06/22/2005 12:00AM

Queen's Plate has become difficult puzzle

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Ablo, a Queen's Plate longshot trained by Roger Attfield, could crash the tri or super on Sunday.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The most recent runnings of the $1 million Queen's Plate, North America's oldest continuously run stakes race, have yielded a wide variety of results.

Scatter the Gold, a royally bred Sam-Son Farm runner, captured the 2000 Plate as a maiden, and his full sister, Dancethruthedawn, became the 33rd filly to win the race in 2001.

In 2002, T J's Lucky Moon returned the second-highest price in the race's 145-year history ($166) when he won in a weak renewal, after having won his maiden in his previous engagement. In 2003, Wando was made the favorite with two minutes to post, and then led throughout to score by nine lengths while earning a whopping 111 Beyer Figure.

This year's Plate, to be held Sunday at Woodbine, is a fine betting race with a quality field of Canadian-breed 3-year-olds. The probable favorite, Dance With Ravens - a half-brother to Dancethruthedawn and Scatter the Gold - was disqualified and placed sixth in the Plate Trial, a result which is under appeal. No first-place finisher in the Trial has prevailed in the Plate since Alydeed in 1992.

The Plate Trial runner-up has captured the Plate in three of the past 10 years, including Niigon in 2004. The 44 Plate competitors since 1995 who came out of the Trial posted a record of four wins, six seconds, and three thirds. Three in the Bag, this year's official Trial winner, mounted an effective four-wide rally from about five lengths off a slow pace to finish a neck back.

Since 1995, just six horses have gone straight from the 1 1/16-mile Marine Stakes into the Plate, and two of them, Victor Cooley and Wando, won. There was a four-week gap between the two races when Victor Cooley turned the trick in 1996, and a five-week break when Wando was victorious.

Dancethruthedawn won the Labatt Woodbine Oaks just two weeks prior to the Plate, and is one of two Sam-Son fillies to have won both races, along with her dam, Dance Smartly. The nine-furlong Oaks has yielded a winner and a second-place finisher from six starters in the last 10 editions. This year's impressive Oaks winner, Gold Strike, will try to become 34th filly to win the Plate.

Two of the last eight Plate winners were coming off a maiden win - T J's Lucky Moon and Awesome Again. The latter had notched a maiden special at Hollywood Park in his previous outing, and had not debuted until about five weeks before the 1997 Plate. Scatter the Gold was a fast-closing second in a maiden special on turf prior to his surprising Plate triumph.

Horses departing allowance and optional claimers were 0 for 44 in the Plate from 1995-2004, while those exiting a turf race were 1 for 10 during that time.

Wando broke some rules when he romped off a five-week break. Of the 12 horses who competed in the Plate following a layoff of at least five weeks since 1998, Wando was the only one to hit the board.

Wild Desert is scheduled to compete Sunday off a 10-week layoff, in his first start for trainer Bobby Frankel. He was never a factor in his last race, the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby, after running second in the Grade 2 Lane's End Stakes.

Wild Desert is one of three U.S. invaders in the prospective field, along with Churchill Downs-based King of Jazz and Three in the Bag, who resided at Belmont prior to the Plate Trial. U.S. shippers have recorded a win (Awesome Again) and a third from six starters since 1995.

Front-runners have taken three of the last 10 Plates, if you include Niigon and Woodcarver, who both won after tracking the early leader and then taking control after three-quarters. Stalkers have prevailed five times since 1995, while closers got up to win on two occasions.

Two of the last eight Plate winners never ran at 2 - Scatter the Gold and Awesome Again. No horse has captured the Plate with only one previous start that year since the race was moved to Woodbine in 1956.

Other Plate facts since 1995:

* The favorite has scored just once.

* The average win payoff is $25.41.

* The average winning Beyer for the Plate is 98.

* The average Beyer of the Plate winner in his or her last prep is 90.

The contenders in this year's field who earned a Beyer of at least 90 in their final preps are Dance With Ravens, Three in the Bag, Gold Strike, and King of Jazz. The Plate winner should come from this list.

Trainer Roger Attfield, who has won the Plate seven times, will saddle Ablo this year. Ablo ran second two weeks ago in the nine-furlong Victoria Park, a stakes that has produced two third-place finishers from 15 Plate starters since 1995.

Attfield believes it takes either a very talented runner, or a good plodder, to win the race.

"All the horses I won the Plate with were either very good or they were absolute, genuine stayers," Attfield said.

Ablo is a longshot who could sneak into the tri or superfecta on Sunday.


Queen's Plate
$1 million; Canadian-bred 3-year-olds; 1 1/4 miles; Sunday, June 26

AbloR. AttfieldG. Olguin126
Dance With RavensM. FrostadT. Kabel126
Get DownN. TriolaR. Migliore126
Gold StrikeR. BakerJ. McAleney121
GraniqueA. FehrC. Fraser126
King of JazzC. NafzgerR. Bejarano126
Runnaway MonM. CasseE. Ramsammy126
Three in the BagS. HoughR. Landry126
Wild DesertB. FrankelP. Valenzuela126