07/05/2013 12:31PM

Queen's Plate: Up With the Birds one to beat in field of 12

Michael Burns
Up With the Birds will be favored in Sunday's $1 million Queen's Plate at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Up With the Birds has used his good turn of foot to win four of six starts against some quality opposition, and that kick could propel him to victory in Sunday’s 154th running of the $1 million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine.

A powerful little colt, Up With the Birds is one of two Sam-Son Farm entrants trained by Malcolm Pierce, along with his workmate, His Race to Win. Both are by speed sire Stormy Atlantic and from a stamina-oriented Sam-Son family.

The opposition includes The one-two finishers from the Woodbine Oaks, Nipissing and Spring in the Air, and Plate Trial winner Dynamic Sky.

The Plate, a 10-furlong Polytrack event for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, heads a spectacular 12-race card that includes four other stakes: the Grade 2 Highlander, the Grade 2 Dance Smartly, the Grade 3 Singspiel, and the Clarendon.

The Plate is the first leg of the unique Canadian Triple Crown. It will be followed by the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes on the dirt at Fort Erie July 30 and the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes on the grass here Aug. 18.

[QUEEN'S PLATE: Get PPs, watch Sunday's full card live]

Up With the Birds, the Queen’s Plate 2-1 morning-line favorite, has started three times since capturing the Coronation Futurity on Nov. 10 of last year. He won his season opener over soft turf in the March 2 Black Gold Stakes at Fair Grounds and then gave favored Jack Milton all he could handle when second in the Grade 3 Transylvania on the grass at Keeneland. He came home to take the Marine Stakes comfortably at 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack under Eurico Rosa Da Silva, who won the Plate for Sam-Son on Eye of the Leopard in 2009.

“He hasn’t really done anything wrong,” Pierce said. “His confidence is up, and he’s been training great. A mile and a quarter is new territory, but he couldn’t be doing any better going into the race.”

The late-bloomer His Race to Win graduated in his seventh start May 12, before losing the nine-furlong Plate Trial Stakes by a nose.

“I think the light bulb went off in his head the day he broke his maiden,” Pierce said. “He’s been a little more focused ever since. He seems to be a horse on the improve.”

Nipissing, one of the leading 2-year-old fillies here last year, rallied for second two back in her second start of the season in the Grade 3 Selene Stakes. Most recently, she captured the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks under Steve Bahen, who won the 2002 Plate aboard outsider T J’s Lucky Moon.

Bahen, the fiancé of Nipissing’s trainer, Rachel Halden, said he placed her more forwardly than usual in the nine-furlong Oaks.

“The race before, she came out lackadaisical and got a little too far back,” Bahen explained. “Her best races are when she’s within four or five lengths of the lead, and preferably outside. She will run between horses, but I just try to give her the best trip that I can.”

Bahen had Nipissing glued to the rail when she breezed a half-mile in 48 seconds last Sunday.

“She did it nice and easy,” Bahen said. “She galloped out strong. Her gallop-outs are always so strong. She’s just dying for more ground. I love her at a mile and a quarter.”

Trainer Mark Casse entered Plate Trial winner Dynamic Sky, Oaks runner-up Spring in the Air, and longshots Jagger M and Kaigun.

Dynamic Sky rallied five wide to outlast His Race to Win in the Trial, after trying to drift in early in the stretch under Joel Rosario.

“I wasn’t sure that he was going to get there, but Joel is such a strong rider,” Casse said. “Dynamic Sky has been known to make that little move where he wants to lay in. He started to for a second, and then Joel got after him.”

The Grade 1 winner Spring in the Air, last year’s Canadian champion 2-year-old filly, couldn’t get by Nipissing after mounting a wide stretch bid in the Oaks.

“After the race, Joel said he probably gave her too much to do,” Casse said. “My hat’s off to [Nipissing]. We had her, and she beat us. I think she’s pretty tough.”

Casse said Spring in the Air has thrived since the Oaks.

“She’s been training as good as I’ve ever seen her go,” Casse said. “We won’t have any excuses.”

Rosario, the leading rider in North America this year, had his choice of Dynamic Sky or Spring in the Air on Sunday. Rosario has elected to ride Dynamic Sky. Spring in the Air will be ridden Gary Boulanger.

Trainer Mark Frostad sends out two sons of hot Ontario sire Silent Name – Pyrite Mountain and County Lineman.

Pyrite Mountain rallied for fourth in the Trial, after upsetting reigning Canadian champion 2-year-old Uncaptured in the May 5 Wando Stakes.

“He had some traffic problems in the Trial and ended up going wide,” Frostad said.

Trainer Nick Gonzalez runs the probable pacemaker, Midnight Aria, who was third in both the Wando and Trial, along with Grade 3 Grey Stakes winner River Seven.

Post time for the first of 12 races Sunday is 12:25 p.m. Eastern, and the Plate goes as the 10th race at 5:38 p.m. It will be broadcast on CBC from 4:30-6 p.m., and TVG will provide in-depth coverage of the card. Sunday's Woodbine card also will be streamed live on DRF.com.

The early pick four is guaranteed at $100,000, and the late pick 4 has a $200,000 guarantee.