Picks and prices for Queen's Plate Day stakes at Woodbine
Sunday’s card at Woodbine is highlighted by the 156th running of the C$1 million Queen’s Plate, the first jewel in Canada’s Triple Crown, and also includes three competitive graded stakes on the track’s expansive E.P. Taylor turf course.
Here’s a look at the horses that look most appealing to me, as well as a longer-priced option, in the four featured events.
Dance Smartly (7th race)
The pick: STRUT THE COURSE figures to be sharper second off the layoff while stretching out to nine furlongs here. Her comeback effort in the May 23 Nassau (G2) over a mile was a solid performance, and she might have finished closer in her first start since November if she had found more running room in the stretch. She owned a win and two photo-finish stakes losses in three prior tries on the local lawn.
The longshot: HABIBI, a past winner of the New Zealand Derby (G1), showed vast improvement last out in her debut for trainer Mark Frostad, finishing a nose second against third-level allowance foes over this course and distance. The change in scenery from Southern California and a drop in class appeared to help, but she could be effective here with a continuation of her current form. She was cross-entered to the Singspiel against males later in the card, but this is the preferred spot.
Singspiel (9th race)
The pick: When last seen on this course, HYPER finished a close second in the 2013 Canadian International (G1). Although he missed all of 2014, he’s come back this term with two decent runs at Belmont Park against tougher. Third to Twilight Eclipse in the May 9 Man o’ War (G1), he wasn’t quite as effective in the June 6 Manhattan (G1) against a deeper group and finished eighth, but was only beaten 4 1/4 lengths. He’ll be hard to beat given his back class.
The longshot: ALDOUS SNOW showed little in three subsequent outings after winning this event by a nose last year, but he’s shown better form in his first two outings this season with a close fifth in the Elkhorn (G2) at Keeneland and a third in an off-the-turf allowance last month. Trainer Malcolm Pierce and jockey Eurico Da Silva is generally a potent combo.
Highlander (10th race)
The pick: SOMETHING EXTRA pressed a blistering pace and won this by 1 1/4 lengths a year ago, and might very well be able to dictate terms in this six-furlong dash. He owns a stellar 8-3-3-1 record over this turf course, and continued to show he’s in fine fettle following a recent second in the Jaipur (G3) with a four-furlong work in :46 4/5 over the main track June 27.
The longshot: SHRINKING VIOLET is the longer-priced of the two mares in the field, and should find this six-furlong trip more palatable than the five she ran in May when only third in The Very One at Pimlico. She’s won twice at 6 1/2 furlongs, taking a 2013 allowance at Kentucky Downs and posting a 10-1 upset of the Monrovia (G2) at Santa Anita in January.
Queen’s Plate (11th race)
The pick: AMI’S FLATTER left the U.S. classic trail after distant placings in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Florida Derby (G1), but lost luster after a dull seventh as the odds-on choice in the May 16 Marine (G3) here. Nonetheless, he deserves a chance at redemption over a track he’s won on before, and his back class can’t be overlooked. The obvious knock is that he’s stranded in post 14 here, but he always figured to be coming from behind anyway and has the right pedigree for this distance.
The longshot: SWEET GRASS CREEK, a son of Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando owned by Gus Shickendanz, appears to be peaking at the right time for trainer Michael Keogh, who won this race in 1999 with Shickendanz’s Woodcarver. After showing little in his first three starts, the colt woke up winning a May 18 maiden by more than three lenghs, and then just missed in his first allowance try after dueling much of the way. His string of works since – a mile in 1:39, six furlongs in 1:12 1/5, and four furlongs in :48 3/5 – seem impressive from this viewpoint, and the addition of blinkers suggest he will be prominent again early.
(Something Extra photo: Keeneland/Coady Photography)