Up With the Birds Favored in Queen's Plate
Photo: Michael Burns
Up With the Birds is the 2-1 favorite in the $1 million Queen's Plate.

Up With the Birds, dominating winner of the Marine Stakes, was made the 2-1 favorite in the $1 million Queen's Plate, heading a field of 12 Canadian-bred 3-year-olds July 7 at Woodbine.

Sam-Son Farms' homebred son of Stormy Atlantic  , trained by Malcolm Pierce, is to break from post 7 with Eurico Rosa da Silva aboard. Up With the Birds will attempt to give Sam-Son a sixth Queen's Plate victory.

The field for Canada's most famous race also includes Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser winner Nipissing.

Trainer Mark Casse entered four, led by Plate Trial victor Dynamic Sky. Of the 12 starters in this year's Plate, nine of them have connections (owner, trainer and/or jockey) who have previously won the Plate.

The 154th edition of the Plate, the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America, is race 10 on Sunday's program with a 5:38 p.m. EDT post.

All starters carry 126 pounds, except for fillies Nipissing and Woodbine Oaks runner-up Spring in the Air, who will tote 121 pounds for the 1 1/4-mile Canadian classic over Woodbine's Polytrack.

Up With the Birds has not been worse than third in six career starts and comes into the Plate off a 4 3/4-length score over Winning Cause in the 1 1/16-mile Marine May 26. The bay colt, who has banked $370,641, also captured the Coronation Futurity at Woodbine last year.   

"My horse is a very relaxed horse," said Rosa da Silva, who won back-to-back renewals of the Queen's Plate with Sam-Son's Eye of the Leopard   in 2009 and Big Red Mike the following year. "I'll just try to position him where he's happy. I don't worry about the pace. It's a mile and a quarter. I just hope he runs a good race. He kicks very strong. He's a very nice horse.

Sam-Son Farms also captured the Plate with Regal Intention (1988), Dance Smartly (1991), Scatter The Gold (2000), and Dancethruthedawn (2001).

Last year's Plate winner, Strait of Dover, also won the Marine en route to the Queen's Plate

"It was kind of planned," said Pierce, about his decision to skip the Plate Trial. "We did that on purpose to give him six weeks (between starts). I'm not worried about it (time between races). I want to go into the Plate with a fresh horse."

Sam-Son and Pierce also have another homebred hopeful, His Race to Win (10-1),  a Stormy Atlantic colt who just missed winning the Plate Trial June 9, falling a nose short of Dynamic Sky. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez takes the call on His Race to Win, who breaks from post 11.

Chiefswood Stable's Nipissing (7-2), a homebred daughter of Chiefswood's deceased 2004 Plate winner Niigon, is the second choice. The June 9 Woodbine Oaks winner is trained by Rachel Halden. She will be ridden as usual by Steve Bahen, who steered T J's Lucky Moon, the second-longest shot to ever win the Plate at 82-1, to victory in 2002.

Nipissing was undefeated in four starts last year, winning the prestigious Princess Elizabeth and South Ocean stakes. The bay filly began this season at Keeneland, finishing sixth in the Ashland (gr. I). She returned home to finish second in the Selene Stakes (Can-III) prior to her impressive tally in the Oaks. She defeated Spring in the Air by three-quarters of a length in the 1 1/-8-mile filly test, running the distance faster than Dynamic Sky when he won the Trial a race earlier.

"The trip will probably be the same as the Oaks," said Bahen. "Sit within four or five lengths, get a clean trip, and hopefully it will happen again. It (the distance) will help her even more."

Nipissing, who breaks from post 9, will try to become the 35th filly to win the Plate since 1860 and the sixth to win both the Oaks and the Plate, joining Flaming Page (1962), La Lorgnette (1985), Dance Smartly (1991), Dancethruthedawn (2001) and Inglorious (2011).

John Oxley's Dynamic Sky (4-1), to be handled by North America's leading rider Joel Rosario, is the third choice. The son of Sky Mesa   drew post 2.

Casse is a five-time Sovereign Award-winning trainer seeking his first Plate triumph. His best finish was in 2011, with 61-1 longshot runner-up Hippolytus. He also sends out Spring in the Air, Kaigun, and Jagger M.

With three wins from 10 starts, Dynamic Sky is the most experienced horse in the field. Earlier this year, he was on the Triple Crown trail, winning the Pasco Stakes and finishing second in the Sam Davis (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs. But subsequent efforts in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) and Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) convinced his connections to aim for the Queen's Plate instead.

Oxley also owns Spring in the Air (10-1), Canada's champion 2-year-old filly last year and the field's leading money winner with $641,510. The daughter of Spring At Last   was favored when second to Nipissing in the Oaks.

Although Rosario was also named by Casse on Spring in the Air at draw time, it was simply as a precaution should Dynamic Sky not start. It's expected that veteran Gary Boulanger, who has returned to riding this year after suffering career-ending injuries eight years ago, will climb aboard the filly for the first time. Boulanger won the 2001 Plate with another filly, Dancethruthedawn.

Casse's other starters are Kaigun (20-1), a winner once in three starts with Justin Stein, who rode Strait of Dover to victory in last year's Plate; and Jagger M (20-1), a maiden winner in six starts with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard.

Hall of Fame trainer Mark Frostad, a four-time winner of the Plate, will send out a pair for different owners.

Pyrite Mountain (6-1), owned by Awesome Again Racing, is the fourth choice and will be ridden by Woodbine's leading rider and two-time Sovereign Award winner Luis Contreras. The son of Silent Name  , fourth to Dynamic Sky as the favorite in the Plate Trial, had previously beaten Uncaptured, Canada's Horse of the Year for 2012, in the Wando Stakes May 5.

Ginger Punch Racing's County Lineman is another Silent Name colt and two-time winner who will be making his stakes debut for Frostad. He will be ridden by Alex Solis.

Trainer Nick Gonzalez, who won the 2010 Plate with Big Red Mike, will send out two hopefuls for Tucci Stables in River Seven and Midnight Aria.

The Queen's Plate is the first jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown. The second is the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at 1 3/16 miles July 30 at Fort Erie. The $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, at 1 1/2 miles on the grass Aug. 18 at Woodbine, is the final leg. There have been seven Triple Crown winners since the concept was inaugurated in 1959, the latest being Wando in 2003.

Three graded grass evetns will be part of the Queen's Plate undercardthe $200,000 Dance Smartly (Can-IIT) at 1/8 miles for fillies and mares, the $200,000 Highlander (gr. IIT) for 3 and up at six furlongs, and the $150,000 Singspiel (Can-IIIT) at 1 1/2 miles for 3 and up.

$1 Million Queen's Plate (Race 10, 5:38 p.m.), 3YOs Foaled in Canada, 1 1/4 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Midnight Aria (ON), J M Campbell, 126, N Gonzalez
2. Dynamic Sky (ON), J Rosario, 126, M E Casse
3. Jagger M (ON), S Bridgmohan, 126, M E Casse
4. Spring in the Air (ON), J Rosario, 121, M E Casse
5. County Lineman (ON), A O Solis, 126, M R Frostad
6. Kaigun (ON), J Stein, 126, M E Casse
7. Up With the Birds (ON), E R Da Silva, 126, M Pierce
8. Rackman (ON), J McAleney, 126, N Nosowenko
9. Nipissing (ON), S R Bahen, 121, R Halden
10. Pyrite Mountain (ON), L Contreras, 126, M R Frostad
11. His Race to Win (ON), J R Velazquez, 126, M Pierce
12. River Seven (ON), T Kabel, 126, N Gonzalez
 

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