Saturday, June 23, 2012

A closer look at the field for Sunday's $1-million Queen's Plate

Sunday marks the 153rd running of the $1-million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine Racetrack, in Toronto. Post time for the Canadian Classic is 5:36pm ET. Let's take a closer look at the 14-horse field who will contest 1¼-mile on the Polytrack, in post position order.

River Rush leaves from Post 1
1. River Rush, 4-1

Jockey: Jim McAleney

Trainer: Reade Baker

Note: River Rush romped to victory in a rapid 1:48.97, setting a track record for nine furlongs, in capturing the Plate Trial. He won the Plate Trial from Post 11 and will leave from the inside stall on Sunday. Baker is concerned that the horse might bounce off that huge Plate Trial effort.

Quote: “River Rush is fitter than Macho Whiskey (stablemate) simply because he’s had more basic training," says trainer Reade Baker. "He’s been going longer. I’m not concerned about that (distance). I’m concerned about River Rush’s huge effort three weeks before and now having to come back with a big effort. That, and unwanted traffic...”

Video: Plate Trial

2. Peyton, 20-1

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Trainer: Mike Doyle

Note: The Tale of the Cat-Emanating fellow is a half to multiple graded winning turfer Boisterous. The first five starts of his career were lacklustre, but Doyle had Peyton gelded and the horse responded with a win in his final two-year-old start. He opened his 2012 campaign with a sharp allowance score and was on the fringes in the Queenston and Plate Trial. Can new jock Leparoux get the big fellow rolling on Sunday?

Quote: Doyle on Peyton's fifth-place Trial effort: “We wanted to have him up closer and he looked as though he was running quite comfortably. He came home okay. The winner came from way out of it, so you don’t know quite what to make of it all. I do know he’s coming into the race in great shape and the distance is no issue whatsoever.”

Video: Allowance win on April 15
3. Macho Whiskey, 15-1

Jockey: Emma-Jayne Wilson

Trainer: Reade Baker

Note: Trakus Racing advises that Macho Whiskey covered plenty of extra ground in his last two starts, travelling 17, 40, 43, & 84ft more than the four horses who finished in front of him in last out allowance won by fellow Plate starter Colleen's Sailor. He bumped with Colleen's Sailor through the stretch and may have lost some momentum.

Wilson thinks Macho Whiskey has a big shot on Sunday
Quote: Wilson noted she's looking forward to trying a different strategy on Plate day. "When I really asked him to run (last time out) inside the last three-sixteenths of a mile, I got aggressive with him to kick on. I think maybe a lighter touch would have been more necessary. When I asked him to run, I hit him a few times, cocked my stick with the right hand and hit him, and he shied. He ducked from it. So, I probably wouldn’t do it the same way, (but I would make) very subtle changes, just a couple things that would instill confidence in him instead of getting down and dirty with him."

Video: Troubled fifth place allowance run on May 27

4. Strait of Dover, 3-1

Jockey: Justin Stein

Trainer: Dan Vella

Note: Strait of Dover has crossed the wire first in all four of his Polytrack efforts at Woodbine (he was placed third in his local debut by disqualification) since shipping to Toronto from Hastings Park, in Vancouver. The English Channel-Bahrain Star colt will have no trouble with the added distance. He skipped the Plate Trial due to a low white blood cell count but put in a strong work a week later on June 10 that had trainer Danny Vella raving. Strictly the one to beat.

Quote: "We were thrilled with his work," said Vella of the six-furlong June 10 breeze in 1:12.1. "He’s not a morning horse. His works are always decent, but they’re not run off type works. It was a very strong work, it was what we were looking for. He galloped out real strong and it was like a pre-race race, his big work before the race. He’ll work again (5f in 1:00.2 on June 18),but that was the real big one."

Video: Winning the Marine Stakes

5. Classic Bryce, 12-1

Jockey: Todd Kabel

Trainer: Darwin Banach

Classic Bryce is a long shot in this Classic race
Note: Kabel will be the fourth jock to pilot Classic Bryce in his seventh career start. The Grand Slam colt has been in the money in three stakes starts (2nd in the Wando; 2nd in the Marine; 3rd in the Plate Trial) and the conditioner believes Classic Bryce is now prepared for a career-best effort in the Plate. It would take both Strait of Dover and River Rush regressing for Classic Bryce to take the spoils.

Quote: "The more we’ve asked of him, the more he’s delivered," said Banach. "Distance won’t be an issue and fitness won’t be a worry. I like our chances.”

