06/22/2012 1:53PM

Woodbine: Queen's Plate day may have come for Casse


ETOBICOKE, Ontaro – It may only be a matter of time before Mark Casse, Woodbine’s perennial leading trainer, wins a Queen’s Plate, and he will saddle three horses Sunday in the 153rd running of the $1 million fixture.

Casse’s trio of Dixie Strike, Golden Ridge, and Making Amends will have to contend with favorites River Rush and Strait of Dover in the 10-furlong event, which drew 14 Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

The Plate is the 10th race on a blockbuster 12-race card, which includes five other stakes. Post time for the first race is noon Eastern, one hour earlier than usual.

The Plate, which is scheduled for 5:36 p.m., will be broadcast on CBC-TV from 4:30-6 p.m. TVG will offer enhanced coverage of the card.

The Plate is the first leg of the unique Canadian Triple Crown. It will be followed by the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes on the dirt at Fort Erie on July 15, and the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes on the grass here Aug. 5.

Dixie Strike is a half-sister to Inglorious, who became the 34th filly to win the Plate last year. Dixie Strike ran on strongly to take the Grade 3 Selene Stakes in her next-to-last start, but then threw craps three weeks ago when favored in the nine-furlong Woodbine Oaks.

[Watch Woodbine’s Queen’s Plate card live]

“She had some excuses in the Oaks,” said Casse. “And she was coming off her career high, when you always worry about them bouncing a little. She had a lot of reasons not to run better. I think you’ll see a different horse this time.” Dixie Strike is adding blinkers.

Golden Ridge, by the popular sire Distorted Humor, might possess the most upside in the lineup. He performed well in his first two outings in challenging maiden company in the United States, and then graduated here May 13 over next-out winner Stunning Split.

“He’s got a great pedigree,” said Casse. “I think the distance isn’t going to be a problem for him. He got into a little traffic in his last race, which was good, because he learned something. He relaxed nicely, and exploded. He’s trained perfectly.”

Making Amends is exiting a subpar showing in the Plate Trial Stakes, under two-time Plate-winning rider Eurico Da Silva.

“He was pinned down on the rail from about the quarter pole to the wire, and would just not run,” Casse said. “Eurico said the horse is better than [he showed], and that we should give him a shot.”

Trainer Reade Baker, who is also seeking his first Plate score, sends out River Rush and the maiden Macho Whiskey.

River Rush closed stoutly along the rail from last under Jim McAleney to win his maiden in the nine-furlong Plate Trial. Over a Polytrack that was very fast, River Rush lowered the track record to 1:48.97 and earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure.

“What I liked about him was that he was very tactical and rideable,” McAleney said. “At one point on the first turn, I felt like I needed to get him into a little bit better position, and I was really impressed with how well he rolled up there effortlessly, to allow us to get into a position to win it.”

McAleney was content with the way River Rush worked five-eighths in 1:01.80 on the training track June 17.

“He’s a very happy horse right now,” McAleney said. “He’s full of himself, and has a lot of confidence.”

Strait of Dover, the 3-1 morning favorite, has been idle since romping in his first two-turn start in the May 12 Marine Stakes. He missed the Trial because of a minor blood disorder, according to trainer Danny Vella, who said the British Columbia-bred has been thriving.

“I wasn’t scared to miss the Trial,” Vella said. “He’s dead-fit, and ready. He couldn’t be any better right now. He should have no problem with the mile and a quarter.”

In a field without much speed, Vella predicted that Strait of Dover will be in the first flight.

“Nobody really wants to inherit the lead,” Vella said. “There are a couple of horses who might show more speed than you think. There’s not a ton of pace, that’s for sure. As long as there are two or three in front of us, I think we’ll be fine.”

Irish Mission, a large daughter of Giant’s Causeway, notched her first stakes in the Woodbine Oaks for trainer Mark Frostad, who said she has excelled since then.

“She had a great work the other day on the dirt,” Frostad said. “She did it easily. She seems to be getting better all the time. She’s pulling the rider out of the tack every morning. She’s eating everything. She’s a bit of an Amazon.”

One of Frostad’s four Plate victories came with the brilliant Dancethruthedawn in 2001.

“Dancethruthedawn was a smaller filly, but she had great tactical speed,” Frostad said. “She turned out to be a Grade 1 winner. Hopefully, this one will develop along those lines. She gets five pounds from the boys.”

Trainer Roger Attfield is seeking a record ninth Plate triumph. He will saddle Colleen’s Sailor, who won a slow-paced, nine-furlong allowance with determination May 27.

“He’s been training like he’ll get the mile and a quarter,” said Attfield.

Steve Bahen won the 2002 Plate on 82-1 bomb T J’s Lucky Moon. He will ride Ultimate Destiny, who was recently second against older Ontario-sired allowance opposition.

“He’s getting more mature,” Bahen said. “I had him outside in his last race, and had to move him inside, and he responded real well. He’s been working real good. I’m very happy with the way he’s going into the race.”

Classic Bryce and Big Creek finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Trial, after running second and third in the Wando Stakes. Classic Bryce was also a distant second in the 1 1/16-mile Marine.

There are two guaranteed picks fours on the program.

Queens' Plate (CAN), Post Time: 5:46 CT Saturday

Purse: $1,000,000; 1 1/4 miles





ML Odds


River Rush

R. Baker

J. McAleney




M. Doyle

J. Leparoux



Macho Whiskey

R. Baker

E. Wilson



Strait of Dover

D. Vella

J. Stein



Classic Bryce

D. Banach

T. Kabel




J. Carroll

T. Pizarro



Golden Ridge

M. Casse

L. Contreras



Ultimate Destiny

M. Keogh

S. Bahen



Colleen's Sailor

R. Attfield

C. Nakatani



Dixie Strike

M. Casse

P. Husbands



Making Amends

M. Casse

E. Da Silva



Big Creek

T. Pletcher

R. Dominguez



Washington Dash

D. Miller

R. Maragh



Irish Mission

M. Frostad

A. Solis