Jockey Javier Castellano will have to take Avie’s Flatter the long way home to secure trainer Josie Carroll a third Queen’s Plate title.
The early 5-2 favourite was left with the No. 14 spot to conclude the race draw on Wednesday at Woodbine Racetrack. So Castellano and Avie’s Flatter will have plenty of ground to cover Saturday in the $1-million event and opening jewel of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown.
“It’s a 1¼-mile race and the first turn is long way off, so I’m not going to have too many concerns about being on the outside,” said Carroll, who became the first female trainer to win the Plate in 2006 with Edenwold. “Our horse has tactical speed and I’d hope to see him sitting just behind the first group tucked over to save some ground.
“Once we get out of there, we have a chance to see where everyone else lines up and hopefully tuck in and get his own position.”
With the final pick of the draw, Carrol had resigned herself to being left with either inside or outside posts, usually the two most undesirable spots to start a race. The No. 14 spot became a reality when Sam-Son Farm took the rail for Woodbine Oaks champion Desert Ride – the lone filly in the field – with the 10th selection over all.
And that surprised Mark Casse, a two-time Plate champion who’ll send 4-1 third pick Skywire and Federal Law (15-1) postward on Saturday.
“I found it very interesting that Sam-Son decided to take the No. 1 hole,” Casse said. “I was hoping they’d go outside from a selfish standpoint.
“A post that could’ve been troublesome for Avie’s Flatter would’ve been the No. 1 hole. I think by letting him to go to No. 14, that’s not a problem at all. I think, he [Avie’s Flatter] is definitely the horse to beat.”
The race field, with post, horse, jockey and odds, includes: 1) Desert Ride, Steven Bahen, 8-1; 2) Moon Swings, Jesse Campbell, 30-1; 3) Krachenwagen, Jeffrey Alderson, 50-1; 4) Pay for Peace, Rafael Hernandez, 15-1; 5) One Bad Boy, Flavien Prat, 7-2; 6) Lucas n’ Lori, Kazushi Kimura, 50-1; 7) Federal Law, Jamie Spencer, 15-1; 8) He’s a Macho Man, Patrick Husbands, 15-1; 9) Suitedconnected, Gary Boulanger, 50-1; 10) Skywire, Eurico Rosa Da Silva, 4-1; 11) Tone Broke, Luis Contreras, 6-1; 12) Jammin Still, Alan Garcia, 30-1; 13) Rising Star, Justin Stein, 30-1; 14) Avie’s Flatter, Castellano, 5-2.
Avie’s Flatter was last year’s champion two-year-old male in Canada and was installed as the Winterbook favourite for this year’s Plate. He’s won four of six career starts and more than $420,000 in earnings, but was a distant sixth in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs on May 4.
“For some reason he had a little trouble with that turf course,” Carroll said. “He bobbled a bit and didn’t finish as well as we thought.
“We thought about running him in the Plate Trial [June 8 at Woodbine], but we want to go in with a fresh horse. I think this horse has handled the long period between races very well. He’s a horse who’ll do whatever you ask of him, his workouts have been very very strong.”
While all eyes will be on Avie’s Flatter on Saturday, Carroll is feeling bullish about He’s a Macho Man. With just three career starts – two wins – He’s a Macho Man is the least-experienced horse in the field.
“He’s a Macho Man is my sleeper, he really is,” Carroll said. “This horse is two-for-two on the Tapeta [the same surface the Plate will be run on].
“At a mile and a quarter, he’s the kind of horse that’s just going to sit there until you ask him to go. He’s going to come running.”
Casse is chasing a second straight Queen’s Plate and third over all. Both of his previous titles have come with fillies – Wonder Gadot last year and Lexie Lou in 2014.
It’s been a successful start to 2019 for Casse, who captured two-thirds of the U.S. Triple Crown with War of Will (Preakness winner) and Sir Winston (Belmont).
“We’ve been fortunate,” Casse said. “We’ve won the Preakness and Belmont, but I also want the Queen’s Plate.”
Skywire has two wins and a second-place finish in four starts this year. After winning the Wando Stakes on April 28, the son of 2005 Preakness and Belmort winner Afleet Alex was second behind American-bred Global Access in the Grade 3 Marine on May 25.
Rosa da Silva was Woodbine’s top jockey last year and twice has won the Plate (Big Red Mike in 2010, Eye of the Leopard in 2009).
“He’s the type of horse that will kind of sit and not go,” Casse said of Skywire. “Hopefully I don’t jinx us here, but he kind of waits for a command to run and that’s important over 1¼ miles.
“A lot of times, horses can’t get 1¼ miles because they won’t relax and get eager, so I think that helps him … he’s a horse that’s coming into this race on the top of his game.”