Just a couple of couple of weeks ago here in the United States, we concluded our 2012 Triple Crown series, now the time has arrived for my friends and family north of the border to enjoy Canada's great Triple Crown series of horseracing. It all kicks off on Sunday, June 24th, at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario, with the most celebrated race in Canada, the Queen's Plate, which will be run for the 153rd time.
The Queen's Plate is the first jewel in Canada's Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing. The other gems in the crown are the Prince Of Wales Stakes (July 15th, at Fort Erie) followed by the Breeders' Stakes (August 5th, at Woodbine). All three races are restricted to 3-year old horses foaled in Canada.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Canadian Triple Crown, the series is unique in that it shares the same distances as its American counterparts, but the three races are contested on three different racing surfaces: 1 1/4 miles on the Woodbine Polytrack, which is made of a combination of crushed limestone and synthetic materials, 1 3/16 miles on Dirt at Fort Erie, then 1 1/2 miles over the Turf back at Woodbine. So for a Canadian 3-year old to win the Triple Crown, the horse not only must win at all 3 classic distances, but be versatile enough to conquer 3 separate types of footing. Only seven horses have won the Canadian Triple Crown since the concept was inaguarated in 1959, the first was NEW PROVIDENCE in 1959, the latest being Wando in 2003.
There is a very select list of organizations that receive royal attention, and this honor greatly boosts the prestige and popularity of the Queen's Plate, ther oldest thoroughbred race in Canada, and the longest continuously-run stakes in North America.
In the beginning, the Queen's Plate was a small race. In 1859, Queen Victoria was petitioned by the Toronto Turf Club for a prize for a race to be held in Toronto. Their request was granted and the following year the Queen's Plate was inaugurated, with royal blessing at the Carleton Racetrack in Toronto. A plate was offered as an annual prize, to the value of fifty guineas. In today's economic world that would be apporximately $5,000. The race actually floundered until a plan was devised to get a member of the royal family to attend the race. In 1881, the Govenor General and his wife were invited to Toronto. Their well-timed invitation coincided with the annual Quuen's Plate race, and this visit established horse racing Canada as a sport of royalty. Since then, the Queen's Plate has greatly enjoyed the attention and boost in status that Royal Patronage has given it.
The Queen's Plate was temporarily changed to the King's Plate from 1902 to 1951 while Canada was under the rule of King Edward VII and King Edward VIII. When Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, the race then reverted back to the title of Queen's Plate. Initially, the race was one-mile long, then varied from 1 1/8 miles to 2 miles. Since 1957, the race has been set at 1 1/4 miles.
The record time for the race since 1957 is 2:01 4/5 set by Izvestia in 1990, who also holds the largest winning margin, 13 lengths. Jockeys Avelino Gomez, Sandy Hawley and Robin Platts are the winningest riders of the race, with each having won the Queen's Plate 4 times. Harry Giddings and Roger Attfield share the most wins by a trainer, with 8 apiece. Attfield shoots for a record 9 wins in this years edition with COLLEEN'S SAILOR. Trainers John Walker and Gordon McCann each have won the Queen's Plate 6 times each.
In 2006, Josie Carroll became the first woman trainer to ever win the Queen's Plate. The following year, Emma-Jayne Wilson became the first female jockey to win the race.
Betting on the Queen's Plate hit a record high of nearly $7 million dollars wagered in 2010 when the Queen attended the race. This royal visit greatly increased the popularity of this race, and the next year this record was shattered. The 2011 Queen's Plate boasted nearly $9 million dollars wagered.
The Queen's Plate has come a long way from a 50 guinea prize. The purse for the 2012 Queen's Plate edition has been announced at $1,000,000. The race is so popular and pretigious that for the safety of the horses and the jockeys, the field is restricted to a maximum of 17 horses. First place receives an hefty sum of $600,000.
Throughout the traumatic events of World War I, World War II, the Depression, and other numerous ups and downs in Canada, the Queen's Plate has endured. The race holds the grand title of longest-running, uninterrupted horse race on the North American continent. The Travers Stakes in Saratoga began in 1864, the Kentucky Derby began 1n 1875.
Happy 153rd Anniversary, Queen's Plate. You've won the endurance race.