The 158th Queen’s Plate will have an excellent group of riders invading Woodbine Racetrack on Sunday July 2.
Three jockeys from the U.S. will ship into to Woodbine to ride in Canada’s Most Famous Race. Hall of Fame-elect Javier Castellano (Inflexibility), Jose Ortiz (Guy Caballero) and Julien Leparoux (Aurora Way) will join the top jockeys from the Toronto colony to compete in the first leg of racing’s Triple Crown.
Castellano, who rode Cloud Computing to victory in the Preakness, will ride Chad Brown’s filly in the Plate. A second Classic winning jockey, Ortiz, who won the Belmont Stakes aboard Tapwrit, will ride the Plate Trial winner. Leparoux, who won last year’s Plate aboard Sir Dudley Digges and finished second in the Preakness, will be aboard the lightly raced Aurora Way (pictured).
Woodbine Oaks winner Holy Helena will have Luis Contreras aboard the filly for New York-based trainer Jimmy Jerkens. Mark Casse will saddle two horses that were on the Kentucky Derby trail in State of Honor and King and His Court. Casse’s first call rider at Woodbine, Patrick Husbands will be in the irons on State of Honor and Gary Boulanger will be on top of King and His Court.
The race is very intriguing as a number of lightly raced horses, like Aurora Way, will challenge some horses that have a sound 2-year-old foundation heading into the mile-and-a-quarter trek.
It’s hard to look past the filly eight days out from the race. Fillies have had recent success in the Queen’s Plate, Contreras was aboard the filly Inglorious who won in 2011. Lexie Lou gave Casse his first and only Plate win in the 2014 edition.
Ortiz replaces Rafael Hernandez aboard the surprise 20-1 winner of the local prep for trainer Catherine Day Phillips, who will be seeking her first Plate training victory. Hernandez decided on the mount aboard Channel Maker for trainer Bill Mott over Aurora Way.
No horse has completed the Canadian Triple Crown since Wando in 2003, nor has one captured the first two legs since then. The second leg of the Triple Crown is head across the Peace Bridge at Fort Erie Race Track. The second jewel will be run at 1 3/16-miles at the border oval on Tuesday evening July 25.
The Buffalo-based Goo Goo Dolls will play a post-race concert after the Plate card ends in the Toronto twilight. Canadian rock group Our Lady Peace will play a live concert on Saturday, July 1 to open the inaugural 2-Day Queen’s Plate Festival at Woodbine.
The News will once again be on hand for the Plate draw next Wednesday and on site during both days of the Festival in suburban Toronto.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.