ELMONT – As the American Triple Crown series comes to conclusion this weekend on Long Island, the Canadian Triple Crown will start to heat up north of the border.
The $125,000 Plate Trial and the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks will be run at Woodbine Racetrack on Saturday afternoon, both major prep races for the $1 million Queen’s Plate on June 29.
The Plate Trial attracted nine horses and the Oaks drew 10, none of the entries in either race competed on the American Derby trail.
On Wednesday Woodbine Entertainment announced that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) will be returning as the official partner and title sponsor of Canada’s Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing. As part of the partnership, OLG is offering a new $500,000 bonus for the winner of the Triple Crown.
The Canadian Triple Crown for 3-year-old Canadian-foaled thoroughbreds consists of the aforementioned Queen’s Plate (June 29 at Woodbine), the $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes (July 23 at Fort Erie Racetrack) and the $400,000 Breeders’ Stakes (Aug. 17 at Woodbine).
The series is contested over three different distances and racing surfaces, progressing from 1-1/4 miles over the Tapeta track at Woodbine to 1-3/16 miles over Fort Erie’s dirt course to 1-1/2 miles over Woodbine’s famed E.P. Taylor turf course.
Trainer Mark Casse, who skipped last year’s third leg with dual classic winner Wonder Gadot to run in the Travers at Saratoga, may have taken a different course if the bonus was in play. “Why didn’t they mention that before?” Casse joked at Belmont Park on Thursday afternoon. “That may have been what would have kept her there in Canada.”
The Plate Trial is restricted to 3-year-olds foaled in Canada and last produced a Plate winner in 2010, when Big Red Mike won for Fort Erie-based trainer Nick Gonzalez. The Plate Trial is Race 8 scheduled to go to post at 5:16 p.m. EDT and will precede the Oaks which is scheduled as Race 9 at 5:51 p.m.
Here’s a look at the entries for the Plate Trial Stakes (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
1 – Federal Law (Casse, Boulanger, 9-5). One of the top three winter book favorites for the Plate, this Casse trainee won the $125K Queenston S. in May. “He’s doing well and his last race looked good,” said Casse on the Belmont Park backstretch Thursday. “In glancing over the field, he looks he should be tough in there. The two toughest horses that he would have to face are not there. We have Skywire, who is our other horse who I like a lot. He just ran two weeks ago and got beat by a nice horse in an open stake. And then of course, Josie Carroll’s horse, Avie’s Flatter, last year’s 2-year-old champion.”
2 – Rising Star (De Paulo, Stein, 20-1). Mike De Paulo claimed the son of Ghostzapper from Larry Jones in April. The maiden spent the winter at Oaklawn Park and was only able to muster a third-place finish in that maiden claimer in four races in Arkansas. While he has faced tougher down in the States, he still is looking for that break through race.
3 – Pay for Peace (Halden, Contreras, 20-1). Son of Japanese sire Silent Name has just one win in seven races. Comes in third off the layoff on the form cycle and draws a topflight Woodbine jockey in Contreras. Showed some promise stretching out in his last, but still up against it against the top horses in here.
4 – Hesathriller (Ross, Salles, 20-1). Two career wins have come in claimers and speed figures don’t look to hold up against the top tier. Son of Flat Out by an Arch mare has floundered in his two stakes races. Seems to be a bit out of his class against the competition.
5 – Dun Drum (Black, Wilson, 5-2). Second choice on the morning line for trainer Ian Black. Improving speed figures and a 29 percent trainer when stretching out from a sprint bodes well for this son of Bold N’ Flashy. Emma-Jayne will ride for the sixth straight time and has never missed the board, including three non-graded stakes. Contender.
6 – Moon Swings (De Paulo, Campbell, 8-1). Gelded son of Malibu Moon had the ultimate equipment change after his last race. Still looking for win No. 1, but has improving numbers that suggest he could be sitting on a big race. Veteran Jesse Campbell is in the irons, don’t discount him off his record.
7 – The Newfie Express (Patykewich, Kimura, 20-1). Another runner in this Plate prep who will be looking to break his maiden. Trainer takes the blinks off the son of Victor’s Cry, and will be looking for his first training win of the meet. Has yet to run over a mile distance. Pass.
8 – Jammin Still (Attard, Husbands, 3-1). First time Lasix for the son of Take Charge Indy, who will have no issues with the distance. Bonus to have top local jock Patrick Husbands aboard for the first time. Trainer wins second off the layoff at a 24 percent clip and workouts suggest he’s fit and ready to roll. A player.
9 – Krachenwagen (Buntain, Alderson, 20-1). Showed some promise in his first try at a route last out over the Woodbine Tapeta. Comes in third off the layoff for obscure trainer/jock combo both struggling in the current meeting. Best chance is to finish late against tired horses to catch a piece of the super.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Federal Law; 2 – Dun Drum; 3 – Moon Swings; 4 – Jammin Still
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.