Race 7 on a 10-race program, the nine-furlong Plate Trial is the local prep for Woodbine’s $1-million Queen’s Plate Stakes, North America’s oldest Thoroughbred race which is open to Canadian-bred 3-year-olds and is the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. It will be held June 22.
Bred in Ontario by Stronach’s Adena Springs, Harlem Rocker made his racing debut at Gulfstream Park in February, scoring in a seven-furlong maiden event by almost two lengths. Six weeks later he took an allowance contest, and the son of Macho Uno followed that up by winning the April 26 Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct, a one-mile event in which he stalked the pace and then easily rolled by front-running J Be K.
For a brief time trainer Todd Pletcher considered Harlem Rocker for the May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I), but probably wisely, chose to tackle the Canadian Triple Crown instead.
“That (Withers) was something special,” said Stronach’s racing manager Mike Rogers. “He’s still young, but his best quality is that he’s very mature for his age. He learns very quickly. He was highly regarded by our people in Florida. Randy Bradshaw, who trains our horses at Adena Springs South, liked him from the start. He really took his time with him.
“Todd told me that he has been pleasantly surprised with the way he has come along. Early on, he wasn’t a good work horse. He has a very laid-back personality and that was reflected in the way he would train.
“He’s run three very solid races. He’s run better each time. Hopefully, the best is still yet to come.”
Like most Plate Trial contenders, Harlem Rocker has never tested nine furlongs, and he will also be running on Polytrack for the first time. Regular rider Eibar Coa will have the mount on the even-money favorite. The gray/roan colt is out of the Lit de Justice mare Freedom Come.
Charles Fipke’s Not Bourbon has contested every one of his eight career starts on the Wodbine Polytrack, but has never gone around two turns. The son of Not Impossible will get his first try Sunday, and should be brimming with confidence. Not Bourbon pressed the pace in the seven-furlong Queenston May 3, taking over at the top of the stretch and drawing away for a five-length win under Jono Jones.
The Chestnut colt, who is trained by Hall of Famer Roger Atffield, is 3-2-1 in his career. Among his wins was the Oct. 13 Bulls Page, a race in which he set the six-furlong track record in 1:08.84. Jones will ride again.
Pewter and Solitaire, both owned by William Clifton Jr. and trained by H. James Bond, are a pair of inexperienced, but talented colts who will look to pull the upset. Making his 3-year-old debut and just his third career start, Pewter went gate-to-wire in a six-length maiden special weight score at seven furlongs April 12 at Gulfstream. The $270,000 Keeneland September 2006 yearling sale purchase is a son of Silver Deputy. Solitaire made his racing debut two days later at Gulfstream at nine furlongs, rallying from last after a slow start to lose by only a length. The Victory Gallop colt was bought for $250,000 at the same sale.
Rounding out the field are East End Tap, Mamma’s Knight, Chasin the Tornado and Sebastian’s Song.