05/19/2017 11:46AM

Queen's Plate Watch: King and His Court, Tiz a Slam early favorites

Michael Burns
King and His Court (right) beats Tiz a Slam in the Wando Stakes on May 7.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Wando Stakes winner King and His Court and runner-up Tiz a Slam lead the first Daily Racing Form Queen’s Plate Watch list of 2017.

The $1 million Queen’s Plate will be run for the 158th time on July 2, just six weeks away, and 45 Canadian-bred 3-year-olds remain eligible for the first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown.

King and His Court tops the Queen’s Plate Watch list after his one-length victory over Tiz a Slam in the May 7 Wando on Tapeta. King and His Court, the Canadian champion 2-year-old male of 2016, bounced back in the Wando after a ninth-place finish in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and a 10th-place finish in the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park. He will look to become the first Coronation Futurity winner to win the Queen’s Plate since Norcliffe in 1976.

Queen's Plate pedigree analysis: Time to Travel

Queen’s Plate winterbook favorite Tiz a Slam will look to give trainer Roger Attfield a record ninth Queen’s Plate victory. Tiz a Slam won three of his four starts as a 2-year-old, including the Cup and Saucer Stakes on turf back in October, and finished fifth in his seasonal debut in the Columbia Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 11.

State of Honor will set his sights on the Queen’s Plate after his 19th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6. State of Honor excelled while racing on dirt in the United States over the winter but does have strong Tapeta form as well. He won his maiden here over seven furlongs Oct. 19 and ran second behind King and His Court in the Coronation Futurity last November.

Time to Travel has emerged as a Queen’s Plate prospect after an impressive maiden score at Gulfstream Park on April 1, when he earned an 88 Beyer Speed Figure. A full brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Hard Not to Like, Time to Travel finished fourth in his most recent start in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 15 and was slated to run in Saturday’s Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico.

Malibu Secret has shown talent in his two starts. In his debut, he finished second over yielding turf in the Vandal Stakes last August, a race won by fellow Queen’s Plate contender Channel Maker. He returned April 28 to win over seven furlongs on Tapeta.

Megagray graduated around two turns in the final race of his 2-year-old campaign and ran third in his first start as a 3-year-old in the Wando Stakes. His trainer, Michael Keogh, has two Queen’s Plate wins and will be looking for his first since Wando won the Canadian Triple Crown in 2003.

Channel Maker and Avie’s Mesa ran second and third in an allowance over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Keeneland on April 26. Avie’s Mesa has since run second in an allowance at Woodbine on Tapeta on May 13, earning an 86 Beyer. Channel Maker also could move forward off his Keeneland effort.

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Rounding out the initial Queen’s Plate Watch top 10 are Conquest Lemonraid and Guy Caballero, who finished one-two in a first-level allowance over seven furlongs at Woodbine on May 7. Both horses were making their first start of the year, with Conquest Lemonraid getting the upper hand by 1 1/4 lengths and earning an 83 Beyer.

Three preps still to come

There still could be movement among the top Queen’s Plate contenders, with three key stakes preps still to come. The first will be contested May 28 at Woodbine: the Grade 3, $125,000 Marine Stakes for 3-year-olds over 1 1/16 miles on Tapeta.

The other key preps will be contested June 11 over 1 1/8 miles on Tapeta – the $125,000 Plate Trial and the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks. The Woodbine Oaks, for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, has produced a Queen’s Plate runner every year since 2008, including Inglorious, who won the Plate in 2011, and Lexie Lou, who also accomplished the Oaks-Plate double in 2014.

Stakes aren’t the only preps for the Queen’s Plate, however. Unlike the Kentucky Derby, where horses qualify for the race by earning points in designated stakes, any horse nominated to the Queen’s Plate can enter, including horses running in maiden and allowance events leading up to the race.