06/30/2017 9:50AM

Holy Helena favored to complete double in Queen's Plate

Michael Burns
Holy Helena will try to become the seventh filly to pull the Woodbine Oaks-Queen’s Plate double.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Holy Helena will look to become the seventh Woodbine Oaks winner to also win the Queen’s Plate in Sunday’s 158th running of the 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds at Woodbine.

Holy Helena is the 3-1 favorite in a field of 13 for the $1 million Queen’s Plate (race 10), run over the Tapeta main track. Among her opponents are Channel Maker, who was second in the Grade 3 Marine Stakes here on May 28; Inflexibility, the third-place finisher in the June 11 Woodbine Oaks; and Guy Caballero, King and His Court, and State of Honor, the top three finishers in the June 11 Plate Trial.

A Stronach Stables homebred, Holy Helena earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure in the Woodbine Oaks. She did not ship back to trainer Jimmy Jerkens’s base at Belmont Park following the win but remained with Stronach Stables racing manager Mike Doyle at Woodbine. Jerkens said her training has not been impacted.

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“We’re constantly on the phone back and forth,” he said. “With all this technology with iPhones, I can see videos. I can see everything in the stall. It’s almost like being there. Me and Mike, we’ve known each other a long time. We have the same goals. Whatever he’s telling me, I can picture it in my head. There’s nothing like being there, but it’s as good as you can do.”

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The Queen’s Plate will be the fourth start for Holy Helena since she made her career debut 11 weeks ago on April 15. Holy Helena joined Jerkens’s string at Gulfstream Park in December, but it took her a while to get to the races.

“For some reason, she wouldn’t eat very well,” Jerkens said. “I didn’t feel she had the strength, and it took her a long time. But she finally turned the corner towards the end of the meet down there in Florida, and then she really got going when she shipped back [to New York] into the cooler weather. She hasn’t looked back since.”

Holy Helena ran second at Aqueduct over 6 1/2 furlongs on dirt in her career debut and then won a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles on May 12 at Belmont Park. Jerkens said he had to adjust Holy Helena’s schedule to get a route into her before the Oaks.

“We had this plan to run her in the Oaks way back in January before she was ready to run,” he said. “I said, ‘I better get a race under her belt before we get up there.’“We crammed a couple of short works close together, and it kind of worked out.”

Holy Helena worked an easy five-eighths in 1:01.80 on the Tapeta on Monday under jockey Luis Contreras, who will be aboard in the Queen’s Plate, and Jerkens believes she is fit enough to handle the 1 1/4 miles.

“We’re trying to keep her strength and trying to keep her juices flowing coming back quick,” he said. “I thought the work went good. If for some reason she doesn’t get the job done, I don’t think it’s going to be a fitness issue.”

Key Contenders

Holy Helena, by Ghostzapper

Last 3 Beyers: 90-85-66

◗ Holy Helena will look to deliver a fourth Queen’s Plate victory for owner Frank Stronach, who won the race with Shaman Ghost in 2015, Awesome Again in 1997, and Basqueian in 1994.

Channel Maker, by English Channel

Last 3 Beyers: 91-82-78

◗ He earned a career-best 91 Beyer in the Marine Stakes, finishing ahead of Queen’s Plate rivals Malibu Secret and Megagray.

◗ Jockey Rafael Hernandez, who had a choice of several other horses in this race, retains the mount.

Inflexibility, by Scat Daddy

Last 3 Beyers: 78-75-73

◗ Like Holy Helena, Inflexibility will make her fourth career start in the Queen’s Plate. She was shuffled back on the turn in the Woodbine Oaks.

King and His Court, by Court Vision

Last 3 Beyers: 83-80-40

◗ He was a half-length from recording his fourth straight stakes win on Woodbine’s Tapeta in the Plate Trial.

◗ He looks to become the first Coronation Futurity winner to win the Queen’s Plate since Norcliffe in 1976.

State of Honor, by To Honor and Serve

Last 3 Beyers: 82-41-90

◗ He bounced back from a 19th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby to run third in the Plate Trial.

◗ He should have the lead to himself in the Queen’s Plate, but whether he can stay the distance will be the question.

Tiz a Slam, by Tiznow

Last 3 Beyers: 81-78-84

◗ The Queen’s Plate winter-book favorite, he is winless in three starts as a 3-year-old after winning three of his four races during his 2-year-old campaign.

◗ He ran a close fourth in the Plate Trial after lacking running room at the top of the stretch.