With the American Triple Crown season in the books it’s time to turn our attention north of the border.
The Canadian Triple Crown gets underway two weeks from today as the Queen’s Plate takes center stage in Toronto on Sunday July 2. Last weekend’s Plate Trial Stakes provided a surprise winner when 20-1 Guy Caballero burst through the lane late to win in the 1 1/8-mile main prep race for the Plate.
The second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown will be run at Fort Erie Race Track, just over the Peace Bridge, on Tuesday July 25.
Before we get into some Plate notes, let’s do a quick recap of the U.S. Triple Crown season…
- My top four picks in the Belmont finished 5th-2nd-4th-1st. Patch was the fly in the betting ointment for me.
- One amazing takeaway after the Belmont is that Todd Pletcher is approximately three jumps away from winning five of the seven Belmont Stakes during this decade. Stay Thirsty (2011) lost by 3/4-length, Commissioner (2012) lost by a head and last year Destin (2016) lost by a nose.
- Tapit has sired three of the last four Belmont Stakes winners and Frosted came in second to American Pharoah in 2015 with a time that was better than the three other winners. That’s pretty amazing.
- One prognostication made back in December came true during the Triple Crown. In my annual Kreskin column, I predicted a “new shooter” would win the Preakness. So there’s that.
- The Triple Crown season while lacking the luster of a Triple Crown attempt at Belmont still provided many big moments and will set up an important season of summer racing. The Haskell, Travers and Pennsylvania Derby will all play a big role in determining the 3-year-old champion.
- It will be interesting to see where Pletcher goes with his two Classic winners. This space thinks he’ll send Always Dreaming to New Jersey and the 1 1/8-mile Haskell on the speed favoring Monmouth track. That would put Tapwrit in line for a Dandy-Travers set up. We could see both in the Travers under this scenario since the Derby winner will have had a break since the Preakness on May 20.
- Last night’s Downs after Dark at Churchill produced three big divisional wins by McCraken (3-year-old Male), Forever Unbridled (Older Female) and Gun Runner (Older Dirt Male).
- McCraken loves Churchill and could make some noise in the 3-year-old division after his victory in the Matt Winn Saturday night. With Classic Empire, Irish War Cry and potentially one of the two Pletchers headed to the Haskell, the Saratoga route may make more sense for trainer Ian Wilkes.
- The long layoff was not a problem for Forever Unbridled in the Fleur de Lis. A patient ride by Joel Rosario resulted in a solid win under the lights for trainer Dallas Stewart. She’ll be a player in the Distaff, where she finished a length behind Beholder and Songbird in 2016.
- No Dubai bounce for Gun Runner. He smoked the Stephen Foster field in fine fashion winning by the largest margin of victory (seven lengths) ever. Steve Asmussen told NBC Sports Network following the race that he’ll bring the son of Candy Ride to Saratoga. With Arrogate likely running out west at Del Mar, the site of this year’s Breeders’ Cup, a rematch of the top two finishers in the Dubai World Cup looms in November.
The Queen’s Plate will be run on the Tapeta surface at Woodbine for the second time on July 2. Two American tracks, Presque Isle Downs and Golden Gate Fields also sport the Tapeta, a synthetic surface. Some thoughts as we head towards Canada’s famous race…
- I’ve fared much better at the Plate (6-3-0-2) than the Derby (7-1-0-3) with top selections since 2011, run on a synthetic surface.
- Fillies fare well in the Plate with winners in 2011 (Inglorious) and 2014 (Lexie Lou) and a second in 2012 by Irish Mission. The Woodbine Oaks winner Holy Helena is expected to enter the Plate. She won the Oaks for New York-based trainer Jimmy Jerkens.
- Roger Attfield will be looking for his record ninth Plate with the Winterbook favorite Tiz a Slam, who finished fourth in the Plate Trial. It’s the second straight year that Attfield has had the Winterbook favorite. He’ll need to improve his game to challenge in the Plate. Don’t throw out the son of Tiznow based on his Trial, as Attfield knows which race is the ultimate prize.
- King and His Court ran well in the Plate Trial, but not being to hold off Guy Caballero poses enough distance questions for me heading into Canada’s Most Famous Race.
- Unless he ends up being the lone speed in the race (doubtful), State of Honor looks like a toss also based on his Derby and Plate Trial efforts.
- Two horses I’ll be paying more attention to over the next two weeks are Malibu Secret (Sam-Son Farms) and Aurora Way, an impressive maiden winner. Malibu Secret had a troubled trip in the Marine and Aurora Way, a son of Giant’s Causeway, will try to win the Plate in only his second race. Both horses have the pedigree to stay the mile-and-a-quarter distance of the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.
The DRF’s Top 10 Plate horses and estimated odds for the Queen’s Plate are as follows:
1 – Holy Helena (3-1)
2 – Channel Maker (4-1)
3 – Guy Caballero (5-1)
4 – King and His Court (6-1)
5 – Tiz a Slam (8-1)
6 – State of Honor (10-1)
7 – Malibu Secret (12-1)
8 – Aurora Way (15-1)
9 – Megagray (15-1)
10 – Watch Me Strut (20-1)
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.