SPORTS

Sizing up 14-horse Queen's Plate field

06/22/2012 01:51 EDT | Updated 08/22/2012 05:12 EDT
It’s time for the 153rd running of the $1-million Queen’s Plate this Sunday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 4:30 p.m. ET) at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. Here is a breakdown of the 14-horse field as they Gallop for 50 Guineas over the 1-1/4 mile Polytrack. Odds are from Thursday’s morning line.

1. River Rush, 4-1

- Jockey: Jim McAleney

- Trainer: Reade Baker

- Owner: Stronach Stables

- Synopsis: The winner of the Plate Trial from way back will try to become the 26th horse to ride that victory straight through a Queen’s Plate crown. He carries veteran jockey Jim McAleney, who is searching for his first Plate victory. River Rush did not race as a juvenile, but that didn’t stop him from breaking the nine furlong record in the Trial, coming out of the 11 spot. Question: Why did Baker pick the dreaded No. 1 stall when No. 8 was available in the middle of the track? Save ground and be there at the end.

2. Peyton, 20-1

- Jockey: Julien Leparoux

- Trainer: Mike Doyle

- Synopsis: A well-raced gelding with nine lifetime starts, twice in the money including once this year. Named after the former Colts, now Broncos quarterback. Was fifth in the Plate Trial, 7 ¼ lengths back. Doyle calls him a “slow learner” who when younger spent too much time looking around. Gelding solved that, but he’s still a big little boy.

3. Macho Whiskey, 15-1

- Jockey: Emma-Jayne Wilson

- Trainer: Reade Baker

- Synopsis: It’s a long way from the gate to the first turn so Wilson should have time to sort things out before being body checked against a rail she might not get off. Did not race as a juvenile, but in three outings this year was in the money twice. A dark bay gelding who proved earlier this season he can run in the mud, so if it rains his number could improve dramatically. Has sprint speed. Has gone once around two turns and seems comfortable.

4. Strait of Dover, 3-1

- Jockey: Justin Stein

- Trainer: Dan Vella

- Synopsis: Vella kept the B.C. bred Plate favourite out of the Trial because he thought three weeks rest wasn’t quite enough, and he had a white count that was “a tad low.” The last horse to win the Plate after winning the Marine was some nag named Wando, and all he did was sweep the Triple Crown. He picks up 11 pounds to make the 126, but that doesn’t seem to faze Vella. Had a great workout on June 10. Grumpy in the morning, happy in the afternoon.

5. Classic Bryce, 12-1

- Jockey: Todd Kabel

- Trainer: Darwin Banach

- Synopsis: This is a horse that hangs around, always of interest to the punters. He was third in the Trial behind River Rush and placed to Strait of Dover in the Marine. He’s run three stakes races and was three times in the money. Jockey Kabel is a legendary winner, whose off-track difficulties led him to miss two seasons. He’s back with a real chance to win. Trainer Banach will be in top hat and tails on Sunday, making Roger Attfield proud.

6. Wilcox, 20-1

- Jockey: Tyler Pizarro

- Trainer: Josie Carroll

- Synopsis: A lot seems against this horse. He didn’t run as a juvenile, broke his maiden on turf, not poly, has just two runs behind him so he’s green as grass. But Josie Carroll does not send nags out to run the Plate, and that makes everyone cautious when it comes to discounting Wilcox. Thus the morning line number. Pizarro is expected to sit off the pace and then go late. And the distance is not going to be a problem.

7. Golden Ridge, 6-1

- Jockey: Luis Contreras

- Trainer: Mark Casse

- Synopsis: Also did not run last season, but in three outings this year he’s been in the money each time, with a win, place and show. Jockey Contreras is one of the sport’s upcoming stars and rode the Kentucky Derby for the first time. Last year, he won all three Triple Crown races, taking the Plate on Inglorious, and the Prince of Wales and Breeders on Pender Harbour. Golden Ridge hasn’t run in six weeks but he had a blistering workout on June 13 over 5/8 of a mile. This is a distance horse with a big-time late charge.

