The $1-million Queen’s Plate will be a family affair for Kevin Attard.
The veteran trainer will have four horses – including 2021 Woodbine Oaks winner Munnyfor Ro – in the 13-horse field Sunday afternoon at Woodbine Racetrack.
Keep Grinding, the 4-1 early favourite, is owned by Attard’s son, Joshua, and trained by his father, Tino. And Kevin’s uncle, Sid, conditions Riptide Rock.
But while blood is thicker than water, it doesn’t diminish Kevin’s burning desire to win his first-ever Plate.
“I’m excited for my family,” Kevin said. “I’m super excited for my son and my dad, but at the end of the day I want to win.”
Kevin’s uncle, Larry – a Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame jockey – rode Bompago to victory in the 1983 Plate.
But Kevin, his father and uncle are all still chasing their first titles as trainers. Should Keep Grinding cross the finish line first, it’s believed Joshua, 17, would become the youngest winning owner in race history.
“It feels unbelievable, I never thought I’d be in this situation at 17, but I’m proud to be here,” Joshua said. “It [winning Plate] would be surreal for me and for my grandfather to win his first Queen’s Plate.
“It would be such an unbelievable experience.”
Joshua has owned horses since 2011 and purchased Keep Grinding for $13,000 in 2019. Keep Grinding has finished in the money in three-of-five lifetime starts, including a second-place effort in the Grade 3 Marine Stakes on July 11.
“He’s a cool horse, very laid back, very friendly, but he’s also a very honest horse,” Joshua said. “It’s a little nerve-racking when your horse is the favourite, that’s for sure.
But I know Keep Grinding will show up.”
Rafael Hernandez will ride Keep Grinding on Sunday as regular jockey, Justin Stein, will be aboard Munnyfor Ro, the horse he guided to a solid 1¼-length score Aug. 1 in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks over 1⅛ miles on Woodbine’s Tapeta course.
At least one Woodbine Oaks starter has run in the Plate every year since 2008. Four of those fillies have gone on to win the Queen’s Plate: Inglorious, Lexie Lou, Holy Helena and Wonder Gadot.
Inglorious, Lexie Lou and Holy Helena completed the Oaks-Plate double, while Wonder Gadot was second to Dixie Moon in the 2018 Woodbine Oaks before going on to win the Queen’s Plate.
Munnyfor Ro served notice in the Oaks that she’s a bona fide Plate contender, winning that race in 1:50.31. Earlier that day, Avoman claimed the $150,000 Plate Trial in 1:52.84 over the same distance and course.
Munnyfor Ro is the early 9-2 second choice and will break from the No. 6 post Sunday. The three-year-old, Ontario-bred filly has two wins from seven starts this year and is 2-2-2 from nine career races with earnings over $320,000.
“I think it’s a good post for her,” Kevin said. “Obviously we want to keep her out of trouble and give her a clear run.
“She’s a filly that likes to sit off so hopefully there’s a nice pace in front of her and Justin is able to work out a good trip.”
The connections for Munnyfor Ro paid a $25,000 supplemental fee for the chance to run for the $600,000 Plate-winning prize.
Attard’s other Plate horses are H C Holiday (30-1), Haddassah (10-1) and Harlan Estate (12-1).
“It’s definitely exciting to be in that position to have four horses in the race,” Kevin said. “Obviously you hope to have the right one, but I think each horse has a great chance.
“In a perfect world all four come to the wire together in a dead heat.”
The race field, with post position, horse, jockey and odds, includes: 1) Safe Conduct, Irad Ortiz Jr., 5-1; 2) Harlan Estate, Kazushi Kimura, 12-1; 3) Haddassah, Gary Boulanger, 10-1; 4) Take a Chance, Keveh Nicholls (20-1); 5) H C Holiday, Luis Contreras, 15-1; 6) Munnyfor Ro, Stein, 9-2; 7) Riptide Rock, David Moran, 6-1; 8) Keep Grinding, Rafael Hernandez, 4-1; 9) Go Take Charge, Sahin Civaci, 30-1; 10) Dance Some Mo, Patrick Husbands, 12-1; 11) Avoman, Antonio Gallardo, 8-1; 12) Tidal Forces, Emma-Jayne Wilson (12-1); and 13) Derzkii, Jason Hoyte, 30-1.
The decorated Ortiz Jr. will be making his first-ever Plate appearance. A three-time Eclipse Award winner as top jockey (2018-20), Ortiz Jr. is an 11-time Breeders’ Cup winner and rode Creator to victory in the 2016 Belmont.
Sam-Son Farm will have two horses in Sunday’s race: Dance So Mo and Tidal Forces. The iconic thoroughbred operation founded by the late Ernie Samuel in 1972 announced in October it was dispersing its racing/breeding stock.
Sam-Son has been connected with five Plate victors, two Breeders’ Cup champions and 55 Graded Stakes winners.