It’s hard to see past the two favorites in the 2020 Queen’s Plate, with both morning line choice Clayton and star filly Curlin’s Voyage formidable rivals. But they are just two of the stories in a 14-horse field for the 161st running of the $1 million classic at Woodbine Racetrack outside Toronto, Canada. The Queen’s Plate, run over ten furlongs, is the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.
Clayton, Merveilleux, Dotted Line, and Olliemyboy
There is a family affair in the trainer ranks at Woodbine, with trainer Tino Attard and his brother Sid training, as well as Tino’s son Kevin. None of the Attards have won the Queen’s Plate, but between them they have four chances to win in 2020, with Kevin and Sid both starting two horses, each.
Clayton is the morning line favorite at 2-1, and breaks from Post 12. Kevin Attard trains the son of Bodemeister, who ran greenly when winning the Plate Trial on August 15. That was his third win in four starts, with his lone loss coming off a seven-month layoff. He broke his maiden in November by 7 ½ lengths sprinting, but needs to prove he has matured and can handle the stretch out here.
Kevin’s second runner is Merveilleux, who finished third in the Woodbine Oaks with a traffic troubled trip. The daughter of Paynter has won two of seven with six top three efforts on this synthetic main track. She loses regular pilot Rafael Hernandez to Clayton, but picks up Kazushi Kimura.
As for Sid, he starts 8-1 Dotted Line and 30-1 Olliemyboy. Dotted Line will have Justin Stein aboard, as he did when third in both the Plate Trial and Marine (G3) against open company. Last year, Dotted Line was one of the best juveniles on the grounds with wins in the Frost King and Kingarvie Stakes. The son of Signature Red missed the win in the Plate Trial by less than a length, but he set a decent pace before yielding at the finish. Olliemyboy broke his maiden last out in start number four. The son of Union Rags has improved on the stretch out, and is bred to relish the distance.
The 5-2 second choice is seeking to give trainer Josie Carroll her third Queen’s Plate victory and first since Inglorious in 2011. Patrick Husbands will be back aboard the Woodbine Oaks winner, who was so good last year that she was named Canada’s Champion Two Year Old Filly, and has won two of three stakes starts this year.
Fillies in the Queen’s Plate are far more successful than those in the Kentucky Derby; in the last decade alone, fillies Wonder Gadot, Holy Helena, Lexie Lou, and Inglorious all defeated males in their Queen’s Plate quests. The strapping daughter of Curlin looks to add to that tally, and improve her record of five wins in nine starts here.
Mighty Heart and Holyfield
Between them, Mighty Heart and Holyfield are a complete horse. Mighty Heart has only one eye, while the aptly-named Holyfield is missing part of an ear.
Carroll trains Mighty Heart, a maiden winner in July who was third in allowance company last out, while Catherine Day Phillips trains Holyfield. The son of Uncle Mo broke his maiden last out in his sixth start and second try on the grass. He switches back to the main track for this and would be a popular winner amongst the fans.
The last maiden to win the Queen’s Plate was Scatter the Gold in 2000, but that royally-bred runner was out of Hall of Fame star Dance Smartly. Belichick looks to spring the upset in his third career start. This is Carroll’s third runner, and he has always been highly regarded, finishing third as the favorite in his debut behind unbeaten Shirl’s Speight, then running second – again as the favorite – behind Plate rival Olliemyboy on August 1. Belichick is by Lemon Drop Kid.
Halo Again will be looking to become the first Coronation Futurity winner to win the Queen’s Plate since Norcliffe did the double in 1975 and 1976. He will also try to do one better for trainer Steve Asmussen, who last year won the second two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown with Tone Broke, who finished third in the Plate. Halo Again was second, beaten just a half-length, in the Plate Trial, and before that won the Queenston here over seven furlongs. He briefly tried the Kentucky Derby trails earlier this year but found it a bit too tough, finishing eighth and fourth in two Grade 3 tries. Luis Contreras will ride.
Sweepin Hard broke his maiden in a $40,000 claiming event here August 16, and makes the ultimate jump up in class now to the Queen’s Plate. Trainer Dan Vella is seeking his third Plate score and first since Strait of Dover in 2012. Sweepin Hard was 18-1 when he broke his maiden going nine furlongs, but he did it rallying from last and was driving away at the finish.
Glorious Tribute, Truebelieve, F F Rocket, and Tecumseh’s War complete the 14-horse field.