'Straightforward' filly Desert Ride taking on the Queen's Plate

Woodbine Communications
June 24, 2019 10:05am
'Straightforward' filly Desert Ride taking on the Queen's Plate
Photo: Michael Burns/Woodbine

Three weeks after a stirring stretch run to take the Woodbine Oaks, Sam-Son Farm standout filly Desert Ride will look for another crowning moment in the $1 million Queen’s Plate.


Tenth and last at the quarter-mile mark in the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, then eighth at the half and sixth at the stretch call, jockey Steve Bahen and Desert Ride were full of run, but had plenty left to do to catch the front-runners. In the final yards, the daughter of Candy Ride eked out a neck victory at 8-1.


“That’s kind of been her a bit,” said trainer Neil Howard, who has trained more than 1,200 winners in his distinguished career. “That’s been her running style. She likes to get her feet under her a little bit. I was so happy to have that mile-and-an-eighth for her. I didn’t think she was going to get there, but going past the 3 /16ths pole, you had that relieved feeling that she was running well and going to finish well.

"As tough as these races are – you always want to win – as long as they run well and come back good, you have to be satisfied with that. Winning is a bonus.”


But her thrill ride may not yet be over. There’s the matter of Saturday's Canadian classic back at Woodbine.


Howard lauds not just Desert Ride's impressive Oaks performance, but also the mind she possesses. The homebred daughter of Candy Ride, who debuted in January, is 3-for-4 and finished second in her only defeat the first time she faced winners.


“She is a charm,” Howard said. “She’s so straightforward and I was telling everyone with Sam-Son, she just does not concern herself with anything. She has a wonderful mind. Good horses, most of the time, they have that good demeanor. And she certainly does. It just makes everything so much better.”


With less than a month between her last race and the Plate, along with traveling 1-1/4 miles, notching an Oaks-Plate exactor is hardly an easy task.


But, as Holy Helena (2017), Lexie Lou (2014) and Inglorious (2011) have recently proven, the double can certainly be done. 


Sporting a record of three wins and one second from four lifetime starts, Desert Ride will try to follow in the hoofsteps of past Sam-Son standout fillies to win the Plate, Dance Smartly (1991) and Dancethruthedawn (2001).


Howard would love nothing more than to provide Sam-Son with its sixth Plate victory, the latest coming in 2009 with Eye of the Leopard.


“I’ve always loved Woodbine and for me, I’ve been very fortunate – and I know I am to have worked with so great people," the trainer said. "To work with Sam-Son, I can’t even describe how much of a privilege it is and what a delight it is. I work them more on a seasonal basis, but that doesn’t matter. They are really excellent people. It’s also nice when you work for great people who have a complete understanding of what we’re doing.”


Howard, who was the trainer of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft and 1990 Preakness winner Summer Squall, is pleased with how Desert Ride is doing ahead of the 160th running of the Plate. She has trained consistently at Churchill Downs, working five furlongs on Friday in 1:02.60.


“She’s doing really well. The timing isn’t great – anybody would say that – but Desert Ride is herself. She couldn’t be doing any better.”


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