Sunday, 6 July 2014

Queen's Plate 2014

It's that time of the year! We've got prestige, history, and great racing today. The Canadian Triple Crown kicks off with the 155th running of the Queen's Plate. The best Canadian bred three year olds will line up to go a mile and a quarter over the Woodbine polytrack. While it may not be the Kentucky Derby, the Queen's Plate is probably my favourite race of the year. Woodbine really is a special place to me and I love when everyone stops to tune in and appreciate the great things happening here. Let's take a look at this year's running of the Queen's Plate.

The star of the race has to be 8-5 morning line favourite #6 We Miss Artie, and he is certainly a deserving favourite. Undefeated on synthetic, this Grade 1 winner came to Woodbine three weeks ago to run in the Plate Trial, and he completely toyed with that field. It certainly wasn't the strongest bunch, but he was eased up at the wire and looked so good. He may have only won by 3/4 of a length, but he may have been the easiest winner of the season. He's a two time Graded a Stakes winner, he competed in the a Kentucky Derby (and ran well) and simply looks the horse to beat. However, it's tough for me to choose a chalky favourite in a 15 horse field. I'm by no means suggesting toss him, but for win value I want to look elsewhere. The obvious second choice is the filly #14 Lexie Lou. She was an easy winner in the Woodbine Oaks with a stalking trip behind a fast pacesetter. She went quite a bit faster than We Miss Artie that day, but she also wasn't being eased up on like he was. That doesn't change that she was an impressive winner, and she shouldn't have an issue with ten furlongs; Sligo Bay is a good sire for distance. She seems good enough to take on the boys. She's very hard to knock, but again, I want some value in a race like this. Now, let's start with the toss outs. #1 Cap in Hand, #3 Athenian Guard, #5 Man O' Bear, #7 Majestic Sunset, #9 Heart to Heart, #11 One Destiny, #12 Tower of Texas#13 Niigon Express, and #15 Ami's Holiday. I don't feel any of these horses are talented enough to be a factor in this race. Let's take a look at what I have left as potential upset win picks, starting from the inside. #2 Coltimus Prime doesn't consistently run great races, but he does have some runs that make me like him. Take not of his fifth place finish in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland, it was better than it looks on paper. He's not a major win threat, but he should like the distance and if things go his way, he does have a shot. I do think he's better than Niigon Express, despite the fact that Niigon Express did come out on top on May 11th. #4 Asserting Bear finished first in the Marine Stakes last time, but was DQd. He does have a nice finishing drive, and some class. Go watch his replay in the Grade 3 Spiral. He had a terrible trip and had a great rally to be beaten only two lengths by We Miss Artie. I genuinely believe that if he hadn't gotten such a tough trip, he would have won that race. His run in the Blue Grass was less than impressive, but he drew the rail which may not have been particularly helpful. Again, he seems to want the distance. He just needs to prove he has the talent to beat the favourites. #8 Lions Bay has won two of his three career starts, all facing Ontario Sired company. Running him here may be a bit too much to ask, but his late drive is impressive, and as a Sligo Bay he should like ten furlongs. I don't really see him winning, but at 30-1 I see no reason to leave him out of the exotics. Finally, #10 Matador won't be my play at 8-1, I don't think he's near good enough to warrant those odds, but I don't mind him as a horse. They gave him an easy prep in a very soft fist level allowance last time. My big problem is that he has two wins, and neither really suggests that he's good enough for this sort of race. He won the Cup and Saucer last year on the front end over a yielding course, which is lovely until you realize that the Woodbine turf almost always favours speed when it gets wet. Then he won that aforementioned allowance, but it was a field of nobodies. I do think he's talented, I do think he can run a good race. However, I wouldn't bet him to win with your money at 8-1. Looking at the four I narrowed it down to as possible upsets, my choice is fairly easy. Asserting Bear seems like the one who could do it. Like I said, I do think he could have beaten We Miss Artie in the Spiral if he had gotten a good trip. He does need to run a career best effort to win, but it's not impossible and I am willing to risk it at 10-1. We Miss Artie and Lexie Lou are very tough horses, and seeing either of them win would be no surprise to anyone. But let's hope that Asserting Bear can pull us an upset in the 155th Queen's Plate.

Don't forget the great wagering opportunities available today. The early Pick 4 starts in Race 4 and has a guaranteed pool of $100,000. The late Pick 4 starts in Race 9, and is guaranteed at $250,000. Perhaps best of all, we have a mandatory payout in the 15% takeout, $.20 Hi-5 in the Queen's Plate, with a carryover of $262,596. Takeout on Win bets is very low at 14.95%. There is some great value to be had.
Also remember that we have three Graded Stakes on the card, the Grade 2 Dance Smartly, the Grade 3 Singspiel and the Grade 2 Highlander. All three of those races are contested over the fantastic E. P. Taylor turf course, and should make for some fantastic races.

I'm not entirely done yet. Since it's Sunday, that means another card of Quarter Horse racing from Ajax Downs. Today's card features two trials for the Adequan Ajax Derby Challenge, along with an open allowance for older horses. Here are my program selections for the nine race card. 

Race 1: 1-3-2
Two year old maidens kick off today's card of racing. #1 First Prize Oscar is part of an entry for owner/trainer Renee Wilson. This Oklahoma bred gelding worked 220 yards from the gate in a nice 12.29 on July 2nd, and the barn's main rider Daniel Wayne Rose has the call. The entry give you two for the price of one, which may be beneficial with these two year olds. #3 Rolling Ring was favoured to win his debut against Ontario Sired company, but lost all chance when the rider lost his irons. I think we can certainly expect improvement from the Davy Ward trainee. #2 The Doo Is Flying has not been flashy in her workouts, but she hasn't been bad either. Most recently, she went 250 yards from the gate in 14.06. She could round it out, or even win it. We can't really know with inexperienced two year olds.

