By Mike Farrell
Fear not dear hearts, top-flight racing and major stakes remain on the immediate horizon even though Saratoga, Del Mar and Churchill Downs wrapped up last weekend.
A case in point: the Woodbine card for Saturday topped by the $1 million Queen’s Plate with a solid field of 14 runners and an intriguing value play.
While the U.S. Triple Crown has one leg remaining (the Preakness on Oct. 3), the Queen’s Plate is the delayed kickoff of Canada’s equivalent series for 3-year-olds. There are several major differences between the Crowns. The Canadian Crown is restricted to native-born horses, and is run over three different surfaces.
The Queen’s Plate, originally slated for June 27 before the coronavirus scrambled the schedule, is contested at 1 1/4 miles over the all-weather Tapeta track.
The series shifts to Fort Erie, and old-fashioned dirt, for the $400,000 Prince of Wales on Sept. 29 before returning to Woodbine and it’s sweeping turf course for the $400,000 Breeders’ Stakes on Oct. 24.
The 161st Queen’s Plate, North America’s oldest continually run race, features a fascinating showdown between Clayton, the 2-1 favorite, and the filly Curlin’s Voyage, the 5-2 second choice.
Clayton is the worthy morning-line choice based on a two-race winning streak that includes the Plate Trial on Aug. 15. His career mark is 3-for-4 with the lone loss coming in an allowance race against older rivals when he had some traffic issues.
Clayton has been favored in all four starts, a streak that should certainly continue in the Queen’s Plate. He is trained by Kevin Attard who is hedging his bets here with another filly Merveilleux (10-1).
“He’s been special from the get-go,” Attard said of Clayton. “He’s doing everything you want him to. Hopefully, he needs to get a little bit better one more time and maybe he can put everything together.”
Rafael Hernandez, winner of the 2015 Plate with Shaman Ghost, will be aboard.
It’s not unusual for a filly to capture Canada’s richest race. Curlin’s Voyage seeks to become the fourth filly in the last seven years to accomplish that feat.
It is also not unusual to see trainer Josie Carroll in the Queen’s Plate winner’s circle. She is already a two-time winner with Edenwold in 2006 and the filly Inglorious in 2011.
The victory with Edenwold cemented Carroll’s place in Canadian racing history as the first female trainer to capture the Plate.
Her best shot for the Plate hat trick comes with the filly who has already won the Woodbine Oaks and has posted faster speed figures than her male rivals.
“She finds a way to get it done,” Carroll said. “She always shows up and she’s a very, very special filly.”
Carroll has two additional runners in the race: the maiden Belichick (30-1) and Mighty Heart (20-1).
It never hurts to go value shopping in a large field with every runner stretching out to 10 furlongs for the first time.
Tecumseh’s War (12-1) landed the outside post and is only 1-for-7 lifetime. He is coming out of an allowance race where he missed by only a half- length after being blocked at the top of the stretch.
The son of Summer Front has enough stamina influences in his pedigree to suggest he will find the distance to his liking.
So, let’s box Tecumseh’s War with the two favorites in our exactas and trifectas — or, as our Canadian friends prefer to say, our exactors and triactors — and hope for a nice return on investment.
Mike Farrell has worked in thoroughbred and harness racing for much of his career in journalism. Mike is a turf writer, harness writer, and handicapper, covering and analyzing races at dozens of racetracks around the country. Based on the East Coast, Mike has covered the Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup for a number of publications, including Daily Racing Form, as well as The Associated Press. He spends time at Gulfstream Park taking in the races, and also hits the harness racing circuit in the Northeast region. He’s been a fixture at The Hambletonian and the Haskell Invitational for longer than he’d like to remember.