04/10/2007 11:00PM

Tips for Queen's Plate fantasy players

Email

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - This year's Canadian Triple Crown may be the most unusual series in all of racing. The initial race in the series, the Queen's Plate, will be contested on Polytrack for the first time on June 24 at Woodbine. The second leg, the Prince of Wales Stakes, is on the dirt at Fort Erie on July 15. The series concludes with the Breeders' Stakes on the grass at Woodbine on Aug. 5.

The popular Queen's Plate Fantasy Challenge has created lots of fan interest in the Canadian Triple Crown. The eighth annual contest is expected to draw at least 2,000 entries from throughout North America.

Participants sign up for the contest at Woodbineentertainment.com/fantasy, where they must create a fantasy stable made up runners eligible to the $1 million Plate. Those who accumulate the most points leading up to and including the Plate will earn cash prizes, including $5,000 to the winner.

Participants must select 10 horses, including a stable star, which is the runner they deem to be the most likely Plate winner. They must also select three jockeys and trainers. The jockeys and trainers are divided into three groups, and participants must select one from each group.

Participants earn 10 points each time one of their horses wins a race in North America. The majority of points, however, are awarded in a series of designated stakes preps (for example, having the winner of the Woodstock Stakes earns a player 50 points), along with the Plate itself, which has a value of 170 points for the winner. Points are also allotted for horses finishing second through fifth in sanctioned Plate preps. Players receive a 20 percent bonus any time their stable star earns any points.

The contest, which kicked off March 31, can be entered at any time until June 10. John Siscos, Woodbine Entertainment's senior manager of media relations, said he believes players can increase their chances of winning by entering just prior to the first designated prep, the April 21 Woodstock.

"The best time to enter is in the days just before the first scoring race," Siscos said. "It gives you three extra weeks to help determine the key horses who are going to the Queen's Plate. The points that you lose out on by entering in early April doesn't compare to the value of knowing the 3-year-old picture around the time of the Woodstock. The extra three weeks is a big plus."

Those in the media portion of the contest had to submit their stable by March 29, and their selections are posted on the contest website. Here are my 10 horses:

* High Act (stable star): Stronach Stable homebred was competitive with several 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby trail, most notably Sightseeing, the Wood Memorial runner-up, and Chelokee, the third-place finisher in the Florida Derby. Love the fact that he has already run well at nine furlongs twice this year.

* Cobrador: Versatile colt placed in each of his last three stakes starts, which came on turf and the Polytrack in Kentucky.

* Dancer's Bajan: Showed determination when capturing two Ontario sire stakes in the fall.

* Include Us: Raced wide throughout before ending up a close fifth in a recent maiden special over Keeneland's Polytrack.

* Jiggs Coz: Defeated open company convincingly when he shed the blinkers in the Display Stakes.

* Kissed the Girls: Won his debut with a wide bid late in his juvenile campaign, like another Bob Tiller trainee, Win City, the 2001 Plate runner-up.

* Leonnatus Anteas: Last year's unbeaten champion 2-year-old won the nine-furlong Coronation Futurity. As of Wednesday, he had no recorded works this year, which is cause for concern.

* March to Victory: Promising turf specialist is in capable hands, and might take a shine to the Polytrack.

* Oistins Bay: Blew away maidens going six furlongs second time out at Gulfstream. Son of Deputy Minister is bred to go long.

* Twilight Meteor: Plate winter-book favorite is coming off a subpar showing in the Grade 2 Lane's End Stakes on Polytrack, the surface over which he captured the Bourbon Stakes in October. Todd Pletcher trainee deserves a mulligan.

My trainers are Brian Lynch, Sid Attard, and Mike Mareina. My jockeys are Todd Kabel, Emma Wilson, and Eurico Rosa da Silva.

Others worthy of consideration include the Coronation Futurity runner-up Marchfield, who reportedly bled in his last start at Gulfstream; Mike Fox, an underachieving son of Giant's Causeway; and Mountain Wolf, who was disqualified from first in a recent maiden special at Gulfstream.

I have not used any fillies, because the only designated race for them is the Woodbine Oaks. Last year's champion 2-year-old filly, Catch the Thrill, and Sealy Hill are Plate possibilities.

My successful strategy has been to build a stable around trainer-jockey combinations. For instance, High Act and Mountain Wolf are both trained by Lynch, who has used Kabel as his main go-to rider. Having all four of them in your stable will help to maximize the number of points you can earn, assuming those two runners make some noise with Kabel riding.