Michael Burns

Queen's Plate Highlights Woodbine Schedule

Purses for the Canadian Interntaional and Northern Dancer were cut for this year.

Woodbine Racecourse has released a 2011 schedule consisting of 102 stakes offering nearly $22 million in purses, including cuts to two of its major races.

The stakes schedule unveiled by the Woodbine Entertainment Group is highlighted by the 152nd running of the Queen’s Plate. The 1 1/4-mile classic, which carries a $1 million (all Canadian dollars) purse, is set for Sunday, June 26.

The Plate, North America’s oldest continuously-run stakes event and first jewel in Canada’s Triple Crown of Racing, will be complemented by two turf stakes events, the Canadian grade II, $200,000 Highlander Stakes, and the grade III, $150,000 Singspiel Stakes.

The Plate has been moved back on the Woodbine calendar after being contested in July last year, meaning it once again falls three weeks after the June 5, $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, the first leg in Canada’s Triple Tiara of Racing. Also slated is the $150,000 Plate Trial, the country’s top prep race for the Queen’s Plate.

“We have moved the Queen’s Plate back to its traditional June date after it was run in July in 2010,” said Steve Lym, Woodbine’s director of racing and racing secretary, in a release. “Once again, we have placed the Oaks three weeks prior to the Plate. The decision to do so was extremely well-received last year. It also enables the connections of a filly that runs in the Oaks more time to prepare for the Plate, should they wish to compete in both events.”

Woodbine has cut the value of its richest race--the Pattison Canadian International (Can-IT) from $2 million to $1.5 million. The 1 1/2-mile grass event headlines the Oct. 16 race card that also includes the $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-IT) for fillies and mares, and the $500,000 Nearctic Stakes (Can-IT), a six-furlong turf sprint.

All three stakes are part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, which features a lucrative “Win and You’re In” incentive that guarantees the victor a berth in the corresponding championship event at the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.

“Last year was our strongest one to date in terms of European and American horses competing at Woodbine,” said Lym. “Their presence at Woodbine and their results on our highly-regarded turf course further reiterate how our races are regarded by the worldwide racing community.”

The Woodbine stakes calendar also features three other “Win and You’re In” events, all turf contests carded on the same September weekend. They are the $250,000 Summer Stakes (Can-IIIT) for 2-year-olds, and the $200,000 Natalma Stakes (Can-IIIT) for 2-year-old fillies. The weekend’s third Breeders’ Cup Challenge race is the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile Sept. 18.

Also scheduled for Sept. 18 are the Northern Dancer Turf (Can-IT), presented by VTech, which was cut in purse from $750,000 to $500,000, and the $300,000 Canadian Stakes (Can-IIT) for fillies and mares.

The Breeders’ Stakes, third leg of Canada’s Triple Crown, is set for Sunday, Aug. 7 at Woodbine. The 1 1/2-mile turf race carries a purse of $500,000.

The Woodbine meet begins Saturday, April 2.