06/02/2011 12:18PM

Woodbine: Attfield using Plate Trial as Check Your Soul's stepping-stone to Queen's Plate


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Woodbine’s decision last year to move the Woodbine Oaks back one week to be run on the same card as the Plate Trial provided an interesting and immediate comparison, since both 1 1/8-mile races have produced most of the primary players for the Queen’s Plate in recent years.

Roger Attfield, the dean of stakes trainers locally, has never had a Woodbine Oaks winner repeat in the Queen’s Plate but he has made liberal use of the Plate Trial as a stepping-stone to Queen’s Plate success.

Attfield currently is not looking beyond the moment with Abrianna, who will represent the stable in Sunday’s $500,000 Woodbine Oaks for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

But, he will be taking dead aim toward a record ninth Queen’s Plate victory when he saddles Check Your Soul for the $150,000 Plate Trial..

Check Your Soul, a homebred who races for Charles Fipke, began his career in March at Gulfstream but thrust himself into the Queen’s Plate picture when he made his third start and recorded his first win in the 1 1/16-mile Wando Stakes here May 1.

Immediately thereafter, Attfield announced that the Plate Trial would be Check Your Soul’s final stepping-stone to the Queen’s Plate.

“I don’t feel the Plate Trial is a bad omen,” said Attfield, while acknowledging that the race had not been a precursor to Queen’s Plate success for a number of years. “I think the timing is good for me.”

Attfield also likes the fact that Plate Trial contestants carry scale weight of 126 pounds, the same impost which they will shoulder in the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate.

“It’s a big difference,” said Attfield “It’s all very well, looking at horses who have been carrying 117 pounds or whatever.”

Attfield’s own Queen’s Plate history supports his thesis as his first Queen’s Plate winner, Norcliffe, won a division of the Plate Trial in 1976 and With Approval (1989), Izvestia (1990), Alydeed (1992), and Not Bourbon (2008) followed the same blueprint.

Peteski , second in the 1993 Plate Trial, and Regal Discovery, fourth in 1995, also used the race as their stepping-stone to Queen’s Plate success for Attfield

Curiously, no Plate Trial winner in the span between Alydeed and Not Bourbon pulled off the Queen’s Plate double but Eye of the Leopard and Big Red Mike have done so in the past two runnings .

Casse, Pletcher have two runners apiece in Trial

Sunday’s Plate Trial attracted a field of nine with Bear’s Chill, a very impressive winner of the seven-furlong Queenston here May 1 for owner Danny Dion and trainer Reade Baker, looming as Check Your Soul’s key rival.

Mark Casse will field both Strike Oil, winner of last year’s 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity, and Hippolytus, who scored in a restricted first-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles here last time out.

Todd Pletcher, who is 2 for 3 so far at the meet, also will have two entrants, with multiple sprint stakes winner Sensational Slam and the maiden Imhotep.

Bowman’s Causeway, supplemented to the Plate Trial at a cost of $3,000, will be making his first appearance since finishing a distant last of eight in the Grade 1 Florida Derby over 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park on April 3.

Chad Brown has since taken over the training of Bowman’s Causeway from Patrick Biancone and the colt currently is based at Saratoga.

Rounding out the field will be locally-based Sandy Gully, who is coming off a game second-place finish for trainer Cary Brooks in an open allowance race at 1 1/16 miles, and Speed Ring, a maiden trained by Mark Frostad.

Head Honcho possible for Queen’s Plate

Wednesday’s first race was a potential Plate Trial, with five of the six entrants in the first-level Ontario-sired allowance at 1 1/16 miles hoping to possibly punch their tickets to the big dance.

And the boss on this day was Head Honcho, who rallied from last place under jockey Jono Jones to prevail by a half-length for trainer Catherine Day Phillips.

Head Honcho is owned by the Day Phillips family’s Kingfield Farm in partnership with Rocco d’Alimonte and Frank Annecchini

Day Phillips sent out Mr Foricos Too U to finish a close second behind Eye of the Leopard in the 2009 Queen’s Plate and the owners were represented by 12th-place finisher Vicar Street in last year’s renewal of the $1 million showpiece for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

The trainer cautions, however, that Head Honcho will not necessarily go down that road.

“We’re going to see how he comes out of this race,” said Day Phillips. “He’s a nice horse, but he’s going to have to improve a lot, over the next few weeks, and we’ll see how the Plate is shaping up. “

Two Doyle runners hit board in Ballade

Trainer Mike Doyle was in the spotlight here Wednesday night as he sent out Dancing Raven to capture the $125,000 Ballade and her stablemate Sans Sousi to finish third.

Dancing Raven, a homebred 4-year-old who races for Bill Graham, was recording her second stakes win in the Ballade, a six-furlong race for Ontario-sired fillies and mares.

“She’d actually been training very good, and had a month between races,” said Doyle. “I think that’s going to be the plan, as long as it’s possible.”

Dancing Raven had started twice this year prior to the Ballade, finishing third and then second when competing under second-level allowance terms and her new regular rider, Luis Contreras.

The Ballade’s first-place check of $75,000 boosted Dancing Raven’s bankroll to $315,198 through a record of 4-3-2 from 11 starts.

Sans Sousi, a 5-year-old mare who is owned by Doyle in partnership with Thor Eaton, finished 4 1/2 lengths behind her stablemate.

“She got into a little trouble, turning for home,” said Doyle. “She was steadied, and that might have cost her a bit.”

Sans Sousi has won just 3 of 31 starts, including the seven-furlong Lady Angela here in 2009, but has finished second or third on another 14 occasions while earning $416,655.

Grand Style looking good coming into Oaks

On Sunday, Doyle will be looking to return to the stakes winner’s circle after saddling Grand Style for the Woodbine Oaks.

Based south of the border with trainer Tom Proctor, Grand Style joined Doyle for a two-race stint here last fall and won the 1 1/16-mile Princess Elizabeth on Oct. 30 before finishing fourth at the same distance in the Ontario Lassie on Dec. 4 with Eurico Rosa Da Silva aboard on both occasions.

Grand Style has started just once in the interim, ending fifth of nine in the Grade 1 Ashland over 1 /16 miles at Keeneland on April 9. On Monday, she checked back into Doyle’s barn here at Woodbine.

“She’s settled in great, she’s eating great,” said Doyle on Thursday. “She trained beautiful this morning, because it’s nice and cool.

“Da Silva’s dying to ride her, and we’re dying to run her.”