By Gene Kershner
As we approach next weekend's Queen's Plate at Woodbine, let's take a look at the latest happenings up north as we near Plate week in suburban Toronto.
- Two Plate contenders dropped out on Wednesday and will point at Ontario-sired stakes races up north. Power Phil, trained by Bob Tiller looked like he could carry the classic distance decided to pass on this year's Plate. In addition, Niigon's Glory also decided to pass up the Gallop for the Guineas for a similar path as Power Phil.
- According to the Daily Racing Form, it looks like Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will be using his passport to ride Sam-Son Farm's His Race to Win for trainer Malcolm Pierce. Velazquez has never won the Queen's Plate.
- Nipissing, the Woodbine Oaks winner, has been confirmed and will try and keep up the strong showings of recent fillies in the Plate. Inglorious won the 2011 edition and Irish Mission finished a strong second last year.
- Eurico da Silva looks to have the mount aboard likely favorite Up With the Birds. The Woodbine-based da Silva won back-to-back Plates in 2009 and 2010.
- Trainer Mark Casse, winless with 13 starters in the Plate could send as many as four starters in the gate, including two for owner John Oxley. The two Oxley starters are probably the best chances to get the monkey off his back and win the Plate. Dynamic Sky, a horse that didn't embarrass himself on the Derby trail, comes off a nice win in the Plate Trial and will have dynamite jockey Joel Rosario aboard. The other potential filly starter, Spring in the Air, is another Casse horse that could make some noise. She finished second to Nipissing in the Oaks.
- The post position draw for the oldest race in North America is slated for 9:30 a.m. on the Fourth of July in the Woodbine Walking Ring. The field looks like it will be upwards of 14 starters as of today, pending further dropouts from the current contender list.
- Looking ahead to the Prince of Wales Stakes on Tuesday, July 30 at Fort Erie Race Track, it appears that the talented Uncaptured, will run on the dirt at the border oval. Uncaptured lost a head bob in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 15 against the highly regarded Code West from the Bob Baffert barn. The winner of the Plate will face a fresh Uncaptured on his preferred surface.
- Both of Nick Gonzalez' potential starters, Midnight Aria and River Seven worked out on Thursday morning as their final preparation for the Plate. The duo worked in company with Midnight Aria taking the lead covering five-panels in 59.40 (best of 17 efforts on the day) as River Seven chased the pace to stop the clock in 59.80, according to queensplate.com.