The deadline for entering the Queen's Plate Fantasy Challenge is midnight of Friday April 9th. It's a simple concept - pick ten horses and three jockeys and then sit back and watch as your stable earns fantasy dollars based on real race results.
The contest comes to its conclusion with the 151st running of the Queen's Plate to be held on Sunday July 4, 2010. The historic event carries a million-dollar purse with the winner receiving some $600,000.
The winner of the Queen's Plate Fantasy Challenge is rewarded with a $5000 cash prize. The top 30 stables will receive prizes ranging from hats and shirts to dinner at Woodbine with a visit from Sandy Hawley.
I have been diligently compiling a comprehensive list of 2010 Queen's Plate Contenders and tracking their results and workouts. For a full review, please read my recent post entitled, Updated Contenders for the 2010 Queen's Plate.
As in 2009, I will be competing in the Media Division of the contest. My picks were due on Wednesday afternoon so those readers wanting to mirror my selections (or pick the exact opposite!), here's the cheat sheet:
1. Giant's Tomb
2. D's Wando
3. Captain Canuck
5. Resentless (f)
6. Roan Inish (f)
8. Big Red Mike
9. Ghost Fleet
10. Roman Games
1. Patrick Husbands
2. Eurico Rosa da Silva
3. Gerry Olguin
Settling on only ten horses was an agonizing proposition.
Given the purse structure of the contest, I chose two fillies - Resentless and Roan Inish - who are likely to have a huge impact in the $500,000 WOODBINE OAKS STAKES to be held on Sunday, June 13th.
Choosing eight colts or geldings to go along with that pair of fillies was not an easy process but I'll walk you through my "logic".
Giant's Tomb is my pick to win the Queen's Plate this year. I suspect that he will develop into an excellent long distance horse as he gains experience. If you don't care for my opinion, then why not take the opinion of those who work directly with the big son of Awesome Again.
Here's a report by Abram Himelstein from the DRF written March 22, 2010 as Giant's Tomb worked towards a race at the Fair Grouds.
"He's just a laid-back horse," said Hugh Chatman, assistant to trainer Mark Frostad. "He's the same way in the morning, he doesn't drag you along through the work, you have to ask him."
His ability to relax is seen as an asset in the longer races for which he is intended, but probably cost him a win in his last start as he was beaten a nose at this condition on Feb. 15 when his late charge under jockey Corey Lanerie fell just short.
"It took a while for Corey to get him in gear," said Chatman. "But once he did, he made a nice run."
In Monday's race, Giant's Tomb is reunited with jockey Patrick Husbands, who was aboard for his lone win and for his second-place finish in the $155,000 Display Stakes at Woodbine, the best races of his seven-race career.
As Giant's Tomb makes his last start of the meet at Fair Grounds, his connections are excited to stretch him out to still longer distances, including the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate on July 4.
"The longer the better with him," Chatman said. "If all goes well, I think he's got a heck of a shot in the Queen's Plate."
Not only did Giant's Tomb win that mile and forty yard event at Fair Grounds in impressive fashion, he also galloped out strongly for jockey Patrick Husbands.
Giant's Tomb notches an important distance win at Fair Grounds
My second choice is D's Wando, an athletic colt by the 2003 Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando. The horse is working under the composed care of conditioner Ian Black who won the Queen's Plate in 2007 with Mike Fox. D's Wando also has the benefit of jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson who guided Mike Fox to the guineas becoming the first female jockey to win the Plate.
D's Wando was a closing third in the Coronation Futurity won by Hollinger. Over the winter, D's Wando has been working at Payson Park and recently returned to Woodbine where he recently put up an excellent four furlong work in 48.40.
Third choice for this contest is Captain Canuck - a horse that Earle Mack deemed worthy of purchasing an 80% interest. Mack, of course, previously won the Queen's Plate with Peteski in 1993 and the son of Affirmed went on to win the Canadian Triple Crown.
Captain Canuck has only raced once, but it was a visually impressive event. The gelded son of Pulpit was checked at the start of the 1M 1/16 turf event at Gulfstream, but jockey Eibar Coa showed remarkable patience racing from tenth position early before circling horses five-wide turning into the stretch failing only to pass Beau Choix.