Video: Second to Incredicat in the Wando

6. Wilcox, 20-1

Jockey: Tyler Pizarro

Trainer: Josie Carroll

Note: A half to half-million earning turfer Woodbourne, Wilcox broke his maiden on the turf last out in a field of 14 galloping out strong under Justin Stein who will be aboard Plate fave Strait of Dover on Sunday. The Giant's Causeway colt, owned by Eugene Melnyk, shouldn't have trouble with the distance but he might be a better fit for the Breeders' Stakes. Giant's Causeway produced Plate winner Mike Fox and trainer Josie Carroll is a two-time winner of the Gallop for the Guineas.

Quote: "I know he’ll go the distance," says Carroll. "He’s comfortable enough on the surface (Polytrack). We’ll see if he’s good enough, but he’s definitely a horse who will get the trip. And that’s nine-tenths of it, getting the mile and one-quarter. If things set up the right way, this horse is going to be running at them.”

Video: May 26 Turf maiden breaker

7. Golden Ridge, 6-1

Jockey: Luis Contreras

Trainer: Mark Casse

Note: He broke his maiden defeating older while covering a ton of ground. Out of multiple graded winning mare Indian Vale, the Distorted Humor colt has a right to improve. Trainer Mark Casse has never won the Queen's Plate but this prospect has put together back to back 80+ Beyer numbers and, for the first time in his short career, will make a second start on the same track. Jockey Luis Contreras is red hot.

Quote: “I keep throwing new things at him and he keeps saying, he likes it,” said Casse. “I was impressed with his maiden win because he got in a little traffic down the backside. I was a little concerned. But when Luis asked him to go, he took off. I think that experience of being in traffic is really going to help him in the Queen’s Plate."

Video: Maiden breaker on May 13

8. Ultimate Destiny, 20-1

Jockey: Steven Bahen

Trainer: Mike Keogh

Note: Only 6 horses in this 14-horse field have more than one win and Ultimate Destiny is one of them. The Dance to Destiny gelding arrives at the Plate off back-to-back routing efforts including a five and three-quarter length allowance romp on May 6 and a second-place effort on May 23, both races against older company. The Beyer numbers say he's slower than the best of this group but the conditioner believes his horse is improving with each start as he learns the game. He galloped out strong in that last out second-place run against three-time winner Head Honcho.

Quote: “He’s a bit of a slow learner, it just takes him time to catch on to things,” offered Keogh. “I gave him the nickname ‘Goofy Dewfey’ last year. That’s what he is, a big, goofy fellow. But, he’s also a horse that will give everything he has.”

Video: May 6 Allowance score

9. Colleen’s Sailor, 15-1

Jockey: Corey Nakatani

Trainer: Roger Attfield

Ahoy! The handsome Colleen's Sailor
Note: Attfield has won this race a record eight times, so you know the horse will be race ready. The Northern Afleet-Colleen's Scorpion colt is a two-time winner including a determined head score last out when travelling a mile and an eighth on the main track. He got bumped pretty hard by Macho Whiskey in the stretch last out, but kept on going. The bay colt is working well in the morning and 15-1 ML on Attfield is worth a shot to hit the ticket.

Quote: “It was a very easy work,” said Attfield of a six-panel breeze in 1:15. “I’d like to have seen a bit more pace in the work actually. I worked him from behind another horse and the early pace wasn’t that strong, but he finished very nicely and galloped out well. I’m very happy with him, he’s only a small horse but he’s very fit right now.”

Video: May 27 allowance score over Macho Whiskey

10. Dixie Strike (f), 8-1

Jockey: Patrick Husbands

Trainer: Mark Casse

Note: The Queen's Plate Winterbook favourite is a four-time winner but was intimidated when racing in close quarters when fifth, as the favourite, in the Woodbine Oaks. She'll add blinkers for the Queen's Plate but is a mile and a quarter what she wants? Half sister Inglorious won the Oaks/Plate double last year.

Quote: “I think there were a few reasons for Dixie Strike’s performance (in the Oaks),” explained Casse. “One, she ran such a big race three weeks prior, an all time best. So she was supposed to regress in the Oaks. That being said, I thought she would still be very tough to beat. The other thing is we had a little bit of a problem with her about a week out. She had a tooth abscess. She was a little under the weather for a day or two and didn’t eat quite as good as she usually does. But we got her over that. She trained up the race the last four or five days very well. Still, you just have to wonder that maybe it did affect her a bit.”

