The 158th running of the $1 million Queen’s Plate will be offered Sunday and Holy Helena has been installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite among 13 Canadian-bred sophomores. One of two fillies entered, the Stronach Stables homebred exits a victory in the Woodbine Oaks for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.
Contested at 1 ¼ miles on Woodbine’s Tapeta, the Queen’s Plate serves as the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown and is the oldest continually held race in North America. Fillies have captured two of the last six runnings and Holy Helena will attempt to become the seventh to complete the Woodbine Oaks/Queen’s Plate double.
A daughter of Ghostzapper, Holy Helena didn’t make her career debut until April 15, finishing second in a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight at Aqueduct. She came back a month later to break her maiden while stretching out to a route, posting a front-running triumph at Belmont Park, and exits her first start on a synthetic track, rallying from just off the pace to score going away by a length in the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks on June 11.
Her BRIS numbers are first-rate and the dark bay lass recorded a 5-furlong bullet work over the track Monday in preparation. Holy Helena will break from post 3 with a returning Luis Contreras, who won the Woodbine Oaks and Queen’s Plate with Inglorious in 2011.
Channel Maker rates as a top contender for Bill Mott following a runner-up finish in the May 28 Marine (G3), his first attempt on Tapeta. The English Channel gelding made his first seven appearances on turf, including a restricted stakes tally and a third in the Summer (G2) at Woodbine as a juvenile, and he registered the top last-out BRIS Speed Rating (93) in the field while switching surfaces last time. Rafael Hernandez rides the early 4-1 second favorite.
Plate Trial runner-up King and His Court comes next on the morning line at 5-1. One of two runners for Mark Casse, the gelded son of Court Vision was named Canada’s champion 2-year-old male after posting multiple stakes wins last season but his sophomore campaign got off to a slow start with unplaced efforts at Tampa Bay Downs and Turfway Park. He turned things around when returning to Woodbine two starts back, posting a one-length tally in the May 7 Wando, and just missed by a half-length in the premiere Queen’s Plate prep last time. Gary Boulanger rides.
Aurora Way is inexperienced but will receive support off a sharp four-length score in his career bow, a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Woodbine on June 10. Julien Leparoux will take over the reins aboard the Giant’s Causeway gelding and the Simon Stuart trainee has been pegged as the 6-1 fourth choice.
Runner-up in the Florida Derby (G1) and Tampa Bay Derby (G2), State of Honor set the pace in the Kentucky Derby before weakening to 19th and came back finish a close third in the Plate Trial as the even-money favorite last time. By To Honor and Serve, the bay colt can’t be dismissed from win consideration given his back class but 10 furlongs looms as a legitimate concern for the Casse trainee. He’s 8-1 with Patrick Husbands.
Guy Caballero, who upset the Plate Trial at 20-1, is one of three listed at 10-1 for the Queen’s Plate along with Inflexibility, who finished third as the favorite in the Woodbine Oaks for Chad Brown; and Wando runner-up and Plate Trial fourth Tiz a Slam.
Completing the field are expected longshots Malibu Secret, Megagray, Watch Me Strut, Spirit of Caledon and Vaughan.