ETOBICOKE, Ont. — Thoroughbred trainer Mark Casse has had quite the spring and he hopes a Skywire act will keep his momentum going.
After pulling off a classic double in the U.S. Triple Crown with wins in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, he’ll look to add Saturday’s $1 million Queen’s Plate to his trophy mantle.
The 160th running of Canada’s Most Famous Race at 1 1/4-miles on the Woodbine Tapeta has drawn a field of 14. The first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, the race is restricted to 3-year-olds bred in Canada. Every horse in the field will carry 126 pounds, except Desert Ride, a filly who will carry 121.
Post time for the Queen’s Plate (Race 10) on Saturday afternoon is 5:36 p.m. The second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes, is scheduled for Fort Erie Race Track on Tuesday evening July 23 at the border oval.
Skywire (4-1), a son of U.S. dual classic winner Afleet Alex, will be Casse’s best chance at winning his third Plate, and second in a row. He won last year’s edition with the filly Wonder Gadot who went on to capture the Prince of Wales in Fort Erie.
This year’s OLG Triple Crown includes a bonus of $500,000 for any horse that sweeps the three races, which are uniquely run on three different surfaces. “You might have seen Wonder Gadot last year with that incentive,” said Casse who skipped the Breeder’s Stakes last year to face the boys in the Travers at Saratoga.
Casse, who will also saddle Federal Law (8-1) in the Plate, is high on Skywire, who faced open graded company in his last outing, finishing second in the Grade 3 Marine Stakes. “He got beat by a nice horse trained by Mike Trombetta, I like him a lot,” Casse told The News the day before the Belmont Stakes.
On Wednesday at the post position draw, he continued on that Skywire is training forwardly and should be a threat on Saturday. “This is the perfect race for him,” said Casse. “He’s training extremely well into the race, I’ll think he’ll be tough to beat.”
Skywire is co-owned by Gary Barber, War of Will’s owner and Lou Tucci, both whom have had Plate success. Barber has won several as owner and co-owner and won last year’s Plate with Wonder Gadot and Tucci earned his stripes with longshot Midnight Aria, a 16-1 winner on a rainy day in 2013.
Tucci said this experience is totally different from the one in 2013. “It was a lot more relaxed then, since he was such a longshot,” said Tucci. “In this case you have a talented horse, who showed what he could do in his last race.”
Two-time winner Eurico Rosa da Silva will try to end a personal eight-year Plate drought with a win aboard Skywire.
Horses that have run mainly in the United States will round out the remainder of my ticket starting with Tone Broke (6-1), a Steve Asmussen-trained colt sired by Broken Vow. Runner-up to King for a Day on the Preakness undercard in the Sir Barton Stakes. The winner of that race went on to defeat Maximum Security in the Pegasus last weekend at Monmouth.
Asmussen has never trained a Plate starter, but will have two-time winner Luis Contreras on the back of Tone Broke in the starting gate. Contreras jumped off Plate Trial longshot winner Pay for Peace to ride Asmussen’s colt.
Racing manager and owner Michael Levinson has drawn a line through the two races in Dubai that served as the prelude to his Sir Barton effort. “I think those are just toss races,” said Levinson. “We brought him back in, gave him some time after that trip, and sent him up to that Sir Barton and he ran a really, really nice race.”
The biggest question mark will be whether he can handle the Tapeta, as the Plate will be his first race over a synthetic surface.
One horse that comes off a solid race on the same Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields is One Bad Boy (7-2), who was caught at the wire in a non-graded stake at the Bay area track. He was named similarly to his half-sister, Miss Bad Behavior, an Ontario-bred who is a stakes winner.
Owned by Sayjay Racing LLC, Greg Hall and racing manager Brooke Hubbard, the son of Twirling Candy will have Derby winning jockey Flavien Prat in the saddle. He’ll try to pull off the first Derby-Plate riding double in the same year, Bill Hartack achieved the feat in 1964 aboard Northern Dancer and Kent Desormeaux in 1998 aboard two different horses (Real Quiet, Archer's Bay).
Trainer Richard Baltas will take the blinkers off after wearing them during an off-the-turf race on the Tapeta. Hubbard thinks the equipment change will settle One Bad Boy down.
“Prat had a hard time getting him settled after he broke sharply. We’ve taken the blinkers off since then when working him and hoping that will help relax him a little,” said Hubbard. “He tends to be a little eager. He’s definitely not the calmest horse in the stable.”
“It’s a big step up,” said Hubbard “We just thought this is a great spot and we’re fortunate to be able to run here." Hubbard added that he lives up to his name in the barn. “He’s definitely mischievous and loves to bite, you have to keep an eye on him at all times,” she said.
The morning line favorite Avie’s Flatter (5-2) was also tapped the winterbook favorite in January and drew outside post No. 14 for trainer Josie Carroll. The son of Flatter out of an Empire Maker mare is a graded stakes winner, taking the Grade 3 Transylvania in the spring. Carroll, the only female trainer to win the Plate, is looking to capture her third career win in the race.
Avie's Flatter will attempt to be the first horse in 44 years to win the Coronation Futurity Stakes and the Plate, since L’Enjoleur pulled it off with Canadian Hall of Famer Sandy Hawley in the irons in 1975.
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will fly in to ride the favorite, he is also looking for his first Plate win. He rode him in both races in Kentucky coming into the race and from a pure class standpoint you won’t want to leave him off your tickets.
Post Time Outlook: 1 –Skywire; 2 –Tone Broke; 3 – One Bad Boy; and 4 – Avie’s Flatter
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.