Up With the Birds, winner of the Marine Stakes, Woodbine Oaks winner
Nipissing and Plate Trial victor Dynamic Sky head a field of 12
Canadian-bred three-year-olds for the $1 million Queen’s Plate, Canada’s
most famous horse race, Sunday at Woodbine.
The 154th 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. The
Governor General of Canada, the Right Honourable David Johnston, will be
the Royal Guest of Honour.
All starters carry 126 pounds, except
two fillies – Nipissing and Spring in the Air, who will tote 121 pounds
for the mile and one-quarter classic over Woodbine’s Polytrack. The
winner will receive $600,000.
Hall of Fame trainer Roger
Attfield, a record-tying eight-time winner of the Queen’s Plate, will be
the honorary drawmaster on Thursday. The selection order for post
positions will be 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 Plate since 1998.
morning line favourite at 2-1 is Sam-Son Farms’ homebred Up With the
Birds, trained by Malcolm Pierce. Sam-Son and Pierce also have another
homebred hopeful, His Race to Win, a 10-1 outsider.
Farms has won five Plates – Regal Intention (1988), Dance Smartly
(1991), Scatter The Gold (2000), Dancethruthedawn (2001) and Eye of the
Up With the Birds has never been worse than third in six career starts and comes into the
Plate fresh off a four and three-quarter length score over Winning
Cause in the mile and one-sixteenth Marine Stakes, May 26. Last year,
the bay colt, who has banked $370,641, also captured the Coronation
Futurity, one of Canada’s richest races for two-year-olds.
Stormy Atlantic-Song of the Lark offspring will be ridden by Eurico
Rosa da Silva, who won the 2009 Plate for Sam-Son aboard Eye of the
Leopard, then took the 2010 renewal with Big Red Mike.
Last year’s Plate winner Strait of Dover also won the Marine en route to winning the Plate wire-to-wire.
His Race to Win, another Stormy Atlantic colt out of Fleet of Foot, just missed winning
the Plate Trial on June 9, falling a nose short of Dynamic Sky. The
one-time winner will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Chiefswood Stable’s Nipissing,
a homebred daughter of Chiefswood’s 2004 Plate winner Niigon, is the
7-2 second choice. Winner of the recent Woodbine Oaks, presented by
Budweiser on June 9, Nipissing is trained by Rachel Halden and will be
ridden as usual by Steve Bahen, who steered T J’s Lucky Moon, the second
longest shot to ever win the Plate at 82-1, to victory in 2002.
out of the mare Kiche, was undefeated in four starts last year, winning
the prestigious Princess Elizabeth and South Ocean Stakes. This year,
the bay filly, who is the field’s second highest money earner with
$634,430, began her season at Keeneland, finishing sixth to Emollient in
the Grade 1 Ashland. She returned home to finish second to Coffee
Clique in the Selene, prior to her impressive tally in the Oaks, when
she defeated Spring in the Air by three-quarters of a length in the mile
and one-eighth filly classic, running the distance .25 seconds faster
than Dynamic Sky, when he won the Trial a race earlier.
try to become the 35th filly to win the Plate since 1860, the seventh
since 1956 and the sixth to win both the Oaks and the Plate, joining
Flaming Page (1962), La Lorgnette (1985), Dance Smartly (1991),
Dancethruthedawn (2001) and Inglorious (2011).
John Oxley’s Dynamic Sky,
to be handled by North America’s leading rider Joel Rosario, is the 4-1
third choice. The son of Sky Mesa-Murani won the Plate Trial on June 9
by a nose over His Race to Win for trainer Mark Casse, who will saddle
four hopefuls in the ‘Gallop for the Guineas’, as the five-time
Sovereign Award winner seeks his first Plate triumph. Casse’s best
finish was in 2011, with 61-1 longshot runner-up Hippolytus. He also
sends out Spring in the Air, Kaigun and Jagger M.
Dynamic Sky has
earned $412,167 while winning three of 10 starts. Earlier this year,
he was on the Kentucky Derby trail, winning the Pasco Stakes and
finishing second in the Sam Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. But subsequent
efforts in the Tampa Bay Derby and Blue Grass convinced his connections
to aim for the Queen’s Plate instead. Now he’ll try to become the 26th
Plate Trial winner to win the Plate.
