07/05/2010 12:56PM

Full Plate


Queen It was just lovely that Helen Mirren had time to stop by Woodbine on Sunday to take in the Queen's Plate. But was all that security really necessary for an English movie star? Word back here is that winning owner Don Romeo (wasn't that Zorro's cover identity?) was in flagrant violation of protocol in the gentle placing of his hand upon her royal back. Compared to the way Americans treat celebrities, she got off light.

Bravo to Big Red Mike and his wire-to-wire waltz in the Plate, which is oldest continually run stakes race in North America. It is also the oldest continually run restricted stakes race run in North America, which leaves the rest of the continent a little cold. But as long as an occasional Canadian-bred Plate winner turns out to be Northern Dancer, Kennedy Road, L'Enjouleur, Izvestia, Alydeed, Dance Smartly or Awesome Again, let them celebrate their home-cooked horses in high style. In the meantime, we've got bikini contests at the Sunshine Millions.

Climaxed by the Queen's Plate, it was a week chock full of Canadian racing news. Kent Desormeaux made headlines by lighting up Woodbine's breathalizer upon arriving at the track on Thursday to ride WinStar Farm's Hold Me Back in the Dominion Day Stakes. He was summarily removed from the mount, fined $100 (about 93 bucks American) and was considered suspended for the day, not that he felt like doing much of anything after that anyway. Desormeaux later publicly apologized profusely for the incident. Whether or not that washes with his patrons remains to be seen. The good news was that Hold Me Back won the race, under replacement Tyler Pizarro, a name almost as cool as Don Romeo.

One of the people Desormeaux must answert to is Bill Casner, who owns WinStar with Kenny Troutt. WinStar is managed by Elliott Walden, and Bill Mott trains Hold Me Back, along with WinStar's Belmont Stakes winner, Drosselmeyer. Casner was asked if he had received a personal apology from Desormeaux.

"Not that I know of," Casner replied. "Maybe he apologized to Bill, or Elliott, or someone I don't know about. But sometimes things work out for the best. One door opens and another closes. We had another rider that had the benefit, and the outcome was good for us. I was thrilled for Tyler. When something like that happens, it puts a rider in a heightened pressure situation, and the good riders relish that."

As for Desormeaux's future with WinStar horses, Casner was circumspect. Before the Belmont, Kent had been replaced aboard Drosselmeyer by Mike Smith.

"I think it's very reasonable to ask riders to submit to these tests," Casner said. "There's a responsibility to the industry, to the fans, to the horses and to their fellow riders.

"From what he was quoted as saying, Kent has accepted responsibility and holds himself accountable," Casner added. "Maybe this will be an eye-opener for him, because the only thing we can do in this life is learn from our mistakes. We'll all be getting together next week at the sales, and I'm sure this will be a topic of conversation."

More significant than Desormeaux's .02, however, were the deaths of two beloved Canadian champions during the week leading up to the Queen's Plate. It was learned that 1989 Queen's Plate winner and Canadian Horse of the Year With Approval died on June 21 at England's Lanwades Stud, at the ripe old age of 24. South of the border, With Approval won the Bowling Green and the Tidal, while becoming known as the horse who beat all but one in races like the Arlington Million, Turf Classic and Breeders' Cup Classic. That was David Willmot, With Approval's owner and Woodbine chairman, escorting QEII during the Queen's Plate ceremonies on Sunday.

Sadly, the 2002 Canadian Horse of the Year Wake at Noon will not be resting in similar peace. He was 13 when, as a failed stud, he was put back into training at the farm of his owner, Bruno Schickedanz (nephew of two-time Queen's Plate winner Gus Schickedanz), and then sent to Woodbine on June 29 for a workout under the supervision of trainer Tom Marino. During the work, Wake at Noon sustained a catastrophic injury and had to be euthanized.

Woodbine immediately launched an investigation as to why a horse ineligible to race there was allowed on the grounds at all. Bang-zoom, just like that, Schickedanz was told to remove his horses from the Woodbine property and Marino was indefinitely banned. There are lawyers involved now, as the case goes before the Ontario Racing Commission. But in the meantime, praise be to Woodbine officials for quick action in terrible situation.