Captain Canuck skates home second at Gulfstream
The Ontario-bred was beaten only half a length in that turf event and makes his next start TODAY at Keeneland. In the sixth race, Captain Canuck will take on 11 colts and geldings going a mile and a sixteenth on the Keeneland all weather track. To see the entries, CLICK HERE.
*Of note, Roger Attfield sends out Ontario-bred Mobilizer in that same race. Since the public entrants have until Friday to get their picks, here's a chance to see what both those horses are about going a route of ground on synthetic.
My fourth choice for the contest is Canada's Champion two-year old Hollinger. The Black Minnaloushe gelding was buried on the inside for most of Coronation Futurity, but found a narrow lane inside the eighth pole and surged through for the half-length score over Stormy Lord with D's Wando closing for show.
Hollinger, who also won the Cup & Saucer, was a perfect 4-for-4 with earnings of $389,100 in 2009. He is definitely the horse to beat. So why isn't he my top pick?
1. I hate to pick favourites so early in the competition.
2. Black Minnaloushe was a famous miler and I wonder if a mile and a quarter might be Hollinger's undoing.
That said, until someone beats him he will remain on top of my Queen's Plate contender poll.
Up next is Hotep. This is another Sam-Son Farms colt and he's a full brother to 2009 Queen's Plate winner Eye of the Leopard. Hotep broke his maiden impressively at Woodbine with a determined rail run to win going a mile and fourty yards.
Hotep in the post parade before his maiden breaker at Woodbine
Mark Frostad shipped Hotep to Louisiana for a string of races at the Fair Grounds and the colt responded with a solid win on February 1st before joining the U.S Triple Crown run with off-the-board finishes in the Risen Star Stakes and the Louisiana Derby.
The horse is now being freshened in advance of a run towards the Queen's Plate. You can read more about Hotep in my post entitled, Hotep Takes Steps Towards The Triple Crown - But Which One?
My next choice is Terra Racing Stable's Big Red Mike. In just his first start, the son of Tenpins (Smart Strike) closed from 9th position in a six and a half furlong event to miss by a length to Roman Games. He broke his maiden on December 6th going 7F in a $65K MSW at Woodbine, this time on the front end, to win by nearly three lengths. Big Red Mike earned a 77 Beyer for his effort and you have to admire that versatility in racing style. By comparison, Hollinger earned an 80 Beyer for his mile and an eighth effort in the Coronation Futurity. Trainer Nick Gonzalez has been working hard prepping the horse who wintered at Palm Meadows and most recently back at Woodbine. I expect this horse to improve and hopefully collect some purse money while climbing through the ranks.
Ghost Fleet would be higher up this list if I was convinced he had the Plate distance within range. That said, this speedy son of Arch is a multiple Stakes winner with impressive wins in the Vandal (6F) and Swynford (7F). Ghost Fleet ended his campaign with a tiring fourth place finish in the mile and an eighth Coronation Futurity.
Sid Attard has been working the horse towards his season opener in the Queenston Stakes. The seven furlong sprint is worth $150K and I hope to collect all of that for my fantasy stable. Other horses might prove better at the classic distance, but Ghost Fleet will be a force to be reckoned with in the early going.
My final choice is a bit of a long shot. Roman Games, owned by Robert Smithen and trained by Paul Attard, is a sharp grey gelding who won at first asking zipping along the rail at 29-1 in a $70K MSW to win by a length over Big Red Mike. The son of Roman Ruler earned a 70 Beyer in that event and was subsequently shelved. The horse spent the winter at Palm Meadows and I have high hopes of sneaking a horse onto my list that other media contestants might overlook.
Of course, there are notable regrets including:
Stormy Lord - the solid second place finisher in the Coronation Futurity.
Who We Gunna Call - The brilliantly named Ghostzapper colt who broke his maiden on Feb 18th as the even-money choice going 1M40 at Tampa Bay Downs. This one is entered in a mile and a sixteenth turf event at Gulfstream on April 10th. To see the entries, CLICK HERE.
Hanson Heights - A Melnyk homebred by Speightstown who finished second in both his 2009 starts on the grass at Woodbine.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's also a plethora of Sam-Son Farms horses worthy of a second and third look including: Cognashene, Empire Rising, Arrow's Conquest, Born To Act, Dark Cloud Dancer, Forest Run, Red Strike and the filly Wild Strike.
