06/20/2009 11:00PM

Fillies prominent in Queen's Plate

Michael Burns
Milwaukee Appeal was impressive winning the Oaks but she will face males, stretch out in distance, and return on two weeks' rest Sunday.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Woodbine Oaks winner Milwaukee Appeal has improved by leaps and bounds since making her first two career starts in maiden claimers, and she should be well-backed on Sunday in the 150th running of the $1 million Queen's Plate.

Milwaukee Appeal and Oaks runner-up Tasty Temptation were both supplemented to the Plate at a cost of $25,000, and both have legitimate shots in the 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds. Fillies have won the Plate 33 times, with the last being Dancethruthedawn in 2001. Ginger Brew was a close second in last year's running.

The male contenders in the 13-horse field include the blue-blooded Eye of the Leopard, and the modestly bred Mr. Foricos Two U.

Sunday's 11-race card, which begins at 12:35 p.m., also has a pair of Grade 3 turf stakes, the $200,000 Highlander at six furlongs and the $150,000 Singspiel at 1 1/2 miles.

The Plate is the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, perhaps the most unusual Triple Crown in all of racing. It will be followed by the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes on the dirt at Fort Erie July 12, and the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes on the grass here Aug. 2.

Woodbine will seed Sunday's pick six pool with $150,000 as part of a weekly promotion to attract new players. A $2 base bet, the pick six encompasses the last six races on the card, and Milwaukee Appeal should be on a lot of tickets.

Milwaukee Appeal launched her 3-year-old campaign with a surprising score in the six-furlong Star Shoot Stakes. She came back and ran big in the 1 1/16-mile La Lorgnette Stakes, in which she gave Grade 1 winner Hooh Why a scare in midstretch before fading to third.

Two weeks ago in the nine-furlong Oaks, Milwaukee Appeal had a perfect stalking trip before pulling away in the stretch for a decisive 3 3/4-length victory. She ran the final quarter-mile in a quick 24.21 seconds, and was awarded a 99 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest Beyer in the Plate field.

Trainer Scott Fairlie said he cut Milwaukee Appeal's blinkers back to a quarter-cup for the La Lorgnette, and then restored them to a half-cup for the Oaks.

"It was very windy the day of the La Lorgnette," Fairlie said. "She seemed to get a little distracted through the lane, from the wind and the noise from the crowd. She was a lot more focused in the Oaks."

Fairlie said Milwaukee Appeal hasn't missed a beat since the Oaks.

"She came out of the race awesome," Fairlie said. "She's really doing well."

Tasty Temptation was a wide-closing second in the La Lorgnette, beaten just a half-length. She missed the break in the Oaks before making an eye-catching wide bid at the three-eighths pole to finish a clear second.

"I was really nervous going into the Oaks," said trainer Mark Casse. "I thought the only way they were going to beat her is if she did something [wrong]. She got a 93 Beyer after giving them a 10-length head start, and she ran 46 feet farther than the winner," according to Trakus, a horse tracking system used at Woodbine.

Casse said that the quick return to action isn't ideal, but that he isn't concerned with the stretch-out in distance.

"She had every right to flatten out a little the other day," Casse said. "Her final quarter wasn't bad, and the other horses didn't make up a whole lot of ground on her. [Running back] in two weeks is always a concern, but if anybody can do it, she can. She's a big, strong filly."

Eye of the Leopard captured the nine-furlong Plate Trial Stakes three weeks ago in just his third start. He went four wide on both turns over a track that seemed to favor horses on the outside, and earned an 85 Beyer.

"He's gotten better with every start," said trainer Mark Frostad. "He's coming up to the race in good order. A mile and a quarter won't be a problem for him."

Mr. Foricos Two Us is coming off a visually impressive win in an Ontario-sired allowance route, in which he closed strongly along the inside after checking in traffic on the far turn. Trainer Catherine Day Phillips was delighted with the performance.

"He relaxed nicely, and placed himself well," Day Phillips recalled. "When he was called upon, he was very professional in his move. He's a little more mature for the experience."

Rapid Release, Active Duty, and Keino West finished third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, in the Trial. Of the three, the stretch-running Keino West might be best suited to the Plate distance.

Jockey Gerry Olguin felt he didn't have the best of trips aboard Keino West in the Trial.

"When I started my move, I got caught really wide," Olguin said. "If I had saved a little more ground and got through horses, I think I should have run fourth. He's got some acceleration. I think he's peaking at the right time."