Conquest Curlinate has been withdrawn from the list of challengers to dual classic winner American Pharoah in the June 6 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and instead will be pointed toward the Queen's Plate, Canada's most prestigious race that will be run July 5 at Woodbine.
"We kind of felt like he wasn't training at the top of his game and you don't want to try American Pharoah unless he's at the top of his game," trainer Mark Casse said of the decision. "We have always said we want to win the Queen's Plate, that's our goal."
Conquest Curlinate, who has been training at Churchill Downs under the direction of Mark's son and assistant trainer, Norm Casse, will be shipped to Woodbine in the next several days to prepare for the Queen's Plate, restricted to 3-year-olds bred in Canada and run over the synthetic main track.
Conquest Curlinate was not nominated to the Triple Crown and owner Conquest Stables would have had to supplement him to the third classic at a cost of $75,000, in addition to other entry and starting fees.
Casse said he has five or six horses under consideration for the Queen's Plate, including Danzig Moon, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Xpressbet.com Preakness Stakes (both gr. I), the first two legs of the Triple Crown won by American Pharoah. He said he has not determined how many of his Queen's Plate hopefuls will prep for the Canadian classic in the June 14 Plate Trial.
The trainer said there is a possibility Danzig Moon, who is "training really well right now," may run in the June 20 Ohio Derby (gr. III) at Thistledown. While he has been contemplating the Ohio Derby for the Ontario-bred son of Malibu Moon , Casse said he has not discussed it with owner John Oxley.
A son of Curlin , Conquest Curlinate has a maiden win to his credit in five career starts, with runner-up finishes in the Illinois Derby (gr. III) and Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II).
Although they will not have a Belmont Stakes starter, Mark and Norm Casse will have a busy Belmont weekend, with other horses being pointed toward some of the other graded stakes June 5-6.
Among horses the Casse stable is sending to New York are Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes (gr. IIT) winner Tepin, for the Longines Just a Game Stakes (gr. IT); Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Noble Bird, who may run in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I); and Dynamic Sky , the grade III stakes winner who could contest the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational.