December 2, 2020

Baker hoping to strike Queen’s Plate gold with trio of runners

Last updated: 7/1/15 6:08 PM

Baker hoping to strike Queen’s Plate gold with trio of

Academic schooling ahead of
Sunday’s Queen’s Plate

(WEG/Michael Burns Photography)

Trainer Reade Baker will saddle a trio of top contenders in
Sunday’s $1-million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, led by Woodbine Oaks-winning filly Academic
(Henny Hughes) and the
maiden-winning colts Bear At Last (Marchfield) and Breaking Lucky (Lookin at

Academic, with Justin Stein up, romped to a
66-1 score in the Woodbine Oaks in just her second start of the year. In the
process, the bay miss also set a new track record of 1:48.86 for nine furlongs, nearly one second
faster than it took Danish Dynaformer (Dynaformer) to win the Plate Trial one race before.

“She came out of it great,” Baker said.
“We’ll bring her over there on race day and hope for the best.”

Academic made three juvenile starts, topped by a
neck second on October 12 in her first run around two turns. She graduated in her sophomore debut with a smart
neck score prior to her Oaks shocker.

Sending a longshot into the Oaks didn’t phase Baker.

“It was a huge opportunity,” he said. “She wasn’t really
ready for her race last year against (Oaks rival) Shez a Masterpiece (Mast
Track), who was
supposedly one of the better fillies around here. I thought we could have beat
her (Shez a Masterpiece) that day, but we were maybe a little green or not fit
enough. If you make her equal to her (Shez a Masterpiece), why not give her the
opportunity in the Oaks. It’s a one shot chance just like the Plate.”

Baker believes Academic, with Stein returning,
is capable of another surprise score on Sunday.

“I’ve had luck with small fillies,” the horseman stated. “Size wise,
she’s comparable to Bear Now and she made $1.3-million.”

Bear At Last, a one-time winner in 11
outings, will be piloted once again on Sunday by Rico Walcott. The dark bay finished seventh in the Plate Trial, a race in which he
was shuffled back at the turn.

“He was definitely compromised, but I don’t know what it
means as far as the results go, because there were lots of horses compromised,”
Baker noted. “If you watch close, at the end of the race he’s going as fast as
anyone else and wasn’t beat that far.

“He’s bred to go the distance, so we’ll
give him a chance. Rico thinks it’s a good idea, so we’ll bring him out and try

With 11 races under his belt, the rallying Bear At Last
will be, by far, the most experienced horse in the Plate field.

“He’s certainly fit enough, we don’t have to worry about
that,” Baker remarked. “It’s nice to have a horse with a different kind of style,
because you don’t know how the track will play that day.”

Breaking Lucky broke his maiden
at Woodbine in April, then just missed by a head when second in a 1 1/16-mile
allowance/optional claimer. Last out, with Antonio Gallardo up, the chestnut
colt finished a disappointing seventh in an allowance going the same distance while facing older

“He was rank around the first turn, he kept throwing his
head,” Baker explained. “I don’t mind the regression in the last race, we’re looking
for a booming race this time. We’re looking for his lifetime best and I think
we’ll get it.”

At press time, Baker had yet to decide who will ride the
chestnut in the Plate. 

With three contenders in the mix, Baker is quietly
optimistic of earning his first Plate score in Sunday’s test. However, the
trainer is also most wary of
another veteran horseman when assessing the Plate field.

“You always have to worry about Roger Attfield in the
Plate. He’s won the race eight times,” he said.

And as for his own chances?

“I’ve been here at Woodbine a long time, almost 50 years. I
came with my sister to watch Northern Dancer win the Plate in 1964,” Baker
smiled. “It’s been a long time. If it’s in the cards, it’s in the cards. You
can’t worry about horses getting beat. Secretariat got beat, it happens.”

In other Queen’s Plate news:

He’ll be a longshot when the gates open for the 156th
running of the Queen’s Plate, but Milwaukee Mist (Milwaukee Brew) has certainly shown a penchant
for outrunning his odds. The bay gelding broke his maiden at Turfway Park on
January 3 at 29-1, ran fifth in the in the 96Rock S. at 24-1, then filled the
third spot in the John Battaglia Memorial S. at 66-1.

“He’s taken on some pretty tough competition here in the
U.S.,” trainer Pavel Matejka said. “I really think he’s going to like the (Plate
distance of) 1 1/4 miles. Hopefully, we can get an outside post, get him to
settle and then make a nice run when he’s called on.”

Gary Boulanger, who won the Plate in 2001 with filly
Dancethruthedawn, will pilot Milwaukee Mist in Sunday’s “Gallop for the
Guineas.” The sophomore enters the race off a trio of turf starts in Kentucky,
including a runner-up effort at Keeneland in April

“We’re all very excited to be part of this race,” Matejka added. “We
freshened him up with some nice works and we feel good about how he’s coming
into the race. Hopefully, our first chance to be in the Queen’s Plate is a
memorable one.”

Ault will attempt to become
the first maiden to win the Queen’s Plate since 2000

(WEG/Michael Burns Photography)

In 2012, trainer Dan Vella won the Queen’s Plate with
Strait of Dover, a Canyon Farms homebred son of English Channel. Vella returns
on Sunday
with the same connections with yet another son
of English Channel, the improving chestnut Ault.

The British Columbia-bred colt has yet to break his maiden, running second in a pair of
sprints as a juvenile before heading to Florida for the
winter. Following a pair of off-the-board results on the Gulfstream turf, Vella
returned to Woodbine hoping to race the colt into the Plate.

“The Plate was really our plan right from the start. We took him to Florida
and we were hoping that we could accomplish something on the turf down there and
push him forward,” Vella explained. “Unfortunately, that
didn’t work out so it put us back a step and then we got back to Toronto and he
had a bruised foot for a while which set us back a bit more.”

The patient Vella brought Ault back to the races in a June 6 maiden
versus older company. Sent to post at odds of 8-1, and sitting
10 lengths off the pace at the second call, Ault dug down deep to finish a
rallying second behind the five-year-old Impetuous Act (Harlington).

“We thought he ran a huge race and really thought he improved a lot and
decided to go ahead (to the Plate),” Vella said. “He’s very
versatile, that’s what is best about him. He can show a bit of speed if you
want. He can show a turn of foot to run well going short but he’ll turn off if
you want him to. He’s versatile and that’s an asset in a big field.”

Vella isn’t too concerned about starting a maiden in the

“He got beat a neck last time or we wouldn’t be having that
discussion,” he stated. “I don’t think it matters. He was closing hard on much
older horses on a day that the pace favored the older horse…we think he’ll
improve a lot off his last race. I don’t think he knows any different.”

Ault, should he win, would be the fourth maiden to win the
Plate since 1952, the last maiden Plate winner being Scatter the Gold in 2000.

Thursday’s Queen’s Plate morning draw from
the Woodbine walking ring will be streamed live at

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