Friday, June 30, 2017
FIELD FOR THE 158TH RUNNING OF THE QUEEN'S PLATE
POST / HORSE / JOCKEY / TRAINER / OWNER / ML-ODDS
1 / Channel Maker / Rafael Hernandez / Bill Mott / Joey Gee Thoroughbreds, Wachtel Stable & Gary Barber / 4-1
2 / Guy Caballero / Jose Ortiz / Catherine Day Phillips / Sean & Dorothy Fitzhenry / 10-1
3 / Holy Helena / Luis Contreras / James Jerkens / Stronach Stables /3-1
4 / Spirit of Caledon / Jerome Lermyte / Pat Parente / Copper Water Thoroughbred Company Ltd., Centennial Farms (Niagara) Inc. & Pat Parente / 50-1
5 / Inflexibility / Javier Castellano / Chad Brown / Klaravich Stables, Inc. & William H. Lawrence / 10-1
6 / King and His Court / Gary Boulanger / Mark Casse / Wachtel Stable & Gary Barber / 5-1
7 / State of Honor / Patrick Husbands / Mark Casse / Conrad Farms / 8-1
8 / Malibu Secret / Alan Garcia / Malcolm Pierce / Sam-Son Farm / 20-1
9 / Megagray / Jesse Campbell / Mike Keogh / Gustav Schickedanz / 30-1
10 / Vaughan / Slade Callaghan / John Mattine / RCC Racing Stable Ltd. / 50-1
11 / Aurora Way / Julien Leparoux / Stu Simon / Chiefswood Stable / 6-1
12 / Tiz a Slam / Eurico Da Silva / Roger Attfield / Chiefswood Stable / 10-1
13 / Watch Me Strut / David Moran / Catherine Day Phillips / Kingfield Racing Stable, Ltd. & George Philip Ledson / 30-1
SPIRIT OF CALEDON A LIVE LONGSHOT ON SUNDAY
Spirit of Caledon will be a longshot in Sunday’s $1-million Queen’s Plate, but the improving bay will look to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, Mike Fox, who took Canada’s race at odds of 15-1 in 2007.
With seven career starts, Spirit of Caledon will be one of the more experienced runners in the field, having posted a win and a third while collecting $41,850 in purse money. Although winless in four juvenile starts, he was worse than fifth just once while keeping good company.
"He's had some real tough trips. Especially as a two-year-old. He's been unlucky," said Parente.
That consistency earned Spirit of Caledon a winter trip to Florida, racing once, without much luck. With a solid winter’s foundation, Spirit of Caledon set aside the trouble line of his Gulfstream Park debut and, on May 14 of this year, graduated with an impressive rallying effort in a 1 1/16-mile maiden optional claiming event.
"He's a big strong horse. That day he got the overland route but he didn't mind it and showed that he can run a little bit," said Parente.
Last time out, the improving bay found racing room late and landed third in an optional claiming route won by Plate rival Watch Me Strut. The effort marked a big step forward for the sizable gelding earning a career-best 72 Beyer Speed Figure.
On June 24, he breezed five furlongs in :59.40 on the main track under jockey Jerome Lermyte and was supplemented to the Queen’s Plate at a cost of $25,000. “It was perfect, just what we wanted,” said trainer and part-owner Pat Parente, who said he caught Spirit of Caledon galloping out six furlongs in 1:12 and pulling up through seven furlongs in 1:25.60. "He went inside a horse that was breezing, cut to the rail, and showed Jerome he's got a little bit of race in him.”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME HEADLINES SATURDAY'S DOMINION DAY STAKES
Are You Kidding Me and Melmich will cross swords here Saturday in the Grade 3 Dominion Day, a 1 ¼-mile stakes for 3-year-olds and upward and the racing feature on the opening day of the inaugural two-day Queen's Plate Festival that also boasts a live concert by Canadian rockers Our Lady Peace.
A field of seven, including two who are cross-entered in Sunday’s Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes at 1 ½ miles on the turf, has been entered for the $175,000 fixture.
Are You Kidding Me, trained by Roger Attfield, was Canada’s champion older male the past two seasons and has earned $1.3- million with seven graded stakes wins in his 34-start career. The 7-year-old Kentucky-bred has also outpointed the Kevin Attard-trained Melmich in their three previous encounters at distances of 1 1/16 miles or 1 1/8 miles.
But, the pendulum may swing Melmich’s way on Saturday as the 6-year-old gelding who was once a $12,500 claimer was an impressive winner of last year’s Dominion Day and Are You Kidding will be traveling 10 furlongs on a main track for the first time.
“He has to carry 126 in pounds, at a mile and a quarter,” said Attfield, who trains Are You Kidding Me for Ronald Kirk, John Bates, and Mike Riordan. “The combination of the two is pretty difficult.”
Are You Kidding Me won the prep for the Eclipse stakes in his seasonal bow here April 29 but was beaten neck as a runner-up in the main event.
“He had a troubled trip,” noted Attfield.
Alan Garcia retains the mount on Are You Kidding Me, who drew post 5.
“He probably won’t be too far away early, going a mile and a quarter,” said Attfield.
Melmich, claimed for $20,000 by his current connections back in 2014, has gone on to win four stakes for Attard and owners Stephen Chesney and Cory Hoffman. The Ontario-bred, whose other stakes scores came in the 2015 and 2016 runnings of the restricted Elgin at 1 1/16 miles and the 2015 edition of the Grade 3 Valedictory at 1 ¾ miles, took to the road last year with an eye toward some more serious route racing.
Melmich finished third in Belmont’s Temperance Hill Invitational at 1 5/8 miles and Santa Anita’s Grade 2 Marathon at Santa Anita last fall, which were his first starts on dirt.
In his seasonal finale at Woodbine, Melmich was beaten a half-length as the runner-up to Singspiel stakes entrant Bangkok as the 2-5 Valedictory choice on closing day, Dec. 4.
“I think California took its toll on him,” had Attard. “He came out of the Valedictory with a fractured ‘splint’. He had surgery in December.”
Melmich certainly didn’t show any lingering effects when returning to action almost six months later, comings from off the pace for an impressive three-length score in a comfortable allowance spot.
“I was on the fence, whether he’d be ready to run there or we’d have to go straight to the Dominion Day,” said Attard. “He came to hand pretty quickly. I thought that was the best race he’s run for me, and I think a mile and a quarter is his best distance."
Eurico Rosa da Silva retains the mount on Melmich, who will start from the outside under 123 pounds.
Scuba defeated Melmich in that one’s Belmont and Santa Anita forays after running third in the Dominion Day. He will be making his second appearance in the race after running third last year. And while he has yet to find his sea legs this season it would be unwise to underestimate Scuba in his return to Woodbine.
“He’s running okay,” said Brendan Walsh, who conditions Scuba for DARRS Inc. and started back him back off a five-month layoff for a six-place in Keeneland’s 1 1/8-mile Ben Ali and then watched him finish last of five in Belmont’s 1 3/8-mile Flat Out. ‘He needed that run back. He was quite tired after it.”
“And, I don’t think he ran that bad a race at Belmont last time. The winner freaked that day. He wasn’t beaten far for second.
Walsh is referring to Tu Brutus, who won the 1 3/8 mile Flat Out Stakes by 11 lengths while Scuba was beaten a total of 13 lengths as the last of five entrants.
“He ran a good race up there last year,” said Walsh. “I don’t see why having had the experience of being there, there’s definitely not going to be a downside to it.”
Scuba also will run without blinkers for the first time since his first of 19 career starts.
“We don’t think he needs the blinkers any more. “We’re going to take them off, and give him a different perspective, and see if it will help him a little.”
“He seems like he’s doing as well as he’s ever done so we’re looking forward to a good run,” said Walsh, who conditions Scuba for DARRS Inc.
Rafael Hernandez will ride Scuba on Sunday for the first time and the 6-year-old will carry co-high weight of 126 pounds.
Gigantic Breeze, who has been a vastly improved performer this year with three wins in as many starts for trainer Sandy McPherson and Stan Dodson’s Hopefield Farm, is stepping up here under Gary Boulanger.
Aldous Snow was entered in both the Dominion Day and Sunday’s Singspiel, stakes which he has won back-to-back beginning in 2014.
“It’s going to depend on the fields and the weather,” said Malcolm Pierce, trainer of Aldous Snow “He can’t even stand up on soft turf.”
Ethical Funds, who is coming off a second-place finish behind Bangkok at 1 3/8 miles on the grass, also is cross-entered.
Eurico Rosa da Silva has the call on Aldous Snow, an 8-year-old gelding who will be making his seasonal bow, in both the Dominion Day and Singspiel.
Longshot Thunder Point completes the field.
SUFFUSED LOOMS LARGE IN DANCE SMARTLY
Multiple graded stakes winner Suffused returns to Woodbine on Sunday in the Grade 2 $150,000 Dance Smartly Stakes.
Suffused suffered a very tough beat here in last year’s Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes, dropping a nose decision to Al’s Gal. That race is run over 1 ¼ miles of turf and, with Sunday’s Dance Smartly being run at that distance after being held at 1 1/8 miles, the Bill Mott-trained Suffused looms the mare to beat.
The Dance Smartly, for fillies and mares, lured a field of eight which also lured last year’s Grade 2 Canadian Stakes winner Rainha da Bateria.
“She ran well on the course, at the same distance,” said Mott who conditions the homebred Suffused for Juddmonte Farms Ltd. “She was stuck in late, and she came running.”
Suffused was freshened following the E.P. Taylor and the turf specialist returned with a vengeance at Gulfstream this winter, winning the Grade 3 La Prevoyante at 1 ½-miles and the Grade 3 The Very One at 1 3/16 miles.
Since shipping back up to New York, the English-bred 5-year-old has turned in a second-place finish over 1 3/8 miles of yielding going in the Grade 3 Sheepshead Bay and was a close fifth at a firm 1 ¼ miles-in the Grade 2 New York.
"You might not want to hold them against her, I suppose,” said Mott. “She maybe had a little troubled trip the time before.”
Jose Ortiz, who has piloted Suffused to her four North American stakes wins, returns in the irons.