the Kentucky Derby,” said Campbell, in a moment of proud reflection. “So, it doesn’t get any bigger than that, right?”

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