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Woodbine: Queen’s Plate workouts to draw scrutiny
By Bill Tallon
ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Barring any unexpected defections or surprising additions, a field of 12 Canadian-bred 3-year-olds will start in next Sunday’s Queen’s Plate.
The majority of the participants are expected to work over the weekend, and one of the most-watched moves will come from Up With the Birds and His Race to Win, who are scheduled to breeze in company for trainer Malcolm Pierce.
Up With the Birds, impressive winner of the 1 1/16-mile Marine Stakes here May 26, is expected to be favored in the $1 million Queen’s Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.
His Race to Win, who like Up With the Birds is a Sam-Son Farm homebred, was second, beaten a nose, in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial here June 9.
Eurico Rosa da Silva has been the regular rider of both horses but will be sticking with Up With the Birds. Pierce has recruited John Velazquez for the mount on His Race to Win.
Dynamic Sky, the Plate Trial winner, and Spring in the Air, second in the same day’s 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks, spearhead a four-pronged Queen’s Plate assault by trainer Mark Casse.
Jagger M, sixth in the Plate Trial, and Kaigun, who finished just a half-length behind in seventh, are Casse’s other candidates.
Joel Rosario rode both Dynamic Sky and Spring in the Air and will have his choice of the pair for the Queen’s Plate, with the other mount going to Gary Boulanger.
Shaun Bridgmohan is expected to return aboard Jagger M, and Justin Stein has picked up the mount on Kaigun.
Nipissing, winner of the Woodbine Oaks under her regular rider, Steven Bahen, will be looking to complete a lucrative double for trainer Rachel Halden and Chiefswood Stable.
Trainer Mark Frostad has a pair on tap for the Queen’s Plate in Pyrite Mountain, who finished a closing fourth as the favorite in the Plate Trial, and County Lineman, coming off a third-place finish behind older horses in a restricted allowance race at 1 1/16 miles.
Luis Contreras has the call on Pyrite Mountain, while Alex Solis has picked up the mount on County Lineman.
Also eyeing the Queen’s Plate is Rackman, who dead-heated for the win in his ninth career start in a restricted maiden race at 1 1/16 miles here June 1.
Nick Nosowenko, who trains Rackman and owns the gelding in partnership with his father, Mike, has not finalized riding arrangements.
Midnight Aria and River Seven, both owned by Carlo and Lou Tucci and trained by Nick Gonzalez, had their major preps for the Queen’s Plate on Thursday.
Working together over five furlongs on the Polytrack, Midnight Aria was clocked in 59.40 seconds under regular rider Jesse Campbell and River Seven in 59.80 under exercise rider Darren Fortune.
“We were going to work them on Friday, but Nick decided to move it up so they’d have more time to the Plate, to kind of recover from the heat and that,” said Martha Gonzalez, wife and assistant to trainer Nick Gonzalez.
“They’ll be good to go,” she said. “We’ll just bring them back down to earth, keep them happy, keep them in one piece.”
Midnight Aria, claimed for $35,000 at Gulfstream in January, won his maiden in his first start for his new connections and has since finished third on four consecutive occasions.
Those efforts include the colt’s two starts at Woodbine, which came in the 1 1/16-mile Wando on May 5 and the Plate Trial.
“Jesse’s pretty pumped up about him,” said Gonzalez.
“He’s a hearty horse, a big, strong, healthy horse. Even after he’d just worked, we had to walk him this morning with a lip chain.”
River Seven was one of the leading candidates for the Queen’s Plate following his 2-year-old campaign, which concluded with a victory in the Grade 3 Grey over 1 1/16 miles here Oct. 7.
But after wintering in Florida, River Seven finished fourth here in the seven-furlong Queenston on May 11 and ended eighth in the Plate Trial after stumbling very badly at the start.
“I’ll take him and school him at the gate this week,” said Gonzalez.
“He really hasn’t stepped up yet this year, but this will be his third start, off that layoff, and I think it’s perfect timing for him. He had to have needed that last race.”
Todd Kabel rode River Seven for the first time in the Plate Trial and has the call for the Queen’s Plate.
Gonzalez also notes that Midnight Aria and River Seven have complementary running styles.
“We’ve got them covered, with Midnight Aria in front and River Seven coming from behind,” she said.
James Street in Dominion Day hunt
James Street, coming off a close third-place finish in the Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes here May 12, will be looking to break through for his first win of the season in Monday’s Dominion Day Stakes.
The Dominion Day, a 1 1/4-mile race for 3-year-olds and upward, offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $150,000 and attracted a field of eight that also includes Alpha Bettor; the Casse-trained pair of Delegation and Patrioticandproud; River Rush; Awesome Overture; the Roger Attfield-trained duo of Bowman’s Causeway and Perfect Afleet; and the Presque Isle Downs invader Photo Shoot.
“I think he’s run well, every time we’ve taken him over there,” said Josie Carroll, who trains the 6-year-old homebred James Street for owner Eugene Melnyk.
“It’s just a matter if he gets a bit of pace for him to run at. That’s the key to him.”
James Street finished second in his local seasonal debut, the 1 1/16-mile prep for the Eclipse, a May 21 race in which Delegation controlled the proceedings and scored impressively by 3 1/2 lengths.
In the Eclipse itself, Delegation stalked the pace of Don Cavallo and wound up second, beaten a neck by Alpha Bettor, with James Street another head back in third.
“I think they’re a real nice group of older horses here,” said Carroll. “The way the races set up have had a lot to do with dictating who wins.”
Champion to make breakfast appearance
Carroll does not have a Queen’s Plate candidate this year but will be at Friday’s Queen’s Plate breakfast with special guest Inglorious.
Winner of the 2011 Queen’s Plate for Carroll and owners Donna and Vern Dubinsky, Inglorious retired last month with earnings of $1,408,820 based on a 5-2-4 record from 16 starts.
Inglorious also won that year’s Woodbine Oaks and was Canada’s champion 3-year-old filly.
Post positions will be drawn at the breakfast and Woodbine will be persisting with the two-tier system, under which participants draw for an order of selection and then choose their post positions.
◗ In a scheduling twist which was introduced this year, there will be no racing here Wednesday evening and on future Wednesdays following the holiday Monday.
Racing will resume Friday with first post set for 12:50 p.m.
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