The Queen’s Plate is supported by a trio of graded turf stakes at Woodbine, with the C$350,000 Highlander S. (G1) anchoring the Sunday card.
Highlander S. (G1) – Race 11 (6:25 p.m. ET)
Streaking turf sprinter Caravel looms as the even-money favorite on the morning line in her first start versus males, and for new trainer Graham Motion. Previously trained by owner/breeder Elizabeth Merryman, the Mizzen Mast filly has emerged as a prime player in the division with three straight stakes victories. After overcoming significant trouble to get up in Pimlico’s The Very One S., Caravel dominated the June 25 Goldwood S. at Monmouth and the July 24 Caress (G3) at Saratoga.
That was Caravel’s finale for Merryman, who sold her to celebrity chef Bobby Flay but stayed in for a share. The move to Motion is all part of the plan to get Caravel to the Breeders’ Cup. Note that Irad Ortiz sticks with the gray in the six-furlong dash.
Hall of Famer Mark Casse has three chances to upend the favorite. Grade 3 winner Turned Aside, who joined the barn after selling for $725,000 at Keeneland January, was last seen finishing an uncharacteristic ninth in the April 3 Shakertown (G2). Old Chestnut, runner-up to Turned Aside in last summer’s Quick Call (G3) before they became stablemates, sports a 3-for-3 mark on the Woodbine turf. Chuck Willis’s four-race skein was snapped by a sixth in the Connaught Cup (G2), but the speedy import could appreciate the slight cutback.
City Boy, second to Silent Poet as the defending Nearctic (G2) champion at this course and distance last fall, is eligible to improve from his recent allowance comeback. Admiralty Pier and Honey Won’t round out the eight-horse cast.
Dance Smartly S. (G2) – Race 9 (4:55 p.m. ET)
Reigning E.P. Taylor (G1) queen Etoile returns to Woodbine for the C$175,000 Dance Smartly (G2). The Chad Brown mare, who was overturned as the 1.45-1 favorite in this very race a year ago, has made only one appearance so far in 2021. Fourth in the April 10 Jenny Wiley (G1) going 1 1/16 miles, the French-bred should appreciate the step back up in trip.
Grade 3 veteran Mutamakina has been installed as the slight 9-5 favorite over the 2-1 Etoile. Last fall’s Long Island (G3) winner has placed in two of three starts this campaign for Christophe Clement, a second in the Sheepshead Bay (G2) and a near-miss third in the July 11 River Memories S.
Other contenders include Motion’s Dowager (G3) scorer Blame Debbie, fifth in the Robert G. Dick Memorial (G3) in her latest; Ed Vaughan’s British import Alnaseem, coming off a second in the Indiana General Assembly Distaff; Court Return, who nearly shocked Etoile at 41.80-1 in the E.P. Taylor; and Kevin Attard’s duo from the 2020 Canadian fillies’ classics, Wonder Where S. victress Merveilleux and Afleet Katherine, runner-up in the Woodbine Oaks and Bison City S. on Tapeta.
Ontario Colleen S. (G3) – Race 6 (3:03 p.m. ET)
Two well-bred sophomore fillies advance to stakes company in the C$150,000 Ontario Colleen S. (G3) – Misspell, the 2-1 favorite from the Brown barn, and Speightstown Shirl representing Hall of Famer Roger Attfield.
Misspell, a close fourth to Seasons in their mutual debut at Saratoga last summer, broke her maiden at Churchill Downs next out. In her belated sophomore bow back at the Spa July 17, the American Pharoah filly was just nailed on the wire.
Speightstown Shirl, a daughter of 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) winner Perfect Shirl and full sister to Grade 3 scorer Shirl’s Speight, was runner-up to Souper Sensational in her lone juvenile start. The Charles Fipke homebred scored her maiden win over this course and one-mile trip June 12. Caught late in a 1 1/16-mile allowance, Speightstown Shirl shortens up a tad.
The Jimmy Toner-trained Seasons brings useful form as the third-placer in the course-and-distance Natalma (G1) last year and unlucky second in the May 14 Hilltop S. The blueblood daughter of Tapit and Winter Memories looks to bounce back from a disappointing third in the Boiling Springs S. at Monmouth.
Casse, who has won the Ontario Colleen three of the past four years and four times overall, sends a three-strong team. Our Flash Drive was a convincing winner of the Selene (G3) over next-out Woodbine Oaks star (and Queen’s Plate hopeful) Munnyfor Ro, and now hopes to transfer her Tapeta form to turf. Sanibel Island S. vixen I Get It, beaten by Con Lima in a couple other Gulfstream Park turf stakes, must rebound from a trailing effort behind the same rival in the June 23 Wonder Again (G3) at Belmont. Recent allowance scorer Salty As Can Be faces surface and distance questions.
Sweet Souper Sweet exits a third in the Selene for Mike Trombetta. Perseverancia, a sharp maiden winner in her first start since joining Darwin Banach, aims to continue her progress.