06/20/2007 11:00PM

Marchfield set for Plate


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The last major stakes day at Woodbine, Woodbine Oaks Day on June 10, is very memorable for trainer Mark Casse. He saddled Sealy Hill to win the $502,000 Oaks and sent out the one-two finishers in both the $125,800 Victoria Park and the $103,600 Alywow.

"This has probably been the most productive month I've ever had so far," said Casse, 46, who took home his first Sovereign Award as outstanding trainer last year.

"It could get a lot better."

While Casse will not be quite as broadly represented as he was on Woodbine Oaks Day, he actually will have much more at stake here Sunday when he sends out Marchfield in the $1million Queen's Plate.

Marchfield, owned and bred by Eugene Melnyk, is coming off a second-place finish behind Queen's Plate favorite Jiggs Coz in the 1o1/8-mile Plate Trial here June 3.

"It's a competitive race," said Casse. "Jiggs Coz will be very tough. But my horse couldn't be doing any better right now."

Marchfield was well regarded when he came to Casse late last spring from Melnyk's Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala.

"I got plenty of good works into him," said Casse, who breezed Marchfield for the first time at Woodbine last July 6. "He did everything right."

Marchfield debuted on Oct. 8, rallying strongly to lose by a nose in a six-furlong maiden special.

"I figured the race was a little short, but that it would be a good experience for him," said Casse. "A sixteenth of mile past the wire, he was six or seven in front."

Four weeks later, Marchfield stretched out to 1 1/8 miles and finished second behind eventual Canadian champion and Queen's Plate entrant Leonnatus Anteas in the Coronation Futurity, a race in which Jiggs Coz was third.

"It wasn't the perfect situation," said Casse. "It would have been nice to have had one more race into him, but I really thought a lot of him.

"I thought it was tough to close that day. For him to run second was an excellent performance."

Following the Coronation Futurity, Marchfield headed back down to Winding Oaks.

"He'd done all we wanted him to do as a 2-year-old," said Casse. "I thought it would be nice to go to Gulfstream as a maiden - that it would be a nice place to get him back off a layoff."

Marchfield made his season debut in a one-mile maiden race at Gulfstream on May 6, finishing 1 1/2 lengths back in second.

"I don't think the horse really cared for the dirt that day," said Casse. "I was a little surprised; it was the first time a horse ran by him. I didn't think anybody would do that."

If Marchfield's first Gulfstream outing was mildly disappointing, then his second was an outright disaster as he was beaten 23 1/4 lengths at 1 1/8 miles.

Casse scoped Marchfield, discovered that the colt had bled badly, and sent him back to Ocala for about six weeks of light training.

Marchfield's first breeze since his Gulfstream setback took place here April 14.

"Everything went perfect," said Casse. "He was enjoying himself. As soon as he got back on Polytrack, I could see a difference in the way he trained."

Marchfield added blinkers to his equipment for his third breeze, which came a week prior to his return, in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special here May 6.

"In his second work I thought he wasn't as aggressive," said Casse. "He wasn't focusing."

Whether it was a result of the blinkers or merely natural progression, Marchfield won that maiden race by a nose over Mountain Wolf. His Beyer Speed Figure came back a career-high 92.

Casse wanted to run Marchfield next in a second-level allowance here a week before the Plate Trial.

"I wanted to run him back off his maiden race in three weeks and give him a month to the Queen's Plate," said Casse. "He'd missed time and, only having three works and with the 92 Beyer, it made sense he was going to regress some."

But when the allowance race did not fill, running Marchfield in the Plate Trial became a necessity, and Casse was not disappointed in the outcome.

"Of course, we'd have liked to have won," said Casse. "I thought maybe he would come home a little better. He was gaining, but gaining slightly.

"But this will be his third start back from a layoff and he was supposed to bounce last time. If that's the case, he's going to be very tough."

Expectations high for Captain Cugat

Casse also will have an entrant in Sunday's $100,000 Charlie Barley - Captain Cugat, who will be making his turf debut in the one-mile overnight stakes for 3-year-olds.

"He's trained well on grass," said Casse, who watched Captain Cugat breeze five furlongs in 59 seconds on the training track turf course last Friday.

Captain Cugat, a Kentucky-bred, is coming off a solid second-place finish in a 1 1/16-mile first-level allowance here June 2, his second start of the season.

"He's coming around; he's getting better and better," said Casse. "I expect big things from him here."

Queen's Plate telecast

TSN will televise the Queen's Plate in a one-hour live telecast beginning at 4 p.m.

Jeff Bratt will host, joined by analyst Jim Bannon. Sandy Hawley, Renee Kierans, and Jim McAleney will contribute commentary and analysis, and Woodbine announcer Dan Loiselle will provide the call of the race.

Rob Platts is the producer of the program and Matt Taylor the director.

Post time for the Queen's Plate is 4:37 p.m. Eastern.

* Advance wagering on the Queen's Plate card, with the exception of pick three, pick four, and pick seven pools, will be available on Saturday beginning at 3 p.m. at all Woodbine locations and through telephone and Internet accounts.