TORONTO — Owner/breeder Frank Stronach is a three-time Queen’s Plate champion, but he will chase a career-first in this year’s race.
Holy Helena will carry Stronach Stables’ colours July 2 at Woodbine Racetrack, looking to become just the sixth Woodbine Oaks champion to win Canada’s most prestigious horse race. More importantly, a Plate victory would be Stronach’s first with a filly.
Holy Helena made a strong case to run in the Plate with an impressive win June 11 in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks. But afterwards, Stronach was non-commital about having her go head-to-head against the boys.
“If she comes out all right we might think about it,” he said. “The key for us will be how she behaves over the next three days.
“We’ll take a look.”
Barring injury or illness, Holy Helena will run Sunday — likely as the favourite.
“You know yourself, it’s day to day,” said Mike Doyle, the racing manager for Stronach Stables. ”(As of) today, she is.”
Lexie Lou was the last filly to win the Queen’s Plate, doing so in 2014 to secure trainer Mark Casse his first win in the race. Lexie Lou went on to become Canada’s horse of the year that season.
There’s little question Holy Helena came out the Oaks just fine. On Monday, she breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80 with regular jockey Luis Contreras aboard.
Contreras rode Holy Helena to victory in the Oaks.
“She had a nice little workout,” said Doyle, who’s managing Holy Helena’s preparations for New York-based trainer Jimmy Jerkens. “That’s what Jimmy wanted her to do.
“Luis and I both spoke to Jimmy; he was very pleased. She cooled out really nice, we’re all good.”
Holy Helena established herself as a Plate contender by winning the 1 1/8-mile Oaks in 1:50.18. On the same day, 20/1 longshot Guy Caballero captured the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial in 1:51.32.
Both races were run on Woodbine’s Tapeta course.
The Queen’s Plate, the first jewel of Canada’s Triple Crown, will cover 1 1/4 miles on Woodbine’s Tapeta course. The race would be just the fourth career start for Holy Helena, a daughter of Ghostzapper who has earned $357,000 from two wins and a second-place finish.
Casse, nine times Canada’s top trainer, will take two shots at a second career Plate victory with King and His Court and State of Honor. The horses were second and third, respectively, in the Plate Trial.
King and His Court has four wins from 13 career starts and $426,412 in earnings. Earlier this year, State of Honor qualified for the Kentucky Derby and led the race at the halfway point before fading to a 19th-place finish.
State of Honor has one win in 12 career starts but has finished in the money seven times (second four times, third twice) and earned over $392,000. State of Honor was also the No. 3 Winterbook pick for the Plate at 6-1 behind Tiz a Slam (3-1) and King and His Court (5-1).
“He’s coming into this better than he went into the Plate Trial,” Casse said of State of Honor. ”He missed a little time after the Derby.
“He’s trained into this much better. It’s a question of how far he will go. He’s going to be up on the lead. We’ve found that’s the only way to do it, so we’ll see how far he can go.”