You can't pick them all but you can read more about them on my 2010 Queen's Plate Contenders page.
UPDATE: Queen's Plate contenders Ruhtro, Roman Games and Big Red Mike are entered in the second race on April 11th at Woodbine going seven furlongs on the Woodbine polytrack. To review the entries, please CLICK HERE
As well, Sam-Son Farms colt Cognashene is scheduled to run in the first race on April 11th at Keeneland. The race is scheduled for 1M 1/16 on the all weather track and Miguel Mena will ride. To review the entries, please CLICK HERE
Remember Southdale? He was a favourite on the road to the 2009 Queen's Plate only to end up on the shelf with a shoulder injury suffered during the Plate Trial. Well, he's back and looking better than ever.
Southdale enjoying a bath last summer at Woodbine
* Southdale breezed 4F in 46:60 on the Woodbine poly on April 5. Rank 1/46 Click here to read about Southdale's adventures on the road to the 2009 Queen's Plate Path To The Queen's Plate
The following are recent workouts from 2010 Queen's Plate contenders:
* Grittani bullet breezed 4F in 47.40 on April 8, 2010 on the Woodbine poly. Rank 1/41
* Atlantic Key breezed 4F in 50 on April 8, 2010 on the Woodbine poly. Rank 20/41
* Essence Hit Man breezed 5F in 1:01.60 on April 7, 2010 on the Woodbine poly. Rank 7/43
* Joey's Best breezed 5F in 1:02.60 on April 7, 2010 on the Woodbine poly. Rank 23/43
* Roman Games breezed 2F in 24.20 on April 7, 2010 on the Woodbine poly. Rank 4/13
* Ghost Fleet breezed 3F in 36.20 on April 7, 2010 on the Woodbine poly. Rank 5/25
* Powermouse worked 5F handily in 1:01.20 on April 7, 2010 on the Woodbine poly. Rank 4/43
* Natural Flair breezed 5F in 1:03.60 on April 7, 2010 on the Payson Park dirt. Rank 3/7
* Forest Run breezed 5F in 1:03.80 on April 6, 2010 on the Churchill Downs dirt. Rank 17/20
* Cognashene creezed 4F in 49.20 on April 6, 2010 on the Keeneland all weather track. Rank 22/41
* General Staff breezed 5F in 1:02.20 on April 6, 2010 on the Woodbine poly. Rank 15/25
* D's Legend Storm breezed 4F in 48. 20 on April 6, 2010 on the Woodbine poly. Rank 4/34
It's last call for much needed graded earnings for horses hopeful of racing in the Kentucky Derby. Giant's Tomb was expected to try the Bluegrass Stakes but has opted out of taking on the likes of Odysseus and the Todd Pletcher duo Aikenite and Interactif.
The Arkansas Derby will feature Pletcher's Super Saver in a light field of nine horses. Noble's Promise and the stretching out Dublin figure to offer resistance.
I'll pick one of these events to handicap on the blog before the weekend.
A million dollars is up for grabs in the Arkansas Derby, which drew a field of nine - Super Saver (C. Borel) 9-5, Dublin (T. Thompson) 7-2, Noble's Promise (R. Albarado) 2-1, Northern Giant (V. Espinoza) 8-1, Uh Oh Bango (S. Bridgmohan) 15-1, New Madrid (A. Castellano) 20-1, Berberis (A. Gryder) 30-1, Line of David (J. Court) 15-1 and Pulsion (C. Nakatani) 15-1.
Noble's Promise defeats Aikenite in the 2009 Breeders Futurity Stakes
The $750K Blue Grass also drew a field of nine - Odysseus (R. Maragh) 7-2, First Dude (R. Dominguez) 8-1, Stately Victor (A. Garcia) 30-1, Make Music for Me (M. Smith) 6-1, Codoy (J. Velazquez) 30-1, Pleasant Prince (J. Leparoux) 3-1, Paddy O'Prado (K. Desormeaux) 10-1, Aikenite (G. Gomez) 4-1 and Interactif (R. Bejarano) 4-1.
Odysseus wins the 2010 Tampa Bay Derby
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