TORONTO, June 28—Stronach Stables’ Holy Helena, winner of the Woodbine Oaks on June 11, will look to become the seventh winner of that filly classic to repeat in the Queen’s Plate as 3-1 morning line favourite in Sunday’s $1-million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine.
The 158th running of the Queen’s Plate, the longest continuously-run stakes race in North America, lured a field of 13 3-year-olds. The race will be televised by CTV/TSN/TSN4K from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. with post time set for 5:36 p.m.
Colts and geldings will carry 126 pounds and the fillies Holy Helena and Inflexibility get in with 121 pounds in Canada’s 1 ¼ mile showpiece horse race over Woodbine’s Tapeta.
Holy Helena, who has been based in New York with trainer Jimmy Jerkens, did not start as a 2-year-old and finished second in her debut at Aqueduct on April 15. The daughter of Ghostzapper then won a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Belmont and shipped to Woodbine to Mike Doyle to prepare for the Woodbine Oaks.
Luis Contreras was in the irons when she came from just off the pace to score impressively in the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, and will be seeking his second Woodbine Oaks/Queen’s Plate double following Inglorious in 2011.
Stronach Stable will be looking for their fourth Queen’s Plate score, following Shaman Ghost in 2015, Awesome Again in 1997 and Basqueian in 1994.
Channel Maker, the 4-1 second choice, is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Marine Stakes on May 28. The gelding had made his first seven career starts on turf, including wins in the Vandal Stakes and a good third-place finish in the Grade 2 Summer Stakes before he finished seventh, beaten 5 ¾ lengths, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.
Rafael Hernandez, who rode Channel Maker for the first time in the Marine, will return to ride the English Channel gelding for trainer Bill Mott and the ownership group of Joey Gee Thoroughbreds, Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber.
Hernandez had his first Queen’s Plate win with Shaman Ghost, and Barber won the race with the filly Lexie Lou in 2014, but Hall of Famer Mott will be contesting the fixture for the first time.
King and His Court, Canada’s champion male 2-year-old, is the 5-1 third choice. The Court Vision gelding was a $3,000 yearling purchase by owner/trainer Alex Patykewich but was sold privately to Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber after finishing third in the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Grey Stakes in October.
The gelding was making his seventh start in the Grey and went on to win the 1 1/8 mile Coronation Futurity for Canadian-breds and the Display Stakes for his new owners and trainer Mark Casse.
King and His Court was unplaced in two stakes this year this winter in the U.S. but back at Woodbine, the “King” mowed down his foes in the 1 1/16 mile Wando Stakes and finished second in the Plate Trial last time out.
Gary Boulanger, who won a Queen’s Plate with Dancethruthedawn in 2001, retains the mount. Casse won the fixture with Lexie Lou in 2014.
Aurora Way (6-1) is an intriguing Queen’s Plate entrant as the homebred gelding owned by Chiefswood Stable will be racing for just the second time in the Queen’s Plate.
Trainer Stu Simon sent out Aurora Way to score very impressively in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race here June 10 and the talented newcomer is dangerous despite his lack of experience.
Julien Leparoux, who guided Sir Dudley Digges to an upset victory in last year’s Queen’s Plate, will be looking to repeat and give Simon his first Plate win.
State of Honor (8-1), a homebred who races for the Conrad Farm of Manfred and Penny Conrad, won his maiden at seven furlongs here last year and then ended the runner-up behind his new barnmate in the Coronation Futurity.
Three in the money finishes came in the winter before finishing second to eventual Kentucky Derby winner, Always Dreaming in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. State of Honor set the early pace in the “Run for the Roses”, but was well back in the Kentucky Derby.
Patrick Husbands, who regained the mount on State of Honor that day, will be looking for his third Queen’s Plate win after scoring aboard Lexie Lou and the late Wando, who was the most recent Canadian Triple Crown winner in 2003.
Guy Caballero (10-1) came from last to score the Plate Trial by a half-length at 20-1 on Oaks day.
Owned and bred by Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry and trained by Catherine Day Phillips, Guy Caballero had concluded his four-race juvenile campaign with a third-place finish in the Display Stakes. The gelding was making just his second start of this season in the Plate Trial.
Hernandez had ridden Guy Caballero in his last five of six career races but New York-based Jose Ortiz will pilot the Quality Road gelding on Sunday.
Tiz a Slam (10-1) was a going concern at 2, winning first-crack out over seven furlongs of Tapeta and repeating at the same distance on the grass before being edged by a head for third-money in the Summer Stakes.
Trainer Roger Attfield, who shares the record with Harry Giddings Jr. with eight Plate wins, had Tiz a Slam in Florida this winter and the Chiefswood Farm homebred started once, finishing fifth in the Columbia Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Since returning to Woodbine, Tiz a Slam has finished second, beaten a length in the Wando and ended 1 ¾ lengths back under regular rider Eurico Rosa da Silva in the Plate Trial. Da Silva will be looking for his third Queen’s Plate win, having scored back-to-back with Eye of the Leopard in 2009 and Big Red Mike in 2010. Chiefswood won the 2004 Queen’s Plate with the late Niigon.
Inflexibility (10-1) made her local debut when third, beaten seven lengths, in the Oaks. Javier Castellano will take over aboard Inflexibility, who was the 5-2 favorite in the Oaks for Brown and owners Klaravich Stable and Bill Lawrence, who won this year’s Preakness, second jewel of the U.S. Triple Crown with Cloud Computing
Malibu Secret (20-1, jockey Alan Garcia, trainer Malcolm Pierce, Sam-Son Farm) and Megagray (30-1, jockey Jesse Campbell, trainer Mike Keogh, owner Gustav Schickedanz) were the third and fourth finishers, beaten a total of 7 3/4 and eight lengths, respectively, in the Marine Stakes.
Sam-Son Farm has fielded five Queen’s Plate winners in Eye of the Leopard (2009), Dancethruthedawn (2001), Scatter the Gold (2000), Dance Smartly (1991), and Regal Intention (1988).
Schickedanz and Keogh are the connections behind both Wando and Queen’s Plate winner Woodcarver (1999). Campbell won the Plate aboard front-running Midnight Aria in 2003.
The other three Queen’s Plate contestants also will be making their stakes debuts.
Watch Me Strut (30-1, jockey David Moran, trainer Catherine Day Phillips, owner Kingfield Racing Stable and George Ledson) and Spirit of Caledon (50-1, jockey Jerome Lermyte, part-owner/trainer Pat Parente, owner Copper Water Thoroughbred Company, Centennial Racing (Niagara)) finished first and third, respectively, in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on June 4. Vaughan, a maiden after two starts, comes into the Queen’s Plate off a third-place finish over 1 1/16 miles of yielding turf. Unraced at 2, Vaughan will be making his third career start for RCC Racing Stable Ltd. and trainer John Mattine.