Video: Grade 3 Selene Stakes win

11. Making Amends, 20-1

Jockey: Eurico Rosa da Silva

Trainer: Mark Casse

Note: Making Amends has not won since breaking his maiden at first asking. He has a pair of not so flattering efforts going two turns, but his last effort in the Plate Trial came under difficult circumstances when trapped on the rail. Is Making Amends a sprinter? It looks like it on paper, but Eurico Rosa da Silva (who has won two of the last three Plate's) has convinced Casse to give him one more shot.

Quote: "Eurico (Rosa da Silva) thought if he hadn’t been pinned on the rail, he could possibly have been second," said Casse. "I was kind of up in the air about running him back in the Plate, but Eurico was the one who convinced me to run. He thinks he’s got a chance.”

Video: 2nd in the Queenston
12. Big Creek, 10-1

Jockey: Ramon Dominguez

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Note: I liked Big Creek's chances to win the Plate Trial adding blinkers, but River Rush stole the show. The good news is that the Indian Charlie-Major Idea colt has been running well at the end of his recent stakes starts in the Plate Trial and Wando Stakes, and Todd Pletcher has decided he deserves another kick at the can.

Quote: “He seemed to show some interest the other day (in the Plate Trial) at a mile and an eighth," said Pletcher. " He galloped out strongly after the wire, first time with blinkers...He (Big Creek) needs to focus a little bit. So, we’re hoping for another step up, knowing that we need one. We’re hoping there’s another one there."

Video: Watch the Plate Trial gallop out
13. Washington Dash, 50-1

Jockey: Rajiv Maragh

Trainer: Darrin Miller

Note: If you think a maiden can win the Plate (it's happened before), you'll get paid large. He's 50-1 on the morning line and even with that rallying third-place effort on the turf last out at Arlington Park, he has to prove he can run on the Polytrack. A string of works at Keeneland suggest a synthetic surface won't be an issue, and the Sam-Son Farm bred son of Smart Strike could run better than his odds...just not on my ticket.

Quote: “I hope he’ll be multi-surfaced,” said Miller. “I think he might have skipped across that synthetic a little better and looked a little stronger. When he came to Keeneland is where he really turned a corner. Whether that was surface or time of year for him to get serious about it (racing)…but I thought he looked very good over at Keeneland and he has transferred that over to here (at Churchill Downs).

Video: 3rd at Arlington Park last out

14. Irish Mission (f), 10-1

Jockey: Alex Solis

Trainer: Mark Frostad

Will there be more flowers for Irish Mission?
Note: This filly stands 17-hands and was a driving winner of the Oaks at odds of 9-1. You get 10-1 on the Oaks winner, but 8-1 on the beaten fave Dixie Strike on Sunday. However, the Giant's Causeway-Misty Mission filly (she's a half to multiple graded winner French Beret), is currently on a two-race winning streak and has trained well into this event. I loved her gallop out following the Oaks and think she can hit the board on Sunday. The filly Inglorious completed the Oaks/Plate double last year, but River Rush captured the Plate Trial on the same day as Irish Mission won the Oaks in a much faster time.

Quote: "“Her last three races have been excellent," said Frostad. "She’s figured everything out and she continues to develop and get better. She’s raising the bar all the time. We always thought we had a good filly and she’s really showing it now.”

Video: Irish Mission wins the Oaks

1. Strait of Dover
2. Irish Mission
3. River Rush
4. Colleen's Sailor
5. Golden Ridge

Justin Stein seeks his first Plate win
There's not a lot of speed in this event and if Strait of Dover and Irish Mission get first jump, it might be hard for the the deep closing River Rush to chase them down.

Will Stait of Dover be this far in front on Sunday?

Don't forget that Woodbine's 12-race card features a guaranteed $100,000 Early Pick 4 (races 4 - 7) as well as a guaranteed $200,000 (races 9 - 12) Late Pick 4.

The stakes-laden card includes the 75th running of the $150,000 My Dear Stakes (Race 4); the 59th running of the $200,000 Grade 2 Highlander Stakes (Race 5); the 2nd running of the $100,000 Trillium (Race 6); the 110th running of the $250,000 Grade 2 King Edward, presented by TVG (Race 7); the 59th running of the $150,000 Grade 3 Singspiel (Race 8); and the 153rd running of the $1-million Queen's Plate (Race 10).

Visit QueensPlate.Com For full details on Sunday's 'Gallop for the Guineas'.

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