03/30/2010 11:00PM

Looking for royal visit on Plate Day


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The most important of several notable changes at the 167-day Woodbine meet, which begins with a 10-race card on Friday, is the moving of the $1 million Queen's Plate back two weeks to July 4, to accommodate a possible visit by Queen Elizabeth II of England.

Glenn Crouter, Woodbine Entertainment's vice president of media relations and sponsorship, said the 151st running of the Plate has been rescheduled to coincide with a Canadian trip that Queen Elizabeth II has planned for this summer, and to give horsemen more time to prepare for the race.

"We've invited the Queen, as we do every year, and we're awaiting confirmation from Buckingham Palace," Crouter said. "It would be an honor to have her here to celebrate Canada Day weekend and the Queen's Plate."

The Plate is the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, which concludes with the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes on the grass here Aug. 15. The second leg of the series, the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, will be run July 25 on the dirt at Fort Erie.

Roger Attfield, who has won the Plate a record-tying eight times, trains the Plate's winter-book favorite and reigning Canadian champion 2-year-old, Hollinger. Attfield garnered the 2009 Sovereign Award as Canada's top trainer.

Woodbine Oaks winners have fared well in the Plate in recent years, when the races were just two weeks apart. This year, there will be a three-week gap between the two Canadian classics, with the $500,000 Oaks scheduled for June 13 on a card that also features the Plate Trial Stakes.

For the third consecutive year, Woodbine will host six Breeders' Cup Challenge Series Win and You're In turf stakes, which guarantee the winner a berth in the corresponding BC race.

The $2 million Canadian International heads the richest Thoroughbred program in the country on Oct. 16. The card also includes the $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes and the $500,000 Nearctic Stakes. These three graded races are all Win and You're In events.

The $1 million Woodbine Mile has evolved into a major prep for the BC Mile, and the winner will get a berth in that race as part of the program. The Grade 1 Mile heads a sensational Sept. 19 card that also includes the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf and the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes.

The other two Win and You're In contests, the Grade 3 Summer and the Grade 3 Natalma, are both 2-year-old stakes that are scheduled for Sept. 18.

This year's turf stakes schedule for older males has been modified to reflect a progression in terms of distance. The sequence begins May 30 with the Grade 3 Connaught Cup, a seven-furlong tilt which was previously run at 1 1/16 miles.

The next race in the string is the one-mile King Edward on June. 27. It will be followed by the nine-furlong Nijinsky on July 24, and the 10-furlong Sky Classic on Aug. 22.

Total purses at the meeting are approximately $86 million, and the average daily purse distribution is just over $500,000.

Racing will be conducted with a 1 p.m. post time from Friday through Sunday until April 28, when Wednesday evenings will be added to the schedule with a 6:45 p.m. first post. Thursday racing commences June 3 with a 2 p.m. start time.

The swift comebacker Stuck in Traffic should take some catching in the opening-day feature, the $100,000 Debut Stakes, a five-furlong dash for older Ontario-sired runners.

Stuck in Traffic ran hot and cold last year during a subpar season that included a sharp score in the six-furlong New Providence Stakes. He finished a close third in each of his last two ventures against Ontario-sired stock, in the Shepperton and Overskate Stakes.

Stuck in Traffic has been working quickly for trainer Nick Gonzalez, who led the trainer standings after the first month of the 2009 Woodbine meet.

"He puts so much into his training," said Gonzalez. "He's the type of horse that it doesn't take much to get him ready."

The first running of the Debut drew 10 others, including the multiple stakes winners Sand Cove and Drunken Love.