Canada's most famous horse race takes center stage Sunday afternoon at Woodbine Racetrack with the 152nd running of the $1 million Queen's Plate. North America's oldest continuously run stakes race will send 17 starters to the gate, the biggest field since 1999 for the first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown.
The second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown is the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Race Track, slated for July 17. The Breeders' Stakes, the third leg, is scheduled for Aug. 7 at Woodbine.
This year's Plate is shaping up to conclude in a historic result. The number of potential record-breaking results is there for the offing.
The biggest accomplishment would be trainer Roger Attfield winning a record-breaking ninth Queen's Plate with 3-1 morning line favorite Check Your Soul. Jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva will be looking to win an unprecedented third consecutive Queen's Plate aboard Bowman's Causeway (6-1) after winning the past two Plates aboard Eye of the Leopard and Big Red Mike.
Inglorious (9-2) will look to be the first filly since Dancethruthedawn in 2001 to win the first leg of Canada's Triple Crown. The promising filly can keep the 10-year pattern alive (Dance Smartly won in 1991) with red-hot jockey Luis Contreras jumping aboard his first-ever Plate mount.
Only one maiden has ever won the Plate (Scatter the Gold in 2000). Super-trainer Todd Pletcher sends Imhotep (30-1), who drew the rail, into the race as the lone maiden in the field. Pletcher also has the aptly named Queen'splatekitten (7-2) in his arsenal and Derby-winning jockey John Velazquez ships in for the ride.
In addition to Johnny V, the race has attracted some big race riders such as Garrett Gomez, who will ride the front-runner Curgone (50-1), and Robby Albarado, who hops aboard Enduring Star (30-1). Chantal Sutherland returns from California to her former home track to ride Pender Harbour (12-1) for trainer Mike DePaulo.
Check Your Soul, the Plate Trial winner, will try to send Attfield into the history books after not running as a 2-year-old. He's won three of four times this year, is bred for the distance and sports the highest speed figure in the field. He stands to be Canada's best chance at a Triple Crown. The winner of the Plate Trial has won the last three Plates. Attfield is hoping history will repeat itself when he chose post position 13, the same gate as Not Bourbon in 2008, his most recent Queen's Plate winner.
The Woodbine Oaks winner, Inglorious, will face the boys for the first time while receiving a 5-pound weight break. Handling the big field is a big concern for trainer Josie Carroll. At the Plate barbecue on Monday, she aired her thoughts about the big field but was quietly confident in her filly. "There will be lots of traffic, she'll sit off the pace and then make her run. I just hope it's not too cluttered and Luis finds a hole to make it through."
Contreras, who is having a superb meeting at Woodbine, had options to ride a lot of horses but chose Inglorious to be his first-ever Plate mount.
If you're looking for a potential long shot in the race, West Point Thoroughbreds' Enduring Star is intriguing. He could shock this field with his late closing style being led by veteran jockey Robby Albarado. Could it be Albarado gets repaid for missing out on Animal Kingdom's Derby ride by winning the first jewel in Canada?
West Point's Sherm Cunningham pointed to the experienced jock before the post position draw breakfast Thursday.
"Robby rides for West Point in the U.S. quite a bit, so we've got one of our favorite jocks for Canada's big race," Cunningham said.
The Sir Shackleton colt has made up numerous lengths in several of his races, so watch on race day to see if the polytrack is favoring the closers.
Post position outlook: 1, Inglorious, 2, Check Your Soul, 3, Enduring Star.
Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com. He posts every Friday at the Sports, Ink blog at www.buffalonews.com and can be found on Twitter (@EquiSpace).