Photo: Michael Burns/Woodbine
The American Triple Crown season has come and gone, but north of the border at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario, the Canadian version is set to get underway. The first jewel is the Queen's Plate, the premier event of Canadian racing. It's also the most prestigious, and oldest continuously run race in North America since it began in 1860. The race has been held at Woodbine since 1956, and this years annual summertime classic marks the 157th edition.
The mile-and-a-quarter event on the Tapeta surface for a purse value of $1 million dollars, will be contested by 13 Canadian-bred three-year-olds.
Wager through your ADW to play the Queen's Plate!
Trainer Josie Carroll, a two-time winner of the Queen's Plate, has quite the fearsome 1-2 punch with Plate Trail winner Amis Gizmo and Woodbine Oaks runner-up Gamble's Ghost.
The final two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown are the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes on the dirt at Fort Erie July 26th and the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes on grass at Woodbine August 14th.
Let's meet the field from the rail out...
1--MIKE/David Moran/John LeBlanc--The first of two runners from the Leblanc barn. In his only juvenile start last season, a 7-furlong event, this colt with the simple name, who created much hype after being the sales topper at the local 2014 September yearling sales, didn't disappoint. He made a 4-wide bid, then rallied late down the stretch to come out on top by a neck. Maiden winner has made just a pair of starts in 2016, a seventh-place finish in a 6 1/2-furlong affair in April, and the following month he was given his first two-turn test against Ontario-bred allowance horses where he finished third. Has been given a difficult assignment.
2--NARROW ESCAPE/Sheena Ryan/Justin Nixon--Colt is undefeated in both two-turn races against Ontario-sired horses. He opened his 3-year old season by winning a NW1x allowance race in gate-to-wire fashion. That win came after an 8-month layoff following the end of his juvenile campaign, which was closed out with his maiden win. Initial stakes try and speed figures that pale in comparison puts this runner up against it. However, keep on eye on his performance here, as his connections may be using this spot as a prep for the Prince Of Wales at Fort Erie in three weeks.
3--ALL ON RED/Eurico Rosa da Silva/Sid Attard--On the strength of a strong 1-mile maiden win at Aqueduct in April, colt was transferred to the Attard stable. Was scratched from a scheduled start on May 29th, before finally going out for his new barn on June 11th. In that race, he pressed the pace down the backstretch, made a bid on the far turn, dueled, then gave way late, losing by a neck. It was a very solid effort following a seven week layoff, so he could rightfully improve, but he could also be a possible "bounce" candidate because of it.
4--LEAVEM IN MALIBU/Gary Boulanger/Mark Casse--Colt did not race as a 2-year old, making his first start back in April, where he finished third in a six-and-a-half furlong affair. Since then, he has doubled up in the win column going two-turns, including a sharp allowance score last out against older horses. Conditioned by Canada's and Woodbine's leading trainer, this lightly-raced runner comes into the Plate having not raced in five weeks, but his works leading in have been superb. Rapidly improving horse with explosiveness tackles stakes company for the first time, but his latest speed figure matches that of the favorite and he looms a dangerous contender.
5--SIR DUDLEY DIGGES/Julian Leparoux/Mike Maker--U.S. based horse campaigned by prominent owners Ken & Sarah Ramsey, who shipped up We Miss Artie two years ago for a 4th-place finish in this event, is named after a 17th-century member of Parliament. Took this colt seven tries to break maiden ranks which he finally accomplished in front-running fashion on the Keeneland turf two races back. He was then entered against stakes company for the first time last out in the Plate Trial, his first encounter over the Woodbine Tapeta surface. There was no shame in losing to the top two, as this guy came away with a very encouraging and credible effort in a game third-place showing.
6--SHAKHIMAT/Emma-Jayne Wilson/Roger Attfield--The Plate winter book favorite picked up where he left off when making his seasonal debut dominating in a front-running score over the Keeneland turf in April. That came five months after he easily and effortlessly destroyed the field in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity at Woodbine to close out his 2-year old season. Two starts back in the American Turf on the Derby undercard, he was involved in a suicidal speed duel for six furlongs while out wide on the track. That effort eventually took its toll and he finished ninth. The Plate Trail last out was a solid prep. He stalked the pace, gained a short lead on the far turn, battled to the final furlong before yielding, but held the place spot. Attfield goes for a record ninth Plate victory.
7--MY NAME IS JIM/Jesse Campbell/Reade Baker--As the distances have increased for this lightly-raced runner with three starts, he's shown progress. Made his debut in April, finishing 10th at 6 1/2-furlongs, but improved dramatically when routing for the first time going 8 1/2-furlongs the following month. Three weeks ago, this gray gelding graduated most impressively at 9-furlongs. Based on the authoritative way he broke his maiden, it appears he could be ready for this big test. However, it's his slow speed figures that are a red flag. Should be involved in the early pace battle.
