TORONTO, August 12, 2020 – Halo Again goes after his fourth career win in his sixth start in Saturday’s $150,000 Plate Trial Stakes, a traditional prep for Canada’s most famous race, the $1 million Queen’s Plate, scheduled for September 12.
All Plate Trial starters carry 126 pounds, the same weight they’ll carry should they contest the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate. Big Red Mike (2010) was the most recent horse to notch the Plate Trial-Queen’s Plate double.
In what’s shaping up to be a wide-open race for all the spoils in the 161st running of Canada’s most famous horse race, three high profile trainers, two of them related, will look to add a Queen’s Plate victory to their impressive list of accomplishments.
Steve Asmussen, closing in on 9,000 career wins, sends out Halo Again in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial.
Bred in Ontario by Anderson Farms, the Speightstown-Halo’s Verse colt was a $600,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland sale by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Willis Horton Racing LLC. He is a half-brother to multiple graded stakes placed mare Inflexibility, who won the 2017 Canadian Triple Tiara’s Wonder Where Stakes as well as the Carotene Stakes at Woodbine.
Listed as the fourth choice (8-1) in the Queen’s Plate Winterbook, the three-time winner from five starts is undefeated in his two Woodbine appearances. Prior to the Queenston triumph, Halo Again eked out a head score in last year’s Coronation Futurity Stakes, also contested at a 1 1/8 miles on the Toronto oval Tapeta.
The bay colt arrives at Saturday’s race off an impressive effort in the Queenston Stakes on July 4 at Woodbine.
Halo Again paid $4.70 to win as the 6-5 favourite in a time of 1.23.63 for seven furlongs. Luis Contreras will be the irons for the Plate Trial, after leading rider Rafael Hernandez opted to ride Clayton.
Trainer Kevin Attard, who campaigns reigning Canadian Horse of the Year, Starship Jubilee, will be represented in the Plate Trial by the aforementioned Clayton, a bay son of Bodemeister, owned by Donato Lanni.
Yet to test the stakes ranks, the colt dazzled in his debut last November at Woodbine, garnering attention in the Queen’s Plate Winterbook, ranking eighth (16-1) in Woodbine’s annual rankings compiled by Ron Gierkink and Alex Campbell of the Daily Racing Form.
After a second in his three-year-old curtain-raiser, Clayton was back in the win column via an authoritative three-length victory at 1 1/16 miles on July 18 at Woodbine.
“He’s doing well,” said Attard. “We’re excited to see him run this weekend and hopefully, he takes another step forward. I’ll put it this way… so far, he’s done everything that we’ve asked of him. They’re three-year-olds and they’re all developing at different rates. I can only worry about my horse and my horse is doing everything I need him to be doing right now.”
Attard gave his Plate hopeful a high grade for his most recent performance.
“It was a great run. He did it very easily. That almost concerns me to a degree because I need him to be pressed a little bit. It’s only going to get tougher. It’s a good feeling when you see them geared down and they’re much the best. Hopefully, he takes another step in the right direction, and we get one step closer to the bid dance.”
Attard, nephew of Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee Sid Attard, finished second with Alezzandro in the 2007 Queen’s Plate. The Steve Stavro-owned dark bay went on to win the Prince of Wales Stakes (second jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown) that same year.
His father, Tino Attard (Sid’s brother), has 1,355 career wins.
Zeroing in on 2,100 lifetime wins, Sid Attard has one Plate Trial win to his name, coming in 2007 with the late Mel Lawson’s Jiggs Coz.
Among his top horses, Attard campaigned Sovereign Award winners Ginger Gold, One For Rose, Numerous Times and Interpol. Numerous Times upset the defending champion and Horse of The Year Quiet Resolve in the 2001 edition of the $1 million Atto Mile (Grade 1) at Woodbine. Interpol provided Attard with another Grade 1 highlight, winning the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes in 2015.
Attard, who won his 2,000th career race on July 22, 2018 at Woodbine, would love to add a Queen’s Plate victory to his long list of achievements.
In the 1992 Plate, his Grand Hooley, at 20-1, finished second, 11 ½-lengths back of heavy favourite Alydeed.
This time, Attard has a trio of contenders in Elusive Knight, Northern Thunder and Dotted Line, all of which will go postward in the Plate Trial.
Fashioning a record of one win and four seconds from five starts, Elusive Knight, a dark bay son of Ghostzapper, won his debut last October at Woodbine, and then rhymed off four consecutive runner-up efforts, most recently, on July 18 at Woodbine.
The Stronach Stables’ homebred was second in last year’s Display Stakes.
“Patrick Husbands rode him for the first time last time, and he didn’t know him too well, so he worked him again the other day. He worked very well and Patrick was happy. He got to know the horse well and feels good about it, that’s what he told me.”
Elusive Knight could be the one to deliver Attard an elusive Queen’s Plate win. Frank Stronach has four Plate crowns, the most recent coming with the filly Holy Helena in 2015.
Dotted Line, owned by Norseman Racing Stable, has three wins and a third from seven career starts. Two of those victories came in stakes, last year’s Frost King and Kingarvie. The Frost King was a 49-1 upset, yielding a $100.40 payout for a $2 win wager.
The bay gelding was the ninth choice (18-1) in the Queen’s Plate Winterbook.
“He’s a nice horse,” offered Attard, of the son of Signature Red, a horse the trainer campaigned to great success. “He tries hard all the time. We had some problems with him, we had some problems with the feet and it kind of took us quite a bit to get him right. Then, when he ran seven furlongs [in his three-year-old debut in the Queenston], he only had two works and we had to run him to get him ready for the Plate. He ran a good fifth, and last time [third, in the Grade 3 Marine] he ran a good, good race. We’ve been schooling him in the gate and he kind of broke slow and he made a nice run. He’s a really nice horse. He gives you 100 per cent when he runs.”
Northern Thunder (40-1 in the Winterbook), a chestnut son of Creative Cause, has one win from eight starts.
Bred by Huntington Stud Farm Corp., and owned by Tucci Stables, the colt’s lone victory came in the second start of his rookie campaign, a neck nod in a 1 1/16-mile score over the Woodbine Tapeta on September 15, 2019.
“We just got him and I see him improving already. As a matter of fact, we breezed him half a mile [on August 10]. He went :48[.60] handily, so he’s doing good too.”
Glorious Tribute, also pegged at 40-1 in the Winterbook, has one win and a third from eight career starts.
Owned by Bruce Lunsford and trained by Barbara Minshall, the son of Congrats will contest his third consecutive stakes. The dark bay gelding was third in the Queenston Stakes on July 4, and fifth in the Marine Stakes on July 25.
The Ontario-bred’s victory came in the final start of his two-year-old season, a half-length triumph at one mile and 70 yards on the Woodbine main track.
Last year, Pay for Peace pulled off a 19-1 upset to win the Plate Trial for trainer Rachel Halden.
$150,000 PLATE TRIAL STAKES
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Glorious Tribute – Davy Moran – Barbara Minshall
2 – Dotted Line – Justin Stein – Sid Attard
3 – Clayton – Rafael Hernandez – Kevin Attard
4 – Halo Again – Luis Contreras – Steve Asmussen
5 – Northern Thunder – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Sid Attard
6 – Elusive Knight – Patrick Husbands – Sid Attard