Canada’s biggest race is back and better than ever this year as a total of 16 3-year-olds will line up to contest the $1,000,000 Queen’s Plate Stakes this Saturday at Woodbine. This race is always the highlight of the meet and usually draws fields of great quality and size. Trainer Mark Casse is the king of Woodbine and comes into this race absolutely loaded with a trio of potential stars.
Telekinesis leads the Casse contingent after scoring a dominating win in the $125,000 Plate Trial Stakes last time out in his Woodbine debut. The son of Ghostzapper is 2-for-4 lifetime and nearly won the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes earlier in the year against a solid horse in My Boy Jack. Casse has had this horse in his sights ever since seeing him at auction as a weanling and is excited for Saturday’s race.
“He just was faster than everybody else,” Casse recalled. “He’s an extremely beautiful horse, well-made. He was an expensive weanling. As a weanling, I was the underbidder on him for another client and Stonestreet bought him, and of course, I went to Barbara and John Monaham (of Stonestreet) and said I would really like to train him, and we got him. So, he’s been on our radar since he was very young. He was just always right at the top of the class as a young horse. We have a lot of good, young horses, so it’s a good class, and when you can beat the head of that class, that says something.”
Casse’s other main threat in the race comes from the filly Wonder Gadot, runner-up in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks two races back. That effort was fantastic, but the problem is that she seems to finish second no matter what race she enters. This horse has had all kinds of trouble winning, but she has proven her class countless time this season against the best fillies in the country. A filly won this race last year, and this year, Wonder Gadot and fellow filly Dixie Moon provide tremendous upside. Last time out, Dixie Moon narrowly defeated Wonder Gadot in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, but Casse believes that his filly was unlucky in that race.
“I thought she was really unlucky, but she can cause some of her bad luck,” he said. “Her Kentucky Oaks performance was just tremendous. She hopped at the start in the Canadian Oaks, was a little wide, but still had every shot to win, so I was a little disappointed in her. We are going to add blinkers for this next start to see if we can get her to focus a little better, not so much focus, but she tends to want to hang a little when she’s coming down to the wire, and we’re hoping that, maybe with blinkers, she’ll keep on running.”
Casse’s third entry is Neepawa, a longshot colt that finished third against allowance company in his Woodbine debut last time out. He will need to improve here, but you can never count Casse out at his home track.
“He’s by Scat Daddy,” said Casse. “He’s a horse that we’ve always kind of felt like would get better. Most of the Chiefswood (his breeder) horses are bred to run on and get better as they get older, and we’ve kind of felt that would be the case with him, and he has. He’s really, especially in the last couple months, started training better and getting bigger and stronger. I know a mile and 1/4 will not be an issue for him.”
The field for the Queen’s Plate from the rail out: Boyhood Dream, Cooler Mike, Inge, Strike Me Down, Silent Poet, Real Dude, Dixie Moon, Alternative Route, Say the Word, Telekinesis, Wonder Gadot, Pawnbroker, Marriage Counselor, Neepawa, Aheadbyacentury, and Rose’s Vision.
#10 Telekinesis – Ever since he crossed the wire after finishing second in the Lexington, I knew that this horse would be my pick to win the Queen’s Plate. He showed his class in the Lexington, and you could tell that there was plenty of upside. He proved that last time out with an easy win in the Plate Trial, which was his first race over the synthetic surface at Woodbine. He is now ready for the big show, and all systems should be on go for him to put up a big effort. This outside post position draw should be perfect for him, as it will give him plenty of options, and the 1 1/4-mile distance should be right up his alley.
Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers
#11 Wonder Gadot – Can this filly finally pick up a victory in one of the biggest spots of her career? It is amazing how she has finished second or third in all six of her 2018 starts while banging heads with top-notch competition. Two races back, she narrowly lost the Kentucky Oaks to Monomoy Girl in a heartbreaking finish. Last time out, she was a close second again, this time to Dixie Moon in the Woodbine Oaks despite being a heavy favorite. She will add blinkers while also getting a five-pound weight allowance compared to her male counterparts. She deserves to win a race like this, and this could be the day that she finally breaks through. However, until she proves that she can, it is safer to put her in second.
