The Queen's Plate line
CBC horse racing analyst Jim Bannon gives the rundown on the 149th running of North America's oldest thoroughbred race
1. D. FLUTIE — Named in honour of football great Doug Flutie, he has been impressive in training moves, yet, remains a non-winner after four career starts. He is a long striding runner with natural speed who has impressed his trainer Mike Keogh, already twice a winner of this race for owner Gustav Schickedanz with Woodcarver and Wando. Emile Ramsammy, a winner of the Queen's Plate on two occasions, will ride. He comes from the inside starting position as did Woodcarver the 1999 winner for these connections.
2. DYLAN'S CHOICE — Dylan's Choice is a rags to respectability story. Earlier this season, he was winning at Florida's Tampa Bay racetrack in a paltry $8,000 US race from which he was purchased by his current interests, the Winter Road Racing Stable located near Grand Prairie, Alta. He will try and overachieve for Winnipeg native, Chantal Sutherland, a two-time Sovereign Award winning jockey as this country' s outstanding apprentice rider.
3. EAST END TAP — He went through a recent trainer switch moving from the stable of current champion Mark Casse to that of former champion Reade Baker, yet, there was only minimal improvement in the Plate Trial Stakes. He is a strong physical horse in obvious good health, who will have the blinkers removed for Sunday's race. Young riding sensation Tyler Pizarro has the mount.
4. HARVEST HOME — (Scratched) A maiden (non-winner) after three races, Harvest Home competes for Sam Son Farm, a winner of this race on four occasions. One of those victories came in 2000 with the maiden, Scatter The Gold. He is a son of Sam Son's Smart Strike, North America's leading sire whose son, Curlin, is nearing record earnings. He began his career this spring in Kentucky and since coming home to Woodbine has finished on the edges. His trainer, Mark Frostad, a three-time Queen's Plate winner, believes his real talent will be realized later on the turf.
5. DEPUTIFORMER — Deputiformer was promising as a juvenile last year when he captured the important Cup & Saucer Stakes on turf. Reproducing that energy on Woodbine's Polytrack (synthetic surface) has been no easy task this spring. A change of running style is called for in the Queen's Plate with more early movement necessary. He recently trained in spirited fashion for jockey Jerry Baird.
6. SILVER JAG — He's considered a rank outsider in the Queen's Plate after going winless over his opening four races. His trainer, Josie Carroll, won the 2006 Queen's Plate with Edenwold, becoming the first woman conditioner to capture this classic. There is support from a pedigree point as Silver Jag is a son of Point Given, a long-distance specialist who won the Belmont Stakes at a mile and a half and sired Sealy Hill, Canada's Horse of the Year in 2007. Owner Earle W. Daynes, along with his late wife, Shirley, bred Silver Jag.
7. PALMERS — Palmers is a homebred for Eugene Melnyk, a highly-successful racing entrepreneur, who last year campaigned Canada's Horse of the Year, Sealy Hill. Palmers had winter conditioning in New Orleans and saw spring action in Kentucky. He has raced well since returning home to Woodbine but has made premature moves in his last two races only to be relegated to minor prizes. He needs to launch his rally more accurately on Sunday. He goes for the current champion jockey/trainer combination of Patrick Husbands and Mark Casse. Post position seven was picked because 10 years ago, Melnyk's Archers Bay won the Queen's Plate from post seven.
8. MAMMA'S KNIGHT — He earned his way into the Queen's Plate with a recent breakout victory in his third race of this season, a performance his connections were hopeful would happen. One challenge Mamma's Knight faces, is a switch of riders. His regular jockey, Jerry Baird of St. John's, NL, is committed to ride Deputiformer and so Justin Stein from New Westminister, B. C., will now take over.
9. SHADOWLESS — Shadowless is the first horse bred by her owner, Heather Takahashi, a Canadian working in investment baking in New York. Shadowless has already overcome remarkable odds by just making it to the Queen's Plate and arrives after a somewhat unusual schedule which includes a race at only five furlongs to begin this season. On Sunday, he will be running 10 furlongs (1 ¼ miles). His jockey, Emma Jayne Wilson, made history last year by winning the Queen's Plate aboard Mike Fox, becoming the first woman rider to take the coveted prize.