8. Ultimate Destiny, 20-1

- Jockey: Steven Bahen

- Trainer: Mike Keogh

- Synopsis: Six times out, two wins and five times in the money says Keogh has a nice one in this gelding. You always look for horses that just like to go racin’, and this is one of them. Consistency is in the bloodlines as sire Dance to Destiny was 3-4-4 in 11 starts. Likes to run with his nose up in the air. Keogh calls him Goofy Dewfy. Last horse to be called “goofy” in this race was Mark Frostad’s Eye of the Leopard. He won.

9. Colleen’s Sailor, 15-1

- Jockey: Corey Nakatani

- Trainer: Roger Attfield

- Synopsis: Canada’s most accomplished trainer was saying a month back he didn’t have anything for the big race, and here he is. Conditioned by Brian Lynch as a juvenile, this bay colt came to Attfield this year and ran twice in May, winning on the 27th. Also had a third in an allowance race against older horses. He already has two turns in him. Jockey Nakatani, shipping in from Belmont Park, is a big-time winner with seven Breeders’ Cup victories on his resume. Tough to bet against this kind of team.

10. Dixie Strike (f), 8-1

- Jockey: Patrick Husbands

- Trainer: Mark Casse

- Synopsis: From the distaff side comes Dixie Strike with a well-deserved morning line number. She’s gone out nine times, won four, in the money three others. She did not run well in the Woodbine Oaks, and seemed to lose focus so Casse is putting the blinkers on this time out. Also note just before the Oaks she had a tooth abscess, so there were extenuating circumstances. Half-sister to Inglorious, last year’s winner. Husbands will have to keep Dixie out of the stampede and strike in the stretch run.

11. Making Amends, 20-1

- Jockey: Eurico Rosa da Silva

- Trainer: Mark Casse

- Synopsis: Now, here’s a horse with experience. Has run 10 times, including four this season, winning once in his debut as a juvenile and in the money four others. Was neither here nor there at the Plate Trial finishing sixth, nine lengths back after being glued to the rail. Lots of distance in this horse. Casse wasn’t sure if he was going to run the colt, but Rico da Silva talked him into it. Does the jockey know something the rest of us don’t? If he’s right, that will be three Plate wins in four years for Rico.

12. Big Creek, 10-1

- Jockey: Ramon Dominguez

- Trainer: Todd Pletcher

- Synopsis: This bay colt has had a busy year, running five times for a win and two shows. A $300,000 purchase, he’s come in with just $55,800 so far. Like Johnny Cash, he’s been everywhere, including Belmont, Monmouth, Gulfstream, Penn, Aqueduct, and now Toronto. Famed trainer Pletcher saw something in the Plate Trial he liked (fourth place), because he’s bringing in top jock Dominguez to ride. You don’t spend that kind of money for nothing. Or, they’re desperate to make up the purchase price.

13. Washington Dash, 50-1

- Jockey: Rajiv Maragh

- Trainer: Darrin Miller

- Synopsis: Every race has to have a rank outsider, and here he is. The bay colt did not run as a juvenile and has one show to show for three outings. No question about the bloodlines, including Smart Strike, Mr. Prospector, half-brother of Dance Smartly, who won the 1991 Triple Crown. Not a cheap horse, he went for $150,000 at Keeneland. Went six wide on May 12 and had nothing. Went three wide on June 12 and was right in the money. So expect Maragh to have him in tight into the stretch.

14. Irish Mission (f), 10-1

- Jockey: Alex Solis

- Trainer: Mark Frostad

- Synopsis: Frostad has a huge filly here (17 hands at four inches a hand) and he’s stuck out at the 14 hole. But, as mentioned, it’s a long way to the first turn, so there’s lots of time to sort things out. Eight outings, two wins and a place. Won the Woodbine Oaks as a 9-1 shot at a mile and 1/8. Fillies can win this race, having done it 34 times previous, though only six have won both the Oaks and Plate. Last time was last year with Inglorious. Frostad has won the Plate four times.

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