Thursday morning, June 21, the post positions were selected for the 153rd running of the $1,000,000 Queen's Plate during a breakfast ceremony in the walking ring at Woodbine. A field of 14 Canadian-bred three-year-olds will go to post on Sunday in the 1 1/4 mile classic, with males carrying 126 pounds and fillies Dixie Strike and Irish Mission carrying 121 pounds. The Queen's Plate is the first race of Canada's Triple Crown, which continues with the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie on July 15 and the Breeders' Stakes at Woodbine on August 5. The race will be shown on CBC in Canada from 4:30-6:00pm ET, with the Plate going off as the 10th race at 5:36pm. The Queen's Plate card, including the Singspiel Stakes (G3), Highlander Stakes (G2), King Edward Stakes (G2), and the My Dear Stakes will also be shown on TVG in the U.S. and HPI in Canada, and simulcast to many locations across North America.
The selection order for post positions was drawn first, via the traditional pill-pull, followed by the choosing of post positions by the connections for each horse, a system which has been in place since 1998. Retired Canadian Olympic swimmer Mark Tewksbury, winner of the gold medal for the 100 meter backstroke in the 1992 Olympics, was on hand as the honorary drawmaster assisting racing secretary Steve Lym. The native of Calgary won silver in the 1988 Games in the relay and bronze in the 1992 relay, along with his gold medal. Retiring from competition, he signed a number of endorsement deals and was an athlete representative with the IOC. He resigned from his IOC post to protest rampant corruption in that organization. Ten years after his Olympic gold, he became the first Canadian athlete to voluntarily announce his homosexuality, and became an advocate for gay rights and causes. He is Team Canada's chef de mission for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The likely favorite, listed at 3-1 on the morning line, is Canyon Farms' Strait of Dover, off a four race win streak including the Marine Stakes last out. Danny Vella trains the son of English Channel who will be ridden by Justin Stein. Second choice at 4-1 is Plate Trial winner River Rush, owned by Stronach Stables and trained by Reade Baker. Jim McAleney has the call on the son of Orientate.
Casting a shadow on the event was the announcement by Nick Eaves, President and CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG), that this could be the last running of the oldest annual sporting event in Canada. "Earlier this year the Ontario Government made the decision to arbitrarily cancel the commercial contracts between Ontario's racetracks and the OLG. The cancellation of these contracts will devastate the province's horse racing and breeding industry which contributes $4.5 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)," said Eaves. "As a result of the Government's current position, premier race events such as the Queen's Plate as well as day-to-day horseracing are in jeopardy."
The Government has indicated that the industry must now be self-sustaining in a market where, pursuant to the Criminal Code, the provincial government has a monopoly on all other forms of gambling. The OLG Modernization Plan is all about growth and expansion of the government's gambling business. "How are we expected to compete when the referee is also our opponent?" Eaves emphasized.
In order to accommodate the racetrack slots program, tracks were required to change their business model significantly, including eliminating admissions and parking revenue. Revenues for the horse racing industry were exclusively from the bets made by its customers. Horseracing customers provided a ready-made customer base for the OLG racetrack slot operations, which have cannibalized wagering on horseracing. These changes were factored into the 20% commission paid as rent to the industry under the commercial agreements. This 20% commission was confirmed as appropriate by the government in 2010, when WEG and the OLG amended WEG's long-term agreement in order to build out the slots expansion at Woodbine in which WEG invested $32 million. The Slots at Racetrack partnership has been the envy of other jurisdictions. Its success has elevated Ontario's horseracing and breeding industry, giving this agricultural sector international recognition and enabling the industry to be a major contributor to the provincial economy. Mr. Eaves concluded his remarks by saying, "WEG hopes that the government will include the successful and participatory integration of horse racing into the province's overall gaming strategy. Otherwise it is hard to see the numbers working to allow WEG to be more than, at best, a pale imitation of its current status as a renowned international leader in both the thoroughbred and standardbred industries and, the anchor of Ontario's horseracing and breeding industry."
Below are the entries for the 2012 Queen's Plate with post positions, morning line odds, trainer, and jockey. Free past performances are available here from BRISnet.com. Profiles for each horse are also available here
|1||River Rush||Stronach Stables||Reade Baker||Jim McAleney||4-1|
|2||Peyton||Windhaven||Mike Doyle||Julien Leparoux||20-1|
|3||Macho Whiskey||Harlequin||Reade Baker||Emma-Jayne Wilson||15-1|
|4||Strait of Dover||Canyon Farms||Dan Vella||Justin Stein||3-1|
|5||Classic Bryce||Bill Sorokolit||Darwin Banach||Todd Kabel||12-1|
|6||Wilcox||Melnyk Racing Stables Inc.||Josie Carroll||Tyler Pizarro||20-1|
|7||Golden Ridge||Melnyk Racing Stables Inc.||Mark Casse||Luis Contreras||6-1|
|8||Ultimate Destiny||Brenda Selwyn-Waxman||Mike Keogh||Steven Bahen||20-1|
|9||Colleen's Sailor||Terra Di Sienna Stables||Roger Attfield||Corey Nakatani||15-1|
|10||Dixie Strike||John Oxley||Mark Casse||Patrick Husbands||8-1|
|11||Making Amends||Quintessential Racing Fla., et al||Mark Casse||Eurico Rosa da Silva||20-1|
|12||Big Creek||Green Hills Farm Inc.||Todd Pletcher||Ramon Dominguez||10-1|
|13||Washington Dash||Silverton Hill LLC||Darrin Miller||Rajiv Maragh||50-1|
|14||Irish Mission||Robert Evans||Mark Frostad||Alex Solis||10-1|