Two highly regarded three-time winners, one based in the United States, the other in Canada, are the early favorites for the 2007 Queen's Plate.
Two years ago, it was U.S.-based runners who stole the Queen's Plate spotlight, as Wild Desert outdueled King of Jazz. In 2006, Woodbine-based Edenwold, named after a small town in Saskatchewan, was the upset winner.
Based on early projections, the trophy, the 50 guineas and the $600,000 first-place prize could leave the country, as Peachtree Stable's Twilight Meteor, trained by Todd Pletcher, was named the 3-1 Winterbook favorite for the 148th renewal of the $1-million race, set for June 24 at Woodbine.
The undefeated Leonnatus Anteas is the 5-1 second choice for the 1 1/4-mile "Gallop for the Guineas," Canada's most famous horse race and North America's oldest continuously-run stakes event, could have something to say about the outcome. Locally owned and trained, Leonnatus Anteas was named Canada's top 2-year-old male at the 2006 Sovereign Awards.
The 83rd edition of the Winterbook offers early odds on all 131 horses, 120 colts and geldings, as well as 11 fillies, nominated to the 2007 Queen's Plate.
Rounding out the top five in the Plate rankings is Cobrador, a U.S.-stationed grey son of El Prado, at 8-1; Brian Lynch-trained High Act is 12-1 and Display Stakes winner, Jiggs Coz, is 15-1.
Twilight Meteor (3-1), a chestnut son of Smart Strike, is the early favorite on the strength of back-to-back wins in two stakes events, the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Stakes Oct.27 at Keeneland and the Hallandale Beach Stakes at Gulfstream, Feb. 24.
"The Queen's Plate is definitely on the radar for him." said Pletcher, who saddled Sterwins to a second-place finish in last year's Plate. "He's going to run in the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park March 24 and we'll see how he does there."
Pletcher said it's possible the colt could contest the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) or the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) in April at Keeneland were he to run well in the Lane's End, but, "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
"Then again, he could come up for the Plate Trial after the Lane's End and then go to the Plate. He's doing very well and should handle the 1 1/4 mile distance no problem."
Twilight Meteor has three wins and one second from five career starts.
Bred by Kinghaven Farms, Twilight Meteor is a son of Canadian-bred stallion Smart Strikeout of One Over Prime, whose sire, With Approval, won the Canadian Triple Crown in 1989.
Leonnatus Anteas (5-1) is another worthy prospect. The son of Stormy Atlantic burst onto the racing scene in mid-August, winning three consecutive stakes over three different surfaces at Woodbine: the Vandal on the inner dirt track, the Cup & Saucer on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, and a key Plate prep, the Coronation Futurity, over the Polytrack.
"He's never been a little guy," noted trainer Kevin Attard. "I first saw him last January when I broke him at Payson. When you see him, he looks like a good horse, he has that presence."
Owned by Knob Hill Stable and the Estate of Steve Stavro, the chestnut has spent the winter in Florida.
"He's doing well," said Attard, who recently brought the colt to his Payson Park stable from Harris Training Centre in Ocala. "He was turned out for a while after his campaign and then started swimming at the training center on February 1."
Attard, who said he was "taking a shot" by running him in a stakes race, the Vandal, in his first career start last summer, is undecided about Leo's 2007 debut.
Cobrador, who finished eighth to Leonnatus Anteas in the Coronation Futurity, his only Canadian start to date, is listed at 8-1. Also a son of El Prado, the grey's most recent effort was a third-place finish in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, at Kentucky's Turfway Park on March 3.
After breaking his maiden in his second lifetime start, Sept. 4, at Arlington Park, the Paul McGee-trained colt has posted two thirds and a second in three of his four most recent performances.
High Act, who launched his career with a runner-up effort Nov. 5 at Woodbine, has since posted a win and two fourth-place finishes, the victory coming at Churchill Downs, the most recent two coming at Gulfstream. The bay colt is owned by Frank Stronach and trained by Brian Lynch.
"He will head back to Woodbine at the end of March and we'll look at the Marine Stakes," said Lynch. "He's a horse with a lot of potential."
Jiggs Coz, who took his career bow at the Toronto oval Oct. 9, ended his 2006 campaign with a third to Leonnatus Anteas in the Coronation Futurity and a victory in the Display Stakes Nov. 25.
Mike Fox is 20-1, with four others at 30-1, Sam-Son Farm's 2-year-old champion filly, Catch the Thrill, Sealy Hill, Dancer's Bajan and March to Victory, round out the top 10.