Stronach Stables' homebred Holy Helena, winner of the nine-furlong Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser June 11, has been dubbed the 3-1 morning-line favorite for the $1 million Queen's Plate July 2 at Woodbine.
A victory by the daughter of Ghostzapper would be the seventh for a filly to take both the Oaks and 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate.
The 158th running of the Queen's Plate—the longest continuously-run stakes in North America—drew a field of 13 3-year-olds June 28. Post time is pegged at 5:36 p.m. EDT. Males will carry the standard 126 pounds while Holy Helena and Inflexibility will carry 121 over the Tapeta layout.
Holy Helena, who is based in New York with trainer Jimmy Jerkens, did not start as a 2-year-old and finished second in her debut at Aqueduct April 15 going 6 1/2 furlongs. The dark bay filly then won a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Belmont and shipped to Woodbine to Mike Doyle to prepare for the Oaks.
Luis Contreras was in the irons when she came from just off the pace to score impressively in the Oaks, and the rider will be after his second Woodbine Oaks/Queen's Plate double following Inglorious in 2011.
The post position draw, conducted trackside at the annual Queen's Plate breakfast, employed the two-stage method with the order of selection first being drawn and then the connections choosing their post positions.
Owner Stronach Stable selected post 3 with the second-to-last pick.
"I'd rather be further out," said Jimmy Jerkens, on speakerphone from his New York base.
Contreras, at the draw, saw a positive side.
"We have all speed outside," said Contreras. "We'll see where we are at the sixteenth pole."
Joey Gee Thoroughbreds, Adam Wachtel, and Gary Barber's Channel Maker, the 4-1 second choice, is coming off a second-place finish in the May 28 Marine Stakes (G3). The gelding made his first seven starts on turf, including wins in the Vandal Stakes and a good third-place finish in the Summer Stakes (G2T) before he finished seventh, beaten 5 3/4 lengths, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T) at Santa Anita.
Rafael Hernandez, who rode Channel Maker for the first time in the Marine, will return to ride the English Channel gelding for trainer Bill Mott and break from the rail.
"We're going to save a lot of ground," said Hernandez. "I should be able put to put him in right behind horses, and relax."
Hernandez had his first Queen's Plate win with Shaman Ghost, and Barber won the race with the filly Lexie Lou in 2014.
Canada's champion 2-year-old male, King and His Court, was made the 5-1 third choice on the morning line. The Court Vision gelding was a CAN$3,000 yearling purchase by owner/trainer Alex Patykewich, but was sold privately to Wachtel and Barber after finishing third in the Grey Stakes (G3) last October.
The gelding went on to win the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity for Canadian-breds and the Display Stakes for his new owners and trainer Mark Casse, who also was the trainer of Lexie Lou.
King and His Court was unplaced in two stakes this winter in the U.S., but back at Woodbine the "King" mowed down his foes in the 1 1/16-mile Wando Stakes and finished second in the Plate Trial.
Aurora Way (6-1) is an intriguing Queen's Plate entrant as the homebred gelding owned by Chiefswood Stable will be making just his second start. Trainer Stu Simon sent out Aurora Way to score impressively in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race June 10.
Simon had the first pick in the draw and elected for post 11.
"I just like him being way outside," said Simon. "You usually don't get as much trouble. He's a big, long-striding horse."
Julien Leparoux, who guided Sir Dudley Digges to an upset victory in last year's Queen's Plate, looks to repeat aboard Aurora Way.
State of Honor (8-1), a homebred who races for Manfred and Penny Conrad's Conrad Farm and is trained by Casse, won his maiden at seven furlongs locally last year and then was runner-up behind King and His Court in the Coronation Futurity.
Three in the money finishes came in the winter before he finished second to eventual Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner Always Dreaming in the Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1). State of Honor set the early pace in the "Run for the Roses" but finished well back.
Patrick Husbands, who regained the mount on State of Honor, seeks his third Queen's Plate win after scoring aboard Lexie Lou and the late Wando, who was the most recent Canadian Triple Crown winner in 2003. State of Honor drew post 7 with the third pick.
"We got a good number in the draw and we got exactly what we wanted," assistant trainer to Casse Kathryn Sullivan said of the Conrads' son of To Honor and Serve.
Guy Caballero (10-1) came from last to win the June 11 Plate Trial by a half-length at 20-1. Owned and bred by Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry and trained by Catherine Day Phillips, the son of Quality Road —Dixie Chicken concluded his four-race juvenile campaign with a third-place finish in the Display. The Plate Trial was the gelding's second start of the season.
Trainer Roger Attfield, who shares the record of eight Plate wins with Harry Giddings Jr., had Tiz a Slam (10-1) in Florida this winter and the Chiefswood Farm homebred started once, finishing fifth in the Columbia Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Since returning to Woodbine, Tiz a Slam finished second in the Wando and was 1 3/4 lengths back under regular rider Eurico Rosa da Silva in the Plate Trial. Da Silva seeks a third Queen's Plate win, since he scored back-to-back with Eye of the Leopard in 2009 and Big Red Mike in 2010.
Attfield sent out Tiz a Slam for a four-furlong breeze in :48 3/5 the morning of June 28.
"I thought it was lovely," said the trainer. "I like to work Wednesday for a big race Sunday."
FIELD FOR THE 158TH RUNNING OF THE QUEEN'S PLATE
Post / Horse / Jockey / Trainer / ML-Odds
1. Channel Maker / Rafael Hernandez / Bill Mott / 4-1
2. Guy Caballero / Jose Ortiz / Catherine Day Phillips / 10-1
3. Holy Helena / Luis Contreras / James Jerkens / 3-1
4. Spirit of Caledon / Jerome Lermyte / Pat Parente / 50-1
5. Inflexibility / Javier Castellano / Chad Brown / 10-1
6. King and His Court / Gary Boulanger / Mark Casse / 5-1
7. State of Honor / Patrick Husbands / Mark Casse / 8-1
8. Malibu Secret / Alan Garcia / Malcolm Pierce / 20-1
9. Megagray / Jesse Campbell / Mike Keogh / 30-1
10. Vaughan / Slade Callaghan / John Mattine / 50-111 / Aurora Way / Julien Leparoux / Stu Simon / 6-1
12. Tiz a Slam / Eurico Da Silva / Roger Attfield / 10-1
13. Watch Me Strut / David Moran / Catherine Day Phillips / 30-1