10. GINGER BREW — A Stronach Stable representative, Ginger Brew will be looking to continue the girl power trend that has been obvious in the Queen's Plate in recent years. In 2006, trainer Josie Carroll became the first woman to condition a Queen's Plate winner with Edenwold. Last year, Emma Jayne Wilson aboard Mike Fox became the first woman to ride a Queen's Plate winner. Ginger Brew exits a victory in the Woodbine Oaks where she beat Canada's best three-year-old fillies and now she is poised to take on the boys for Australian-born trainer Brian Lynch. The last filly to win the Queen's Plate was Dancethruthedawn in 2001. She will be ridden once again by New York based Javier Castellano whose outstanding ride aboard Ghostzapper won the 2004 Breeders' Cup Classic for Stronach.
11. JUNGLE BREW — Jungle Brew competes for Stronach Stables, a winner of this race twice before with Basqueian and Awesome Again. He is a powerful stretch runner but still a maiden after two starts. He impressed his trainer Brian Lynch with his sharp closing effort last time when beaten a half length. He has just gone through a significant growth spurt and continues to advance in stature. Eibar Coa who is currently the top rider in New York, was to be the colt's third different rider, but due to injury will be replaced by Woodbine's leading rider, Jim McAleney.
12. SOLITAIRE — He will be one of the favourites for this year's race, but history is not on his side. He has started just twice and has yet to win. His lack of seasoning will be a drawback as will his late running style in a crowded field. He was an exceptional prospect when purchased as a yearling in Kentucky by American William Clifton Jr. In just his second career race, he was brought from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to Toronto for the Plate Trial where he rushed in the stretch finishing second against Not Bourbon. He has since returned home for his final conditioning move for trainer H. James Bond. Robert Landry, a two-time champion rider, is seeking his second Queen's Plate win.
13. NOT BOURBON — Not Bourbon competes for Canada's most famous prospector, Charles E. Fipke who discovered the Ekati diamond mine in the Northwest Territories. He is conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield who seeks a record-equalling eighth win in the Queen's Plate. Not Bourbon is the fastest horse in the Queen's Plate and also has the most wins, however, the distance factor of one mile and a quarter is his biggest challenge. When he recently had a stamina challenge in the Plate Trial Stakes at one and one eighth miles, he surprised even his jockey, Jono Jones by staying on to beat Solitaire. Attfield has had significant success bringing horses from the Plate Trial to victory in the Queen' s Plate.
14. SEBASTIAN'S SONG — He has developed a negative habit of advancing prematurely in his races and not saving enough for the stretch drive. He finished third in the recent Plate Trial Stakes unable to protect the lead in the late stages. To assist him with deploying his energies more precisely, trainer Alec Fehr set up a simulated training race on Sunday morning where Sebastian's Song swiftly accelerated past two stable mates who acted as prompters. One challenge that Sebastian's Song faces with a big crowd expected for Sunday, is controlling his nerves. Veteran jockey David Clark will be riding in his 21st Queen's Plate. He drew the next to widest starting position.
15. TOOK THE TIME — has been handled patiently so that he will peak in Sunday's race. He made mistakes when he debuted last November, yet, miraculously won at 22-1. He then attracted a sale to Earle Mack, the former United States Ambassador to Finland, who won the Queen's Plate in 1993 with Peteski. He has progressed in both races this year with runner up finishes for champion trainer Mark Casse. His regular rider Patrick Husbands is committed to handle Casse's other runner, Palmers, and so Mack will import one of his favourite riders, American-based Ramon Dominguez for the Queen's Plate. He begins from the widest starting position.
The taxing mile and a quarter distance of the Queen's Plate along with the traffic difficulties that can arise in a crowded field and performing at peak efficiency in front of a large crowd are just some of the challenges each of the entrants face on Sunday.
If there is to be an upset, No. 11 Jungle Brew or No. 14 Sebastian's Song could provide it.
No. 12 Solitaire has perhaps the most raw potential of any of these and could win if he overcomes his lack of seasoning and gets a clear trip.
The filly, No. 10 Ginger Brew, is a main contender. She was overwhelmingly good when beating the girls two weeks ago in the Woodbine Oaks. She's been freshened and has perked up in recent training moves showing that she is ready to tackle the boys.
No. 13 Not Bourbon can be a winner if things fall into place for him. He needs a good journey at a relaxed pace while saving enough for the crucial final yards. He signalled his readiness for Hall of Fame conditioner Roger Attfield on Wednesday morning with an emphatic training move under Jono Jones.