8--ROCKET PLAN/Simon Husbands/John LeBlanc--Gelding with a restricted maiden victory to his credit from seven starts, has been supplemented to this event. Started off his career in three consecutive maiden claiming events as a juvenile, so the early assessment of his talent wasn't too lofty. But since then, connections have changed their thinking about this runner and have kept him out of those affairs. Closed out his 2-year old season last November with a sixth-place finish in the Kingarvie Stakes. Did run a couple of two-turn races last season, but since returning in 2016, he's been kept sprinting. Outclassed and too slow.
9--CHEBURASHKA/Rafael Hernandez/Robert Tiller--The only bad race on this ones record was an eleventh-place finish in his first start when traveling 6-furlongs last September. To his credit though, he was involved until late in the far turn, but had no response to offer in the stretch. Improved when stretched out in distance, this colt displayed his affinity for racing on or near the lead, collecting back-to-back wins. However, on a few other occasions, including his latest outing, he has surrendered the lead late in the game. Was supplemented to the race and gets the services of last years winning rider. Will be your probable pace-setter, but eventually will give way.
10--AMIS GIZMO/Luis Contreras/Josie Carroll--Despite an unbeaten 4-for-4 juvenile campaign, all stakes races, this talented colt was runner-up for Canada's top 2-year old in the Sovereign Award voting. Returned in April from a five-month layoff and suffered his first defeat in the Wando Stakes, where he battled for the lead for three-quarters of the way before yielding and tiring to finish fifth. Returned to top form and switched racing tactics last out in the all important Plate Trial prep, coming from off the pace, instead of setting it, to easily win by 2 1/2-lengths. Trainer Carroll became the first woman trainer to ever win the Queen's Plate, and as mentioned, is a two-time winner of this race, one of them when teaming with jockey Contreras in 2011.
11--ESPOSITO/Alan Garcia/Tom Proctor--Named after NHL hockey legend, Phil Esposito, this horse made his first two starts out West at Santa Anita and Del Mar, with the latter track being the site of his maiden win. Ran third behind Smarty Jones Stakes winner Discreetness and Southwest Stakes winner Suddenbreakingnews in the one-turn Springboard Mile in December at Remington Park over a sloppy surface. Enters the Plate with just one prep, a hard-earned win early last month at 7-furlongs following a six-month layoff. He attempts two-turns for the first time and it remains to be seen just how effective this colt can be racing the extra ground.
12--SCHOLAR ATHELTE/Jose Ortiz/Graham Motion--Earned one win from four starts at Woodbine as a 2-year old, then headed south for the winter. In a pair of starts on the Gulfstream turf, he missed by a length in a 7 1/2 furlong allowance event, then going longer in the 1 1/16 Palm Beach Stakes, he made a nice bid but flattened out and finished sixth, beaten under two-lengths for the win. Ended up a disappointing fifth as the 5-2 second choice in the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway. Added blinkers and found the winner's circle next out when wiring the field in an allowance optional claimer on the Belmont grass in May. He looks to be on the improve, but be cautious, that last race came seven weeks ago as he bypassed the Plate Trial to come straight here. For what it's worth, trainer won the 2011 Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom.
13--GAMBLE'S GHOST/Patrick Husbands/Josie Carroll--A bit of a slow start coming out of the gate, coupled with a lack of racing room around the far turn until the eighth-pole, contributed to this multiple Grade 3 stakes winning filly's loss by the narrowest of margins last out in the Woodbine Oaks. She was the public choice in that race based off an exciting come from behind win one race prior in the Selene Stakes. As a juvenile, she was 2nd in the Natalma Stakes behind Catch A Glimpse, and won the Mazarine Stakes. She displayed her stakes potential in her maiden debut where she accelerated through the stretch and kept widening her lead until she hit the finish line 8 1/4-lengths in front. Watch for this gal, she'll be charging late and there appears to be enough pace to help her chances.
ANALYSIS: As alluded to by HRN editor Brian Zipse in his recent article, fillies have proved their worth in the Queen's Plate.
This year's running features a formidable female runner in, Gamble's Ghost, who will be extremely tough for the colts to deny. She narrowly lost the richest race for Canadian fillies, the Woodbine Oaks, where in my opinion, she was the best horse. As noted, she's a multiple graded stakes winner, only one of two graded winners in the field. She goes third time off a layoff, usually a horse's best effort. Based on her record against the fields she's faced, she holds a class edge. There is a very long run to the first turn, so her rider will have plenty of time to drop her over from the outside post and secure good positioning. Her speed figures are competitive and on the upswing. Further improvement in that department, which she is highly capable of achieving, could put her squarely in the winner's circle. She is my win choice.
Shakhimat, the other graded stakes winner, has been pointed to this race since last fall. This marks his 4th start as a 3-year old (7th overall), giving him plenty of foundation and conditioning. He received a solid prep last out in the Plate Trial, all part of Attfield's plan to have him primed for a peak effort on Sunday.
Deserving favorite, Amis Gizmo, has one minor blemish on his overall 5 for 6 record and that came following a five-month layoff. He quickly got back to his winning ways last out in the Plate Trail, and a repeat of that race can certainly get it done here.
I'll box those three horses in a trifecta and mix in: Leavem In Malibu, Sir Dudley Diggs and Esposito for superfecta wagers.
Good luck, and as always, enjoy the race!!