Trainer Mark Casse speaks with trainer Bob Baffert, not seen, at Pimlico Race Course on May 20, 2016, in Baltimore. Another year, another Sovereign Award as Canadian thoroughbred racing’s top trainer for Casse.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Garry Jones

Trainer Mark Casse sending three strong horses to $1-million Queen’s Plate

TORONTO — Saddling multiple horses in the $1-million Queen’s Plate is nothing new for Mark Casse, but he’s bringing major firepower to this year’s race.

Canada’s top trainer an unprecedented 10 times, Casse will send three horses postward Saturday at Woodbine Racetrack, including Telekinesis (5/2 early favourite) and filly Wonder Gadot (3/1 second pick). Casse also remains bullish on Neepawa, a 15/1 longshot that will be ridden by Breeders’ Cup-winning jockey Florent Geroux.

“I told Florent Geroux the other day, ‘Don’t be shocked if you win the Queen’s Plate,’” Casse said Wednesday following the race draw at Woodbine. “I think he’s going to come in a little bit under the radar but my feeling has always been that he’s bred to go 1 1/4 miles, he’s by one of the greatest sires of all time in Scat Daddy … so it would not shock one iota.

“We’ve ran in this race many times and our success has been spotty at best. But a lot of times I think you’re in the race just to be in it (and) taking a chance. That’s not the case this year, we have some major horespower here and I’d be pretty disappointed if we’re not right there.”

Casse, 57, is one of horse racing’s top trainers with over 2,100 (and counting) career wins including three Breeders’ Cup titles. But he has just one Plate victory, that coming in 2014 with heralded filly Lexie Lou.

Last year, Holy Helena, another filly, won the Plate for Stronach Stables. The operation will have two horses in this year’s race in Real Dude and Silent Poet.

The Plate is the opening leg of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown. The second race is the $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes on July 24 at Fort Erie Racetrack with the finale being the $400,000 Breeder’s Stakes on Aug. 18 on Woodbine’s E.P. Taylor turf course.

Telekinesis has finished in the money in his four lifetime starts (two wins, second, third) and is coming off a victory in last month’s $125,000 Plate Trial at Woodbine. Wonder Gadot has three wins in 11 career races but will sport blinkers for the Plate after consecutive second-place finishes in the Kentucky Oaks and $500,000 Woodbine Oaks.

“She’s relaxed with the blinkers on,” Casse said. “Johnny is a very aggressive rider and if you watch the Kentucky Oaks he put her into the game early and it worked for him.

“He’s not going to let anyone get too far away.”

Neepawa has a win, second and two third-place efforts in eight career starts. After spending the winter in Florida, he kicked off the ‘18 season with a turf win at Gulfstream Park in January and comes off consecutive third-place finishes.

“His form is a little better than it looks,” Casse said. “He likes the synthetic but more importantly he’s trained better coming into this race than he has ever trained for any race.

A second Plate victory won’t come easily as the race will feature a 16-horse field. Included will be Dixie Moon, the Catherine Day Phillips-trained filly that beat Wonder Gadot in last month’s $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, as well as Rose’s Vision (12/1), which was second to Telekinesis in the Plate Trial.

In February, Telekinesis was installed as the 4/1 favourite in the Winterbook, a hypothetical listing of early odds for the 109 three-year-olds — 95 colts and geldings, 14 fillies —nominated to the Canadian Triple Crown. Wonder Gadot (6/1) and Neepawa (8/1) were third and fourth, respectively, ahead of fifth-place Dixie Moon (10/1).

But Dixie Moon’s winning time in the Oaks (1:50.38) was slightly faster than what Telekinesis posted in the Plate Trial (1:50.4). So that made Dixie Moon being listed as the 4/1 third choice somewhat surprising.

“She’s No. 1 with us,” Day Phillips said. “Before the draw Eurico said he wanted the No. 7 post and it worked out for us.”

The field, with post, horse, jockey and odds, includes: 1) Boyhood Dream (Alan Garcia, 30/1); 2) Cooler Mike (Jesse Campbell, 30/1); 3) Inge (Chantal Sutherland, 30/1); 4) Strike Me Down (Jose Ortiz, 10/1); 5) Silent Poet (Gary Boulanger, 30/1); 6) Real Dude (David Moran, 50/1); 7) Dixie Moon (Eurico Rosa da Silva, 4/1); 8) Alternative Route (Mitchell Murrill, 20/1); 9) Say the Word (Rafael Hernandez, 20/1); 10) Telekinesis (Patrick Husbands, 5/2); 11) Wonder Gadot (John Velazquez, 3/1); 12) Pawnbroker (Joel Rosario, 50/1); 13) Marriage Counselor (Jalon Samuel, 50/1); 14) Neepawa (Giroux, 15/1); 15) Aheadbyacentury (Luis Contreras, 15/1); 16) Rose’s Vision (Javier Castellano, 12/1).

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