Race 2: 5-2-3
This race looks like it could go to almost anyone. #5 Jess Blue First returns to Ontario after a stint in Oklahoma, where he actually ran some decent races. Both of his wins come here at Ajax, and the difference in class cant hurt. #2 I Am Sweet Love made her 2014 debut running against a decent bunch of Ontario Sired NW2 allowance horse. Class wise it was a good race, and he could improve second time off the layoff. However, it will be tough for her as a one time winner facing two time winners. #3 Jessies Leaving You also drops in class from $10,000 optional claiming. This horse probably would have had a great 2013 if she didn't catch so many tough fields, racing against horses like Mitford, Piranhaaa and Betty Gun. She runs her race when she has a shot, which I think she does.

Race 3: 6-2-9
#6 Sammies Rocket ran a very good second in this debut. If that ability proves to be true, and he improves now that he has a start, he's the one to beat. #2 Arizona Bennie debuts here for trainer Greg Watson with Chelsey Willick riding. He shows a nice work, 250 yards in 13.61 from the gate. At 10-1 he could even be worth a chance as an upset winner. #9 Redwing Mill debuted on June 22nd and finished 4th from the same outside gate he draws today. I don't know how good that race was but there is room to improve into a solid, competitive runner.

Race 4: 3-2-7
#3 A Shore Thing should not be 10-1 at post time, but he's a great play if he is. He makes his first start of the Ajax season after a winter at Hialeah, where won a $7,500 claimed in impressive fashion. He's been given two workouts to prep for this race, and both have been very good. On top of that, he's run solid races against the best horses in the province. He's a very nice horse. #2 Ourfirstorphan has run second in both of his starts this year, but he's been beaten by very nice horses in Eyesa Zoomn and The Fdd Map. Besides A Shore Thing he gets an easier spot here and is a win threat. #7 Cat Vision surprised me with how well he ran last time, finishing second to a decent horse in Storeytime Blue. This is a tougher bunch, and he's probably not as fast, but from the outside post he should be good enough to pick up a cheque.

Race 5: 4-3-5
This is the first of two trials for the Adequan Ajax Downs Derby Challenge. #4 Shazoomin Rose comes to us from Oklahoma. She qualified to the Oklahoma Derby, a very tough, top quality race, and finished second in the Valley Junction Futurity at Prairie Meadows last year. Forgive her last start, she probably didn't like the slop. I love her class, 10-1 would be a very playable price on her. #3 Well Worth It raced in Idaho and California as a two year old, where she hit the board in a pair of stakes. She then found her way to Indiana Grand, where she finished second in a first level allowance after an awkward start. She is also quite classy and certainly warrants a look. #5 Ivory Injun won last year's All Canadian Futurity. He qualified to the Picov Derby where he wasn't a factor. He should be good enough to round things out behind the new arrivals.

Race 6: 1-5-4
This is the second of two trials for the Adequan Ajax Downs Derby Challenge. #1 Bold Six Love had a huge late run to be fourth in the Picov Derby last time. He's finished first in both of his starts at 400 yards, including the Sunshine State Derby at Hialeah. Perhaps the extra distance is what he needs to win. #5 Streakinshagginwaggon won the Picov Derby with a late rally. He really seems to have woken up this year and definitely deserves to be the favourite, but he will likely be much lower than 3-1 come post time. #4 Zip Kode broke well from the rail in the Picov Derby, but faded late on a day where the inside was at a disadvantage. It was forgivable, and this filly is a three time stakes winner. We'll see how she does on a fairer racetrack.

Race 7: 6-1-4
#6 Kool N Kinda Special finished third against a tough pair of runners last time, Piranhaaa and McM Tres Episode. This is a much softer spot, and I have to think he's the horse to beat. #1 Andaley Okey tried a Picov Maturity trial last time, and beat only one. It can easily be forgiven that she couldn't beat those horses, Mitford is the champ and the rest were very nice, and note that this mare is the winningest horse in this race with 7 career victories. The class drop is key for her. #4 Hurricane Alexandra finished last in Kool N Kinda Special's last race, but she may have just needed a start as it was her first start of the season. She did end 2013 with a pair of wins in the Speed Index condition, and I don't mind her at all as a longshot for the triactor.

Race 8: 3-2-4
Today's feature is an open allowance for the older horses going 350 yards. #3 Feature My News didn't live up to the high expectations I had for him in his last start, but maybe he just needed a start over the surface. He's got a lot of back class, nice speed figures, and could improve and get the win today. #2 Jesswatchme finished third going 330 last time. He tends to get better as the distances get longer, and he has the right to improve second off the layoff. We'll see how much late kick he has. #4 Piranhaaa raced an even fifth in Jesswatchme's last race, and I don't know why. He is a Stakes winner, and he's about 10 speed figure points faster than his last race. If his real talent shows he should be right there.

Race 9: 2-9-1
#2 Noisyboy ran second in his debut behind I Like Chics, who came back to run a good third in a competitive NW2. The second lifetime start usually gets a good horse to show improvement, and he also gets to drop from open to Ontario Bred maidens. He could be tough. #9 Shake Those Flies debuts here for trainer Joe Tavares. This filly shows a 250 yard gate work in 13.97. With a clean break and a straight run, why not try her at a price? She could have some talent. #1 Another Shark has had a few close runs in his nine races, most recently a second behind a mare named Wild Roze, who was becoming a bit of a notorious loser. He's also been beaten by Everything Fast, another notorious loser who shows up as an also eligible here, three times. I think this gelding is a vulnerable favourite, but he has hit the board in five of his nine starts, so I'm not going to totally toss him.

Good luck to everyone playing today. It is sure to be a fantastic day of racing!

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