Curlin’s Voyage served notice Saturday she’s a threat to win the $1-million Queen’s Plate.
Curlin’s Voyage captured the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks at Woodbine Racetrack. The stellar filly won the 1 1/8-mile event on Woodbine’s tapeta course in 1:50.04.
Earlier on the card, Clayton won the $150,000 Plate Trial, over the same distance and same surface, in 1:50.61.
Over the last 10 years, three Oaks winners have gone on to win the Plate, which will be run Sept. 12. They were: Inglorious (2011), Lexie Lou (2014) and Holy Helena (2017).
Curlin’s Voyage made a bold statement in the first leg of the Triple Tiara for Canadian-bred three-year-old fillies. Jockey Patrick Husbands earned his fourth Oaks win and also has the distinction of riding Canada’s last Triple Crown winner, Wando, in 2003.
Winning trainer Josie Carroll, who became the first female trainer to win the Plate with Inglorious, heaped lavish praise upon Curlin’s Voyage after the race.
“She’s a very special filly, a very, very special filly,” said Carroll, a 2019 Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee. “I think we knew what we had from the start when we were very bold and put her against the boys the first time out in a stake.
“I had a few concerns this year with the way the stakes schedule played out. I knew I wasn’t going to get a two-turn race in her and it gave me some concern but I trained her fairly hard into this race and she just thrived on it. Good horses thrive on training.”
Husbands and the daughter of Curlin earned a 1 3/4-length victory ahead of Afleet Katherine. Merveilleux was third in the 10-horse field.
Curlin’s Voyage secured her fifth win — and eighth money finish — in nine starts. But Carroll said a decision on whether to run in the Queen’s Plate will be made later.
“You know, with Inglorious I think I had everybody frustrated because I wouldn’t make up my mind until the week before the Plate,” Carroll said. “I’m very much about my individual horses and she’s going to tell us.”
Clayton had to work for his victory. The son of 2012 Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister held off Halo Again and Dotted Line to secure top honours in the traditional prep for the opening leg of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown.
“So we’ll kind of watch the replay, see how he comes out of this race and take it from there … see if there’s any adjustments that need to be made,” said winning trainer Kevin Attard, who’s still searching for his first Queen’s Plate victory. “Obviously, this is just kind of one step in the right direction, but I don’t want to be remembered as the Plate Trial winner.”
Clayton secured his third win in four starts.
“Thank God and thank Kevin and the owners for the opportunity to ride the horse,” said winning jockey Rafael Hernandez. “I thought it was going to be more easy.
“There was a little trouble early in the race. I tried to settle down the horse, he just wanted to go. After the two horses got in front, he dropped the bridle and settled down and I was more confident in the backside about him.”
And Attard, for one, can now look ahead to the Plate, North America’s oldest continually run stakes race.
“Obviously, everybody dreams of running in the Plate and sometimes you’re taking just a hope and a prayer to kind of go in there and hope the stars align for you,” said Attard. “Obviously, this situation’s a little different, we’re going in with one of the favourites and we know we’ve kind of got a good shot to maybe take it all.
“But there’s going to be more shooters coming and it’s not going to be easy.”