The Plate Trial is by far the better race on today’s Woodbine Plate Prep Day program. If somebody comes up to me in the grandstand and wants to tout me on any of the 11 horses, I will stop and seriously listen. It’s that contentious. How it will impact the Queen’s Plate picture is anyone’s guess, but that’s a question for another day. While it’s important to realize that it is a prep for the 1 ¼-mile feature in three weeks, at this point in time, none of the 11 in this field are even in the current top-two picture when it comes to the big race. Strait of Dover is the current number one contender – he opted to skip the Plate Trial and train right to the Plate on June 24. The other main contender, pending her Oaks performance, is the brilliant Dixie Strike off her Grade 2 win in the Selene Stakes. So, the Plate Trial is more than a prep for the simple reason that the winner of this race can’t just eke out the victory. The winner of today’s Plate Trial has to show something fairly significant to be spoken of in the same breath as Strait of Dover and Dixie Strike. That aside, the Plate Trial has lured four of the top five finishers (as well as Dead On) in the recent Queenston Stakes, which was controlled on the lead by a game Beeker Street, who ran his record to an undefeated 2-for-2. The lack of seasoning on this Donver runner makes him an obvious toss-out in the Plate Trial. He benefited from a soft :46 4/5 pace in the Queenston and capitalized when Making Amends and Peyton both experienced very wide trips.
How wide was Peyton in the Queenston Stakes? Well, according to Trakus, his trip was 17 feet further than Beeker Street, who had a fairly wide trip himself, travelling 25 feet wider than Menlo Castle. This is more significant than it would usually be because many believe the inside was a strong path to be in on May 5. So, a difference of 42 feet in trip between Peyton and Menlo Castle, who are both making their third start of the season. On paper, they were a half-length apart at the wire. When you take into account ground loss it’s more like four or five lengths.
So Peyton ran as well as any other horse in the Queenston field, which is why it’s shocking that Emma-Jayne Wilson has opted to side with Big Creek in the Plate Trial. Big Creek was third in the Wando Stakes back in April. Trouble is, the Wando only featured three runners. This Todd Pletcher trainee had a bit of a strange trip. He was up on the moderate pace, which was being set by Incredicat, in the early going. Then he dropped right out of the picture and looked like he was finished for the day. In the stretch he re-rallied and appeared as though he was going to catch Classic Bryce for second. This pursuit was somewhat illusionary, because the rider on Classic Bryce had given up hope of catching Incredicat and basically hand-rode his Darwin Banach pupil to the wire. In any event, Big Creek showed some gameness and late finish and earned a Beyer far superior to any of the efforts up to that point in his career. Hard to like a horse that loses ground at a pivotal point in the race, but maybe it was just a function of first-time Polytrack. Pletcher has given him time since the Wando to get over what was a huge peak performance as compared with his Penn National victory. Honestly, not sure what to expect from him.
The Plate Trial may very well be the turn of a horse like Classic Bryce, who couldn’t get to Incredicat in the Wando. He certainly had no trouble getting by Incredicat in the Marine, but the 6 ½-length winner Strait of Dover was another problem all together. The Dan Vella trainee was able to stay on, while Incredicat tired and finished sixth perhaps because the fractions were quicker than they were in the Wando. Classic Bryce, who himself was relatively close to the Marine pace, picked up the pieces once again and finished second. Now that he’s making his third start of the layoff, the Plate Trial is definitely his show-me race. He may even be a decent price if action gravitates towards Beeker Street and Incredicat, who may knock one and other out in a speed duel.
Another who stands to benefit from a speed duel is Making Amends. He almost was able to mow down Beeker Street in the Queenston. Ground loss didn’t impact him relative to the winner because their trips only differed by two feet. But the lack of pace in the event certainly would have hurt his chances of coming from behind. Problem with this horse is that he looks every bit like an off-the-pace sprinter and less likely to benefit from a two-turn event. Question marks on the value with this Mark Casse runner.
On the other hand, River Rush, who has been pegged at 20-1 in the Morning Line, looks like a horse who can outrun his odds from off the pace. He was second to Awesome Overture, who would have been among the favorites in the Plate Trial. What’s of note with that April 29 maiden event is that it was comparable to an allowance event on the same card that featured Hothersal, an older runner with a bright future. River Rush closed from 10th in the 1 1/16-mile event, which was just his second career effort. Not uncommon for the Reade Baker barn, he’s had some non-descript training track moves in the meantime. Wilson, as mentioned, is riding Big Creek. Why she’d opt for a creek over a river is anyone’s guess! In any event, the riding duties belong to Jim McAleney. The sky is the limit with this Stronach Stables runner. He could be one race from a peak, but certainly one to watch with significant stamina on his dam side.
In anticipation of a quickly run race, here are the top four: Classic Bryce, Peyton, River Rush, Big Creek.
Who do you like?