Check Your Soul, Queen’splatekitten and Inglorious top a field of 17 Canadian-foaled three-year-olds for the $1 million Queen’s Plate, Canada’s most famous horse race, Sunday at Woodbine.
The 152nd edition of the Plate, the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America, will be televised live on CBC-TV in HD (High Definition) in a special presentation from 4:30 – 6:00 pm ET. Post time is 5:38 pm. Ontario’s Lieutenant-Governor, the Honourable David C. Onley, will attend the Plate for the second time, following his first appearance in 2009.
All starters carry 126 pounds, except the filly Inglorious, who is pegged at 121 pounds in the mile and one-quarter classic over Woodbine’s Polytrack. The winner will receive $600,000. It’s the largest field since 1999.
Alex Anthopoulos, Senior Vice-President, Baseball Operations and General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, was the guest drawmaster when the post position draw took place Thursday morning at Woodbine. The selection order for post positions was drawn first via the traditional ‘pill-pull’, followed by the choosing of post positions by the connections for each horse, a system which has been in place for the Queen’s Plate since 1998.
Morning line favourite Check Your Soul (PP13, 3-1), a Charles Fipke homebred product of Perfect Soul-Unchecked, will be trying to give his Hall of Fame trainer, Roger Attfield, a record ninth Plate win.
Attfield, currently tied at eight victories with Harry Giddings Jr., last won the Plate in 2008 with another Fipke homebred, Not Bourbon.
His other Plate winners were Norcliffe (1976), Market Control (1987), With Approval (1989), Izvestia (1990), Alydeed (1992), Peteski (1993) and Regal Discovery (1995).
To be ridden by Patrick Husbands, who won the 2003 Plate en route to a Triple Crown aboard Wando, Check Your Soul did not race as a two-year-old, but has won three of his four starts this year, including a three and one-quarter length score in the Plate Trial on June 5.
Twenty-five Plate Trial winners, including the last three (Not Bourbon in 2008; Eye of the Leopard in 2009 and Big Red Mike in 2010) have gone on to Plate glory while the last Plate winner to have not raced as a juvenile was Eye of the Leopard in 2009.
“It was a good performance for sure,” said Attfield, about the Plate Trial performance. “I wasn’t concerned a bit (about the poor start). I thought it was a blessing in disguise as I wanted to see him come from off it. I think it’s how he likes to run. It’s what I really wanted to see. I was actually grateful, experience-wise.”
The 7-2 second choice is Queen’splatekitten (PP14, 7-2), purchased by Mill House this winter from owner-breeder Kenneth Ramsey and conditioned by North America’s leading trainer, Todd Pletcher. The son of Kitten’s Joy-Iteration won the Marine Stakes on May 21 by three lengths, his third win in six career outings as he remained perfect in two starts over Woodbine’s Polytrack. The only time he’s been worse than second was in this year’s Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, when finishing seventh, six lengths behind the winner Brilliant Speed.
“It was exactly what we were hoping for,” continued Pletcher, about the Marine effort. “The horse settled really well, made a good run. I think we got the prep we were hoping for, five weeks before the big race.”
Last year, Queen’splatekitten made two starts at Woodbine, finishing second in his career debut on the lawn, before breaking his maiden on the polytrack. Pletcher won the Plate in 1998 with Archers Bay, while jockey John Velazquez’s best Plate finish came aboard Sterwins in 2006, when second to Edenwold.
Pletcher will also send out Zayat Stables’ Imhotep (PP1, 30-1), a son of Giant’s Causeway. Still a maiden after three starts, including a sixth place finish to Check Your Soul in the Plate Trial, Imhotep will be ridden for the first time by Emile Ramsammy, who will be seeking his third Plate triumph after victories with Victor Cooley in 1996 and Edenwold in 2006. The last maiden to win the Plate was Scatter The Gold in 2000.
Donver Stable’s Inglorious (PP9, 9-2), trained by Josie Carroll, is the third choice at 9-2. She enters fresh from her victory in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, on June 5, when she collared pacesetter Spooky Kitten in deep stretch for the three-quarter length score.
“It was definitely not the kind of pace that benefits a closer, but again, this filly just gets the job done,” said Carroll, about the Oaks win. “If you look at her stride, she’s got a tremendous reach when she finishes a race. I think we’re asking a lot. It’s a very contentious Queen’s Plate this year but how often do you get the opportunity with a ‘live’ horse?”
Carroll will be seeking a second Plate win, after becoming the first female conditioner to win the ‘Gallop for the Guineas’ in 2006 with Edenwold. To be ridden by Woodbine’s leading rider, Luis Contreras,
Inglorious, a four-time winner in six career starts, is the field’s leading money winner with $650,000 and is also perfect in four trips over Woodbine’s Polytrack.
The daughter of Hennessy-Noble Strike will try to become the 34th filly to win the Queen’s/King’s Plate since 1860 and the first filly (fifth overall) since Dancethruthedawn in 2001 to capture both the Oaks and the Plate. Other fillies who won both are Flaming Page (1962), La Lorgnette (1985) and Dance Smartly (1991).
Carroll will also saddle another Donver silk-bearer, Seawatch (PP12, 20-1), a homebred son of Woodman-Nessarose. He will be ridden by Slade Callaghan and enters off a fifth place finish in the Victoria Park Stakes on June 12.
