The Woodbine press office listed 14 probable starters for the 157th Queen’s Plate, with most of the usual suspects within the trainer and jockey ranks are duly represented.
One name noticeably absent from the list was Woodbine Oaks winner Neshama, who will attempt to complete the Canadian Triple Tiara and points towards the Bison City Stakes, the middle leg of that series of races, and concludes with The Wonder Where. She’ll be the first Oaks winner in recent years to skip the Plate and shoot for the Tiara.
Mark Casse will be seeking his second Plate win with Leavem in Malibu, Woodbine veteran jockey Gary Boulanger will ride. The Malibu Moon colt out of a Danzig mare has been working superbly leading up to the Plate. Woodbine clocker Ernie Perri commented on his recent 5-furlong breeze in 58.40 as “a super work.”
A $175,000 purchase at the Keeneland November sale for Gary Barber and Conrad Farms, he comes out of a sharp allowance win in late May and goes straight to the deep end to contend for the Plate. His 85 Beyer Speed Figure matches that of Ami’s Gizmo, the likely Plate favorite, in the Plate Trial two weeks ago.
The only graded stakes winners in the field are Shakhimat, Roger Attfield’s hope at collecting a record ninth Plate, and the filly Gamble’s Ghost who has two Grade 3 filly races under her belt, both at the Rexdale oval.
The daughter of Ghostzapper finished second in the Woodbine Oaks to Neshama by a nose and will run for trainer Josie Carroll, who also conditions Ami’s Gizmo. It will be quite the 1-2 punch and a telling tale will be which horse rider Luis Contreras decides to ride of the two.
Esposito, the other Ghostzapper in the race, will be trying two turns for the first time, but has shown his sire’s speed with wins at Del Mar and Woodbine on his resume. He also has a third-place finish in a non-graded stakes behind Triple Crown trailblazer Suddenbreakingnews at Remington Park last December. Trained by Tom Proctor with veteran Alan Garcia in the irons, if he can handle the two turns which his pedigree suggests, he could be a sleeper.
Last year’s winning trainer, Brian Lynch, will likely put forth Hammers Vision in the gate. He has question marks though, as the Plate would be his first race on a synthetic surface. He has flashed some decent speed in the last two turf races including a fifth-place finish beaten one length in a Grade 3 at Belmont earlier in the month. He finished third in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special last summer in a race won by Preakness winner Exaggerator.
All on Red sports the best distance Tomlinson in the race. The Hard Spun colt finished second beaten a neck in his local debut here earlier in June coming off a stout outing at Aqueduct. He is trained by Sid Attard who will be looking for his first Plate win in the $1 million Canadian classic. He’ll also have two-time Plate winner and current leading rider at Woodbine, Eurico Rosa da Silva aboard.
In addition to the Plate, the July 3 card will include three graded stakes to be run on the famous Woodbine turf course. Those three races include the $200,00 Grade 2 Dance Smartly, at one mile and one-eighth for fillies and mares, three-years-old and upwards; the $150,000 Grade 3 Singspiel at one and one-half miles for three-year-olds and up; and the $200,000 Grade 2 Highlander at six furlongs for three-year-olds and upward.
The betting menu on Plate day will include two Pick-4’s and two Pick-5’s, one more than usually carded for the big day. The post position draw is set for the morning of Wednesday, June 29 and The News will be onsite in Toronto bringing you updates from Woodbine.
Be sure to check Saturday's print edition for my mid-year report of the highs and lows of the first six months of racing.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.