Rosario is having a dream
season around the globe. He was aboard Animal Kingdom when winning the
Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest race, in March, then piloted Orb
to a Kentucky Derby victory in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville. In
June, he competed at the famed Royal Ascot meeting in England and won a
two-year-old stakes race aboard No Nay Never.
Oxley also owns Spring in the Air,
Canada’s champion two-year-old filly last year and the field’s leading
money winner with $641,510. The daughter of Spring At Last-Unbridled
Run, listed at 10-1 in the morning line, was the runner-up to Nipissing
in the Oaks.
Casse’s other starters are 20-1 Kaigun,
a winner once in three starts for Gary Barber, Quintessential Racing
and Horse’n Around Racing, with Justin Stein, who rode Strait of Dover
to victory in last year’s Plate, and Gabe Grossberg’s Jagger M, also at 20-1, a one-time winner in six starts, with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard.
of Fame trainer Mark Frostad, a four-time winner of the Plate (Victor
Cooley in 1996; Scatter The Gold, 2000; Dancethruthedawn, 2001 and Eye
of the Leopard, 2009) will send out a pair for different owners.
Pyrite Mountain, owned by Awesome Again Racing, is the 6-1 fourth choice and will be
ridden by Woodbine’s leading rider and two-time Sovereign Award winner
Luis Contreras, who rode the filly Inglorious to victory in the 2011
Plate. The son of Silent Name-Gold Lined, who finished fourth to
Dynamic Sky as the favourite in the Plate Trial, had previously beaten
Uncaptured, Canada’s Horse of the Year for 2012, in the Wando Stakes on
May 5. Last year, he broke his maiden in the Kingarvie Stakes.
County Lineman, owned by Ginger Punch Racing, is another Silent Name colt and two-time
winner who will be making his stakes debut. Pegged at 30-1, County
Lineman will be ridden by Alex Solis, who rode Oaks winner Irish Mission
to a second place finish in last year’s Plate for Frostad.
Nick Gonzalez, who won the 2010 Plate with Big Red Mike, will send out
two hopefuls for Tucci Stables - River Seven and Midnight Aria.
River Seven, to be piloted by two-time Plate winner Todd Kabel (Regal Discovery in
1995; Scatter The Gold, 2000), is listed at 20-1. The son of
Johannesburg stumbled badly at the start of the Plate Trial and
eventually finished eighth, six and one-half lengths behind Dynamic
Sky. Last year, River Seven scored in the Grey Stakes, when defeating
eventual Horse of the Year Uncaptured.
Midnight Aria, (15-1 with Jesse Campbell), finished third in the Plate Trial, beaten
just one and one-quarter lengths, after setting the pace in the mile and
one-eighth prep. The son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner
Midnight Lute was a $35,000 claim at Gulfstream Park in January and has
since won once, with four thirds for his new connections.
Completing the field is Mike and Nick Nosowenko’s Rackman,
a 50-1 outsider and son of 2004 Plate winner Niigon, to be ridden by
Jim McAleney, who enters off a maiden dead-heat win on June 1 in his
stakes debut as well.
Of the 12 starters in this year’s Plate,
eight of them have connections (owner, trainer and/or jockey) who have
previously won the Plate. Only one horse in the field, Kaigun, did not
start at two. The last Plate winner unraced as a juvenile was Eye of
the Leopard (2009).
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 Tuesday, July 30 at Fort Erie, while the $500,000
Breeders’ Stakes, at one mile and one-half on the grass, August 18 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.
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. Strait of
Dover, the 2012 winner, owns the fastest Polytrack time, 2:01.99 since
2007. 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 57 renewals (38%). However,
Wando in 2003, and Eye of the Leopard in 2009, are the only favourites
to win in the last 18 editions.
Four other stakes, three of them
on the grass, will be part of the Queen’s Plate Day undercard – the
$200,000 Dance Smartly, at one mile and one-eighth, the $200,000
Highlander at six furlongs and the $150,000 Singspiel at one and
one-half miles while the $150,000 Clarendon Stakes at five and one-half
furlongs will be on the Polytrack. First race post time is 12:25 pm.