Canada's most prestigious horse race kicks off its annual Triple Crown series Sunday when the Queen's Plate will be renewed for the 163rd time. Woodbine's 4 stakes card includes the Grade 2 Canadian and Grade 2 King Edward on turf, but it's the sophomores on Tapeta that will be out to make history. The 1-1/4 miles Queen's Plate will be in front of a full grandstand for the first time since 2019.
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Grade 3 winner RONDURE won the key open-company prep for this race restricted to Canadian foals. IRONSTONE is multiple Grade 3-placed. MOIRA won the Woodbine Oaks against Canadian-foaled fillies, but also is G3-placed in open company. SIR FOR SURE upset the Plate Trial against many of these.
IRONSTONE went to the front in the Marine like a rocketship, and from post 3 the 7-time sprinter in 9 starts likely will make the pace. CAUSIN' MAYHEM set a slow pace in the Plate Trial, but has 45-and-change dirt speed from Belmont and absolutely could contend for the lead. The pace should be above-average for 1-1/4 miles if IRONSTONE pulls the same early stunt.
Race replay study of the July 2 Marine and July 24 Plate Trial covers 8 of the 11 contenders. Here are my key takeaways.
Marine: DUKE OF LOVE had a horrendous start and first quarter-mile, though the past performance short comments pay it no homage. The start was far more consequential. RONDURE got a dream trip, first-over behind the runaway early speedster and took over with authority. He finished up far flashier to the eye than the Plate Trial alumni. The only negative is that Marine runner-up DUKE OF LOVE acme back to a troubled and disappointing fourth in the Plate Trial, so how good was the Marine field that RONDURE dusted? That's a fair question, but the winner sure looked strong.
Plate Trial: THE MINSKTER was the 9-5 favorite and are held from tackling the leaders through the stretch the first time. Jockey David Moran didn't do him any favors for the first half-mile, and was left empty late. He could improve with a more hands-off ride. No excuses for the front-running pair of CAUSIN' MAYHEM or DANCIN IN DA'NILE, which makes it hard to play them back at a furlong farther. SIR FOR SURE and HALL OF DREAMS had not done much prior and visually didn't impress. The only Plate Trial alumni to interest would be THE MINKSTER and perhaps a rebound effort from the twice-troubled DUKE OF LOVE. The latter is trained by 3-time Queen's Plate winner Josie Carroll.
MOIRA (pictured above) is the new face and wildcard. Fillies have had plenty of success in the Queen's Plate, including recent years, so scoff not at the Woodbine Oaks winner. She was patient, saved ground, absorbed the kickback and didn't find jockey Rafael Hernandez at all. She responded nicely just beyond the half-mile marker and sustained a 3-1/2 furlong run out in the clear while swallowing the field and just naming her margin. She should get a great pace set-up for her finishing kick, which has seen here a mere half-length from perfection in 4 starts.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
MOIRA looked the part in the Woodbine Oaks and the additional furlong should not be a major hurdle.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
THE MINKSTER at 10-1 morning line is worth a rebound look at a price.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$70 exacta MOIRA over DUKE OF LOVE. $20 exacta MOIRA over THE MINKSTER. $10 trifecta MOIRA over RONDURE over DUKE OF LOVE.