Trainer Mark Casse, a four-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s top conditioner, will send out three hopefuls for the $1 million Queen’s Plate on June 24th at Woodbine as he seeks his first win in the country’s most famed horse race.
Last year, he also saddled a trio of runners in the ‘Gallop for the Guineas’, finishing second with 61-1 Hippolytus, ninth with Enduring Star at 25-1 and 14th with Strike Oil at 28-1.
This year, he’s got three horses which should be much shorter prices…Golden Ridge, Making Amends and Dixie Strike, one of only two fillies in the race.
John Oxley’s Dixie Strike, the field’s leading money winner with $500,260, comes off a disappointing fifth place finish in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, on June 3 when sent postward the prohibitive 4-5 choice, although she was only beaten two and one-half lengths by winner Irish Mission, who she’ll face again in the Plate.
“I don’t think you saw the real Dixie Strike (in the Oaks). Sometimes, she’ll throw an average race at you,” said Casse. “We’re going to put blinkers on her. (Jockey) Patrick (Husbands) complained that she seemed to be more worried about the other horses than running. You don’t normally stretch a horse out to a mile and a quarter and put blinkers on them. But we’re going to give it a try. I’ve had some horses really move up with that angle.”
A product of Dixie Union-Noble Strike, Dixie Strike is a half-sister to last year’s Oaks and Queen’s Plate winner, Inglorious. Friday morning, the bay filly breezed five panels over Woodbine’s Polytrack in 1:00 4/5, her final tune-up for the big race.
Husbands won the 2003 Plate aboard Wando, en route to a Triple Crown.
Marine Stakes winner Strait of Dover, a dark bay son of English Channel-Bahrain Star, owned and bred by British Columbia’s Canyon Farms, has crossed the wire first in all four of his Polytrack efforts at Woodbine (he was placed third in his local debut by disqualification) since shipping to Toronto from Hastings Park, in Vancouver.
The colt was expected to make his final Plate prep in the Plate Trial but a blip in his blood work caused trainer Dan Vella to reconsider.
“His white count was just a tad low,” said Vella. “It was just lower than the normal range and we were debating whether to go (to the Trial) or not anyways, so after that we thought we’d just wait.”
And Vella, who captured the 1994 Queen’s Plate with Basqueian, cannot wait for Plate day to arrive.
“It doesn’t get any more exciting for us here in Canada, does it?,” said Vella. “Just the other day I was watching some of the guys walk over for the Belmont and those guys that are from New York, the Belmont is a very big deal for them. Well, we’re from Toronto and the Queen’s Plate is huge for us. It’s what guys like us dream about, that’s what gets us up at four a.m. every morning.”
Justin Stein, currently fourth in the Woodbine jockey standings, retains the call.
RACE DAY DETAILS
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PROBABLE FIELD FOR THE 153RD QUEEN’S PLATE (14)
Big Creek/Green Hills Farm Inc./Todd Pletcher/Ramon Dominguez
Classic Bryce/Bill Sorokolit/Darwin Banach/TBA
Colleen’s Sailor/Terra Di Sienna Stables/Roger Attfield/John Velazquez
Dixie Strike/John Oxley/Mark Casse/Patrick Husbands
Golden Ridge/Melynk Racing Stables Inc./Mark Casse/Luis Contreras
Irish Mission/Robert Evans/Mark Frostad/Alex Solis
Making Amends/Quintessential Racing Fla., et al/Mark Casse/Eurico Rosa da Silva
Macho Whiskey/Harlequin/Reade Baker/Emma-Jayne Wilson
Peyton/Windhaven/Mike Doyle/Julien Leparoux
Prince Raphael/Belle & Reddington/Debbie England/Richard Dos Ramos
River Rush/Stronach Stables/Reade Baker/Jim McAleney
Strait of Dover/Canyon Farms/Dan Vella/Justin Stein
Ultimate Destiny/Brenda Selwyn-Waxman/Mike Keogh/Steven Bahen
Wilcox/Melnyk Racing Stables Inc./Josie Carroll/TBA