#7 Dixie Moon – The Woodbine Oaks winner will try to become the seventh horse to ever pull off the Woodbine Oaks/Queen’s Plate double. Holy Helena did it last year, and she has had a very nice career since doing so. Dixie Moon has already defeated males once in her career, having won the Cup and Saucer Stakes as a 2-year-old over this track. Like Wonder Gadot, she will get a five-pound weight allowance, which will be beneficial. This is a very logical spot for her, and it would not be at all surprising to see her pick up another big win on Saturday.
#4 Strike Me Down – Trainer Graham Motion is always dangerous when he brings a horse to Woodbine, and this one fits this race very well. Strike Me Down has solid breeding for a race like this and has proven to like Woodbine, having never finished off the board here. Last time out, he shipped to Monmouth Park and finished second in the Tale of the Cat Stakes. He should set the early pace here, and if he gets out by himself, then he could pull off the upset. There are enough positives to believe that he is the logical alternative to the three shortest-priced horses.
#5 Silent Poet – This colt has shown some ability and is 2-for-3 this season, with both wins coming in sprints. The stretch out will be a big question mark, but if he can handle it, he could be dangerous. He will be trying two turns for the first time with Gary Boulanger back in the irons, which could be a big help because this jockey knows his way around the Woodbine oval.
#16 Rose’s Vision – After finishing second in the Plate Trial last time out, the Queen’s Plate was this colt’s most logical next move. He usually runs well at Woodbine, but it is important to note that he is actually 0-for-6 here. However, he did hit the board in four of those races, which shows that he can be consistent. This far outside post position draw does him no favors, but if he can overcome it, then he could hit the board at a nice price.
#3 Inge – At 50-1 on the morning line he just seems to be a horse to throw in the underneath positions that could really make your exotic wagers play. Two races back, he won a stakes via DQ, which was his third win over the Woodbine surface. He also performed decently at Oaklawn Park against tough company over the winter. He may be a reach, but at this price, he looks just as good as several others that are shorter prices, so he’s worth a shot.
#8 Alternative Route – There is no doubt that this colt lacks consistency, but at his best, he could make an impact in this race. It seems to be an all-or-nothing deal with him, as he either wins or runs off the board. His race in the Grade 3 Arlington Classic last time out was discouraging, but two races back, he dominated his rivals in the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park. He is a mixed bag, but if the price is right, then he could be worth a small play.
#14 Neepawa – This will definitely be known as Casse’s “forgotten entry” because his other two horses will likely be the favorite and third choices. Neepawa was recently third in his Woodbine debut, but you can never count Casse out at this track. This colt should like going the 1 1/4-mile distance, which will be a huge factor here, and he has the breeding to run well in a race of this magnitude. Casse believes that this horse is getting better and better, and he could run very well at a price.
#2 Cooler Mike – He comes into this race off of a nice victory last time out against allowance company over this track. He has looked stronger this season, but he has never had much luck against stakes company. It’s not out of the question that he runs well here, but he may just be a bit outclassed.
#9 Say the Word – After breaking his maiden two races back, he jumped up against allowance company for his last start, but he only managed to finish third. However, that race was against older horses, so it wasn’t too bad of an effort. He gets back to facing 3-year-olds here, but he is still in for a tough challenge.
#15 Aheadbyacentury – Last year, he rounded out his 2-year-old season with back-to-back wins, but he has failed to finish better than third in three starts this year. He has been up against tough company lately, but he was not competitive last time out in the Plate Trial.
#1 Boyhood Dream – His lone victory came against maiden claiming company, and he was a distant fourth in the Plate Trail last time out. He probably needs to look for an easier spot.
#12 Pawnbroker – This colt by Gio Ponti has just one start under his belt, which was a fourth-place finish against maiden special weight company. It’s hard to imagine him being ready for a race like this off of just one career start.
#6 Real Dude – It’s painful to put a horse with Dude in its name this low, but with only two starts and no victories, there is no other choice. He finished third last time out against maiden special weight company, so he has to greatly improve if he wants to make an impact here.
#13 Marriage Counselor – He will look to make the giant leap up in class from maiden claiming company to a major stakes race. This looks to be too much too soon.