TORONTO — Clayton will head into the $1-million Queen’s Plate on Saturday a little under the radar and trainer Kevin Attard is good with it.
Filly Curlin’s Voyage has garnered plenty of attention since her impressive victory in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks on Aug. 15. She captured the opening event of the Canadian Triple Tiara in 1:50.04 over 1 1/8 miles on Woodbine’s Tapeta course.
Earlier that day, Clayton won the $150,000 Queen’s Plate Trial in 1:50.61 over the same distance and surface.
“She deserves respect,” Attard said. ”She was very impressive in the Oaks and so I think she deserves all of the credit she’s getting.
“She’s going to be a tough competitor. I don’t take her lightly and I know Josie (Carroll) is a very good trainer and will have her primed and ready.”
Curlin’s Voyage, with Patrick Husbands aboard, will attempt to become the fourth filly since 2011 to register the Oaks-Plate double at Woodbine Racetrack. Carroll accomplished the feat in ‘11 with Inglorious while Husbands rode Lexie Lou to victory in both events in 2014.
Husbands also holds the distinction of riding Canada’s last Triple Crown winner. He guided Wando to the historic sweep in 2003.
Both will have history on their side for the 1 1/4-mile Plate, the first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown. The previous three fillies to win both the Plate and Oaks did so in three-year intervals, with Stronach Stables’ Holy Helena (2017) being the last.
But Clayton won’t be a pushover. The three-year-old has finished in the money in all three events this year — two wins, one second — and has found the winner’s circle in three of his four career races.
While Clayton’s racing resume is somewhat limited, Attard said the horse has been showing steady improvement.
“He lacks a little seasoning and that’s coming with time and experience,” Attard said. “We’re obviously hoping he takes another step forward.
“But he’s doing well. He came out of the Plate Trial in good shape.”
Clayton, the early 2-1 favourite, will break from the No. 12 post in the 14-horse field. Curlin’s Voyage, the second pick at odds of 5-2, drew the No. 10 post Wednesday.
The field, with post, horse, jockey and odds, will be: 1. Sweepin Hard (Leo Salles, 50-1); 2. Merveilleux (Kazushi Kimura, 10-1); 3. Belichick (Slade Callaghan, 30-1); 4. Truebelieve (Keveh Nicholls, 30-1); 5. Holyfield (Darryll Holland, 30-1); 6. Halo Again (Luis Contreras, 5-1); 7. Glorious Tribute (David Moran, 30-1); 8. Olliemyboy (Steven Bahan, 30-1); 9. Dotted Line (Justin Stein, 8-1); 10. Curlin’s Voyage (Husbands, 5-2); 11. F F Rocket (Sahin Ciavaci, 50-1); 12. Clayton (Rafael Hernandez, 2-1); 13. Mighty Heart (Daisuke Fukumoto, 20-1); 14. Tecumseh’s War (Emma-Jayne Wilson, 12-1)
Hernandez, who rode Clayton in the Plate Trial, will be aboard again Saturday. Hernandez won the ‘16 Plate aboard Shaman Ghost.
Attard, a native of Tottenham, Ont., is seeking his first Plate victory. He came close in 2007 when Alezzandro finished second behind Mike Fox.
Attard said Clayton gives him the best chance to win North America’s longest continuously run stakes event since then.
“He’s very tactical,” Attard said. “He has natural speed and I think he can do either, or.
“We’re probably going to use some of that tactical speed early in the race and put him into what we think is a good spot and try to use it to our advantage.”
With a 14-horse field, Attard said a key for Clayton and Hernandez will be seeing how the race sets up early and being in a good position to react. And there’s also the matter of getting a little race luck and ensuring the horse is feeling at his best come post time.
“And like anything, you have to hope your horse wakes up in a good mood that day,” Attard said. They’re like humans, some days you don’t feel your best and might not want to go to work.
“Hopefully he understands this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
And just how much his trainer would appreciate and cherish a Plate victory.
“Being Canadian and racing here at Woodbine, you begin to appreciate and understand the significance of the race,” he said. “It’s obviously a tough and difficult one to win as there’ve been many great trainers who’ve had illustrious campaigns and careers but this race has eluded them.
“Obviously winning it would be like a dream come true. If I had a couple of races to pick that I’d want to win in my career at some point or another, this would definitely be one of the top ones.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2020.