Bowman’s Causeway (PP16, 6-1), trained by Chad Brown for owner Martin Schwartz, will make his second start at Woodbine, after finishing second to Check Your Soul in the Plate Trial, three and one-quarter lengths behind.
To be ridden by Eurico Rosa da Silva, who is undefeated in the Plate, having won the last two editions with Eye of the Leopard in 2009 and Big Red Mike in 2010 (no jockey has won three consecutive Plates), the son of Giant’s Causeway-Victory Encounter earlier in the year was on the Kentucky Derby trail, competing in both the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Frank Di Giulio Jr.’s Oh Canada (PP3, 10-1), a homebred son of Proud Citizen-Oh Livia D., won the Woodstock Stakes on April 16 in his seasonal bow, and most recently finished third to Queen’splatekitten in the Marine. To be ridden by Emma-Jayne Wilson, who became the first female rider to win the Plate in 2007 with Mike Fox, Oh Canada hasn’t finished worse than third in five career starts for trainer Bob Tiller.
Tiller’s best Plate finishes came with runners-up Near the High Sea in 1975 and Win City in 2001, while Di Giulio, a co-owner of Win City, also finished third with Domasca Dan in 1989 and with Forever Grand in 2002, a horse he owned in partnership with Tiller.
Pender Harbour (PP5, 12-1), trained by Mike DePaulo, recently finished fourth, just two lengths behind Moonshine Mullin in the Victoria Park, at one and one-eighth miles, in only his second start of the season.
Last year, the chestnut gelded son of Philanthropist won the Kingarvie Stakes over several of his Plate rivals for owners Denny Andrews, Sandra Lazaruk and Rob and Roberta Giffin. Chantal Sutherland, one of the leading riders at Woodbine for the past decade, returns for the first time this year, since deciding to ride in California.
Trainer Mark Casse, still looking for his first Plate win, will send out a trio of hopefuls in Enduring Star, Hippolytus and Strike Oil.
Casse is a three-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s outstanding trainer, whose best Plate finish was fourth with filly Tasty Temptation in 2009.
West Point Thoroughbreds’ Enduring Star (PP10, 30-1) is a one-time winner and will be ridden for the first time by Robby Albarado.
Hippolytus (PP15, 30-1), owned by Horse’n Around Racing Stable and Richard Lederman and ridden by Tyler Pizarro, has two career wins and was most recently fourth in the Plate Trial. John Oxley’s Strike Oil (PP7, 15-1), winner of last year’s rich Coronation Futurity at Woodbine and third to Check Your Soul in the Plate Trial, will be piloted by Willie Martinez, who finished second to Awesome Again in the 1997 Plate with Cryptocloser.
Trainer Catherine Day Phillips, who has twice finished second in the Plate, with A Bit O’ Gold in 2004 and Mr. Foricos Two U in 2009, will saddle Head Honcho (PP6, 30-1), co-owned by Frank Annecchini, Rocco D’Alimonte and Kingfield Racing. Jono Jones, who won the 2008 Plate aboard Not Bourbon, will pilot the two-time winning son of Strut the Stage.
J.M. Stritzl Stable’s Curgone (PP2, 50-1), a son of 2004 Plate winner Niigon, is a one-time winner and will be ridden by Garrett Gomez, one of the leading riders in North America. He’s trained by Greg de Gannes, who saddled last year’s fifth place finisher, Mobthewarrior.
Completing the field are Maple Leaf Kitten (PP17, 50-1), owned by Billy, Donna and Justin Hays, trained by Joe Woodard and ridden by Omar Moreno; Ojibway Signal (PP11, 50-1), another son of Niigon, co-owned by Gus Vlahos and trainer David Bell, with Justin Stein aboard; two-time winner Okiyama (PP8, 30-1), trained by John Mattine for Bill Paterson, Rick Okihiro, Tony Romanelli Sr., RCC Racing Stable Ltd. and Partners, with Jesse Campbell riding for the first time and Jam Jar Racing Stable’s One Big Gator (PP4, 30-1), trained by John Ross, with veteran Jim McAleney, who has twice finished second in the Plate (Anglian Prince in 2002; I And I in 2000), aboard.
The Queen’s Plate is the first leg in the Canadian Triple Crown. The second leg is the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, at one mile and three-sixteenths on July 17 at Fort Erie, while the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes, at one mile and one-half on the grass, August 7 at Woodbine, comprises the third and final leg. There have been seven Triple Crown winners since the concept was inaugurated in 1959, the first being New Providence in 1959, the latest being Wando in 2003.
Since 1956, the stakes record for the Plate is 2:01 4/5, set by Izvestia in 1990, when he also won by the largest margin, 13 lengths.
The longest-priced winner in the modern era (since 1956) is T J’s Lucky Moon ($166) in 2002 while Maternal Pride is the highest-priced winner of all time, paying $193.35 in 1924.
Favourites have done well in the Plate since 1956, winning 22 of 55 renewals (40%). However, Wando in 2003, and Eye of the Leopard in 2009, are the only favourites to win in the last 16 editions.
For complete race information, visit http://www.queensplate.com/. Two turf stakes, the $200,000 Highlander, at six furlongs, and the $150,000 Singspiel, at one and one-half miles, will be part of the Queen’s Plate undercard. First race post time is 12:25 pm.