By Sid Fernando for QueensPlate.com
TORONTO, June 30 – Three-year-olds by first-crop sires have had a great success rate this year in classic races in Dubai, Japan, USA, and Europe, and the Queen’s Plate in Canada has a great chance to be added to the collection.
The streak started in Dubai this spring with Thunder Snow, from Helmet’s first crop, winning the UAE 2,000 Guineas and Derby. Thunder Snow later ran second in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
I’ve listed a sampling from the rest of the world below and have only listed classic-placed horses outside the US if their sires have also had a classic winner; therefore, horses like 2,000 Guineas runner-up Barney Roy, from the first crop of Excelebration and subsequent winner of the important St James’s Palace Stakes, are not included.
In Japan, Soul Stirring, a Japanese-bred daughter of Frankel, won the Yushun Himba, the Japanese Oaks, after a third-place finish in the Oka Sho, the 1,000 Guineas equivalent. Over in Britain, Frankel also was represented by the third-place finisher in the Epsom Derby, Cracksman.
Also at Epsom, Enable, by Nathaniel, won the Oaks.
In the US, Always Dreaming, by Bodemeister, won the Kentucky Derby. Cloud Computing, by Maclean’s Music, followed with a win in the Preakness. Patch, by Union Rags, was third in the Belmont Stakes.
In France, Brametot, from Rajsaman’s first crop, won the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and the Prix du Jockey Club, the French 2,000 Guineas and Derby equivalents, respectively.
Now to Canada and the Queen’s Plate. Of the 13 entered, there’s only one first-crop runner. He is State of Honor, a son of Gainesway’s To Honor and Serve, and he’s one of the most accomplished horses in the field. State of Honor isn’t a stakes winner yet – in fact, he’s only won a maiden race – but he’s placed in such races as the Grade 1 Florida Derby (second to Always Dreaming), Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby (second to subsequent Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit), and Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes (third to the highly regarded McCraken). State of Honor also has placed in two other black-type races and last year was second in the Coronation Futurity at Woodbine to King and His Court, who is also in the Queen’s Plate.
State of Honor’s sire To Honor and Serve won eight of 17 starts and earned $1,798,840. His notable wins included two Grade 1 races, the Cigar Mile at three and the Woodward at four. He is a son of leading sire Bernardini, a Preakness winner by A.P. Indy who stayed the Queen’s Plate trip. To Honor and Serve is out of Deputy Minister’s stakes-winning daughter Pilfer, and he is a full brother to Grade 1 winner Angela Renee and half-brother to another stakes winner. The stallion’s extended family has a prolific history of stakes production, and the horse has every right to get quality runners. To Honor and Serve hasn’t yet sired a major stakes winner, but he’s been knocking on the door. In addition to Graded-placed State of Honor, he has the Graded-placed runners Blueridge Traveler, who was second in the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes on all-weather at Turfway; Honor the Fleet, third in the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth; and several other stakes-placed horses.
State of Honor…
To Honor and Serve will try to replicate what Gio Ponti did last year with his first-crop three-year-old Sir Dudley Digges, winner of the Queen’s Plate and, with subsequent Eclipse Award winner Drefong, one of two big winners for his sire last summer. Until Sir Dudley Digges won the Queen’s Plate, Gio Ponti, like To Honor and Serve, had been light on stakes winners, too.
State of Honor was bred in Ontario by Manfred Conrad and Penny Conrad and races as a homebred for Conrad Farms. He was produced by the unraced Elusive Quality mare State Cup, a daughter of the good turf mare Avie’s Fancy. The latter won the then-Grade 2 Matchmaker Stakes on turf at Atlantic City at a mile and three-sixteenths, and she has produced two stakes winners, including Grade 2 winner St Averil.
State of Honor is State Cup’s first stakes horse from five horses of racing age, and he could well become her first stakes winner in the Queen’s Plate. He has the pedigree to stay the 10 furlongs of the Queen’s Plate, and he’s got the racing profile and class, too. He was considered good enough by trainer Mark Casse for the Kentucky Derby, and he is the speed in a race without too much else to bother him on the front end. He may have needed his last race, and he looks he’s well worth his 8-1 morning line odds.
1. State of Honor 8-1
2. Channel Maker 4-1
3. Holy Helena 3-1
Channel Maker, second last out in the Grade 3 Marine, has the best pedigree for the race. He’s by turf champion and top 12-furlong runner English Channel, who’s had exceptional success at Woodbine as a sire, from In Return, by Horse Chestnut – a Sadler’s Wells-line horse. That’s stamina on stamina. English Channel’s progeny include Canadian champion turf horse Interpol, winner of the G1 Northern Dancer at Woodbine; Canadian champion three-year-old Strait of Dover, winner of the Queen’s Plate in 2012; Grade 1 Arlington Million and Northern Dancer winner The Pizza Man; and Grade 1 Travers winner V.E. Day, among others. Channel Maker, who made his synthetic debut in the Marine, will move forward in the Queen’s Plate and is the horse State of Honor will have to beat.
Holy Helena is an Adena Springs homebred for Stronach Stables. The filly by Ghostzapper will look to follow in the footsteps of Adena’s homebred Shaman Ghost, the champion Canadian three-year-old colt of 2015 when he won the Queen’s Plate. He, too, was by Ghostzapper — an Adena homebred and as a stallion, a worthy successor to his sire Awesome Again, also an Adena homebred.
Holy Helena last out won the Woodbine Oaks in just her third start, and she’s got an exceptional family to burnish her form. Her dam is by Holy Bull, a horse that Adena owner Frank Stronach has heavily patronized and with whom he’s had success. Adena homebred Macho Uno, a half-brother to Awesome Again, is a son of Holy Bull who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and was named the champion two-year-old of 2000. He, too, stands at Adena, as does his Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man.
Holy Helena traces in direct tail-female to the blue hen Uvira ll, as do so many top horses, including A.P. Indy.
Sid Fernando is an internationally known pedigree writer whose work has appeared in Daily Racing Form, Racing Post, Pacemaker, Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, North American Trainer, and various other publications. He also is president of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, Inc., originator of the Werk Nick Rating and eNicks. He blogs at Sid Fernando + Observations and is on Twitter at @sidfernando.