05/09/2013 12:46PM

Woodbine: Canadian Triple Crown has 73 nominees

Michael Burns
Pyrite Mountain, winner of last weekend's Wando Stakes, is one of the leading contenders in this season's Canadian Triple Crown series.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The road to the Queen’s Plate continues to heat up here at Woodbine on Saturday with the running of the Queenston, a seven-furlong stakes for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds.

And, to mark the occasion, Woodbine stakes manager Julie Bell on Thursday released the list of nominees for this year’s Canadian Triple Crown series, with 73 Canadian-bred 3-year-olds remaining eligible as of May 1 via a $500 payment.

A second subscription of $1,500 is due June 1, at which time $5,000 supplementary nominees also will be accepted. Supplementary entrants, at a cost of $25,000, including the regular $10,000 entry fee, will be taken up until entries close for the Queen’s Plate.

The $1 million Queen’s Plate, the 1 1/4-mile race which is the first leg of Canada’s Triple Crown, will be run here Sunday, July 7, on the synthetic surface.

Next up will be the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, run over 1 3/16 miles of dirt at Fort Erie on Tuesday, July 30.

Concluding the series will be the $500,000 Breeders’, a turf race at 1 1/2 miles here Sunday, Aug. 18.

Pending the result of the Queenston, in a field which includes serious Queen’s Plate candidates River Seven and Dynamic Sky, the leading contenders right now are Up With the Birds and Pyrite Mountain.

Up With the Birds, winner of last fall’s Coronation Futurity, finished second in two starts south of the border this winter, both in turf stakes, including Keeneland’s Grade 3 Transylvania over 1 1/16 miles on April 5.

Trainer Malcolm Pierce plans to use the 1 1/16-mile Marine, an open race for 3-year-olds here May 26, as Pyrite Mountain’s stepping-stone to the Queen’s Plate.

Pyrite Mountain, winner of last Sunday’s 1 1/16-mile Wando Stakes for trainer Mark Frostad, intends to use the $150,000 Plate Trial, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds here June 9, as his Queen’s Plate tune-up.

Spring in the Air, Smartyfly head Oaks nominees

The $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, will be run on June 9. The list of 29 Canadian-bred fillies who are currently eligible was released on Thursday.

Supplementary entries to the Woodbine Oaks are available, at a cost of $12,500, including the $5,000 entry fee.

Spring in the Air and Smartyfly, the one-two finishers here in last Saturday’s seven-furlong Fury for Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies, and Nipissing, who was undefeated here in four starts at 2, currently sit atop the Woodbine Oaks short list.

Nipissing’s successes included the 1 1/16-mile Princess Elizabeth for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies and the 1 1/16-mile South Ocean for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies.

After wintering at Payson Park with trainer Rachel Halden, Nipissing returned to action with a sixth-place finish in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Ashland on April 6.

Nipissing was beaten 11 1/2 lengths there but the winner, Emollient, was scoring on the front end in a nine-length runaway.

Preps for Queen’s Plate, Oaks one week earlier

Woodbine has tweaked its stakes calendar this year by running the Plate Trial and the Woodbine Oaks four weeks out from the Queen’s Plate, a week longer than the recent three-week interval.

“I think it’s good to be able to give the horses a little more time,” said Steve Lym, racing secretary and a director of racing with the Woodbine Entertainment Group.“Four weeks seems to be a nice cushion leading up to the Plate.”

The June 9 date also fits nicely with the schedule of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which plans a live telecast featuring the Woodbine Oaks and Plate Trial. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will also show the Queen’s Plate.

Entries sparse for early-season stakes

In what is becoming a recurring theme, Sunday’s Grade 3 Eclipse Stakes attracted just five horses, headed by Delegation, who was an impressive winner of the 1 1/16-mile allowance prep here April 21.

Six horses entered Saturday’s Queenston Stakes, including three from the Mark Casse stable.

For six stakes run at the meeting, the average field size is 6.5.

Six went in the opening-day Star Shoot, an open race for 3-year-old fillies, and five started in the following day’s Woodstock, an open race for 3-year-olds.

Seven older males contested the April 27 Jacques Cartier, at six furlongs, while nine fillies and mares went in the Grade 3 Whimsical the next afternoon.

There was a field of eight for the Fury and only four went postward in the Wando, down from the seven originally entered after three scratches.

Last Saturday’s Wando was programmed with a field of seven, including three Casse trainees, two of whom were scratched. Are You Kidding Me, trained by Roger Attfield, was scratched when one of his owners was unable to be licensed in time by the Ontario Racing Commission.

“It’s always a struggle at the beginning of the year,” said Lym. “I think it’s going to get better.

“Because of where our classic races are – the Queen’s Plate and the Oaks – people are trying to get 3-year-olds ready right off the bat and the stakes tend to come up a little light.

“The Wando is light-filling to begin with. It’s there to accommodate the people who were down south, and want to run their 3-year-olds two turns.

Woodbine horses in Presque Isle stakes

Woodbine-based horses are slated to see action in the first two stakes races of the Presque Isle Downs meeting.

Leinan, trained by Josie Carroll, has been entered in Sunday’s $100,000 Inaugural, a six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.

Bred in Kentucky, Leinan won the seven-furlong Glorious Song Stakes here last fall and finished second when making her local 2013 debut in the Star Shoot.

Dan the Tin Man, conditioned by Ricky Griffith, will be looking for his second stakes win in as many starts this season in Monday’s $100,000, six-furlong Tom Ridge for 3-year-olds.

Patrick Husbands has the return call on Dan the Tin Man, a Kentucky-bred who won the Woodstock in his seasonal bow.