The horse racing world, much like the rest of the planet, may have been spared total Armageddon on May 21, but if you were near Woodbine this past Saturday, you still may have felt the ground shake a bit.
This tremor was the sound of three-year-old Queen’splatekitten thundering down the Woodbine stretch in the 1 1/16-mile Marine Stakes, clawing and scratching his way into top spot on the 2011 Queen’s Plate top-five list of many fans and experts.
One week earlier, the 1 ¼-mile classic’s Winterbook favorite, the filly Inglorious, made a sparkling return to Canada and triumphed over open rivals in the 1 1/16-mile La Lorgnette Stakes, rekindling her top form and reaffirming her top position within the rank and file of Canadian-bred sophomores, male or female.
But in yet again displaying his affinity for the Toronto oval’s synthetic surface, Queen’splatekitten’s comeback effort has made a convincing argument for top spot.
If the Marine didn’t turn the tide completely, it has, at the very least, muddied the waters as far as the identity of the top Plate contender is concerned.
Just as the La Lorgnette put Inglorious, who won her first two career races last season both in stakes, back on the winning track after a pair of Fair Grounds losses, the Marine performance of Queen’splatekitten was enough to dispel any fears that his equally moot winter campaign in the United States had softened his form.
The comparisons are uncanny between the two Canadian-breds, making for a balanced Tale of the Tape. Inglorious (3-for-3) and Queen’splatekitten (2-for-2) are undefeated over Woodbine’s Polytrack. Both have multiple two-turn victories over Canada’s only synthetic strip. Both come off stakes wins at route distances against open company. Neither runner exits a peak Beyer Speed Figure, certainly enhancing the probability that each will be at a significantly more proficient level when $1 million is on the line on June 26 in the Queen’s Plate.
Obviously, Inglorious has one more key target (Woodbine Oaks, $500,000, June 5) before trainer Josie Carroll will look ahead to attempting a second Plate tally. But this doesn’t change the fact that over the course of the past two weekends, the stage has already been set for a titanic battle of the sexes.
It’s certainly not the first time that the Plate has enjoyed a colt vs. filly story line. Fillies take a shot at the Plate quite frequently. What is unique is that the script has been written with almost five weeks until the big race and the two actors are legitimate contenders for the leading role.
Conversely, when Dancethruthedawn became the last filly to win the Queen’s Plate in 2001, she entered the Gallop for the Guineas on the strength of a decisive score in the Woodbine Oaks. The male vs. female storylines didn’t materialize until the week of the Plate itself.
The same dynamic held when Ginger Brew went on to finish second in the Plate after her dominant Oaks victory. The daughter of Milwaukee Brew hadn’t even been an original nominee for the Triple Crown. With the Plate being more of an afterthought, hinging on how Ginger Brew came out of the Oaks two weeks earlier, it was naturally impossible to promote the Plate as a battle of the sexes earlier than it was confirmed.
This year, there is a very unique opportunity to start marketing the Queen’s Plate as a showdown between the top Canadian-bred colt Queen’splatekitten and the top Canadian-bred filly Inglorious. By capitalizing on the emergence of these two rising stars, the industry can get people seriously thinking about the intrigue of this looming rivalry several weeks earlier than usual and, in doing so, maximize this blue-chip race’s success as a vehicle to introduce, promote and celebrate Canadian racing.