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Post Time: Big field set for Sunday's Queen's Plate

By Gene Kershner

TORONTO – The post position draw for Sunday’s 155th running of the $1 million Queen’s Plate, the oldest continuously run race in North America took place in the walking ring at Woodbine Racetrack this morning. A large field of 14 colts and one filly will head to the post at 5:38 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. We Miss Artie (8-5) was made the morning line favorite with the filly and Woodbine Oaks winner Lexie Lou (4-1) made the second choice. 

Here are some quick hitters from the post draw:

  • Trainer Mark Casse sends out three horses in hopes of capturing his first Queen’s Plate after 17 attempts. Casse will send out the filly Lexie Lou, Matador (8-1) and Majestic Sunset (15-1) in attempt to break the drought.
  • Roger Attfield, who has a record-equaling eight Queen’s Plate training victories always the showman, selected post No. 12 for Tower of Texas, stating he has won two plates from that gate in his storied Hall of Fame career. John Velazquez, a Hall of Famer himself, will fly in to ride the son of Street Sense.
  • In addition to Velazquez another big name jockey will be heading north to Woodbine this weekend, as Javier Castellano, the current leading rider at Belmont Park, will be aboard We Miss Artie for trainer Todd Pletcher. Both Pletcher and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey will be making the trek up north for Canada's biggest race. Pletcher will be seeking his second Queen’s Plate, winning his last 14 years ago with Archers Bay in 1998.
  • Julien Leparoux, who will make his second Plate appearance, will fly in to ride Matador for Casse.
  • The Plate will be a family affair of sorts for the Attard family. Father Sid trains Cap in Hand (50-1) for last year's Plate winning owners Tucci Stables and his two sons will also saddle horses in the race. Cap in Hand will break from the rail, the same spot last year's winner, Midnight Aria started from in giving the owners their first Plate victory.
  • Attard's sons will saddle Niigon Express (Paul) and Lions Bay (Jamie) and have bet each other a round of golf on the outcome. Paul Attard selected post No. 13 for his horse, the same spot that his sire, Niigon, won the Plate from in 2004.
  • Trainer Reade Baker who recently won his 1,000the career race is also seeking his first Plate with two contenders.  Asserting Bear (10-1) will have jockey Chantal Sutherland-Kruse in the irons and Baker describes his colt's best quality in one word, "guts." Baker will also send Man o' Bear (30-1) postward for Bear Stables and will have the other female jockey in the race, Emma-Jayne Wilson, who won the 2007 Plate aboard Mike Fox.

The post position draw with trainer, jockey and morning line odds is included below: 

PP Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1 Cap in Hand S. Attard Bahen 50-1
2 Coltimus Prime Nixon Campbell 20-1
3 Athenian Guard DePaulo Moreno 50-1
4 Asserting Bear Baker Sutherland-Kruse 10-1
5 Man o' Bear Baker Wilson 30-1
6 We Miss Artie Pletcher Castellano 8-5
7 Majestic Sunset Casse Boulanger 15-1
8 Lions Bay J. Attard Moran 30-1
9 Heart to Heart Lynch da Silva 30-1
10 Matador Casse Leparoux 8-1
11 One Destiny Fehr Stein 30-1
12 Tower of Texas Attfield Velazquez 20-1
13 Niigon Express P. Attard Olguin 30-1
14 Lexie Lou (f) Casse Husbands 4-1
15 Ami's Holiday Carroll Contreras 10-1
  (f) filly      

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

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Post Time: Triple Crown among mid-year high points

Editor's note: Our apologies for not posting this earlier. It was published in Saturday's editions of The Buffalo News. 

* * *

By Gene Kershner

We’ve hit the midpoint of the thoroughbred racing season, and the first half of the year gave racing fans plenty to cheer about.

The 3-year-olds, led by California Chrome, took us through a great spring, and the older horses and handicap division will start to take center stage this summer.

The second half of the season will take us first to the summer destinations of Saratoga, Monmouth and Del Mar before returning in the fall to Belmont Park and Keeneland Race Course before the season culminates at Santa Anita Racetrack where the Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be held Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

The race for Horse of the Year is wide open with several horses in position to claim the sport’s most prominent award next January at the annual Eclipse Awards ceremony.

Here are some thoughts on the year’s highs and lows in racing at the halfway mark of the 2014 season:

Live from International Junior Masters: Pittsford's Thomson, 13, becomes youngest winner in 62nd annual event

Thirteen-year-old Will Thomson of Pittsford defeated Blake Gerber of Mesa, Ariz., 3 and 2, to become the youngest winner in the 62-year history of the International Junior Masters.  

* * * 

Follow updates from the final day of the International Junior Masters at the East Aurora Country Club, including from The News' Bob DiCesare, Taylor Nigrelli and photojournalist James P. McCoy, in the live blog below.

The semifinal matches began this morning, with the championship match scheduled for approximately 1:30 p.m.

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Post Time: Queen's Plate field shaping up

By Gene Kershner 

The 155th running of the Queen's Plate is just over a week away and the field is shaping up to be a competitive one. Woodbine is currently listing 14 probables for the oldest continuously run race in North America to be held on July 6 at the suburban Toronto track.

 Leading the way is Kentucky Derby qualifier We Miss Artie, son of 2005 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Artie Schiller, who won the Plate Trial stakes by 3/4-lengths in the key prep race for the Plate. Trained by five-time Eclipse winning trainer Todd Pletcher, the winter book favorite, will likely sustain that role when he steps in the gate a week from Sunday. Add Eclipse winning jockey Javier Castellano to the mix and you have the ingredients for a potential Canadian Triple Crown run.

On paper We Miss Artie is the one to beat on the Polytrack, but they don't run the race on paper. Several contenders will try and stack up to the favorite and give him a battle in the mile and a quarter race. 

Let's look at the top contenders he will face on Plate day, in no particular order.

Running notebook: Blowing up Facebook

Edna Hyer turned into a media superstar this week.

When the story on her from last Sunday's News was posted on Facebook, about 100 people shared it with others - and more than 1,800 saw the post. I saw her at a race on Wednesday night, I suggested that she start autographing the story ... for a mere $25.

She said she forgot to tell me a story about one of her first races.

Live from the International Junior Masters

Follow updates from the International Junior Masters, including from The News' Bob DiCesare, Taylor Nigrelli and Harry Scull Jr.

Live Blog Thursday Live from International Junior Masters

Tight Quarters at Junior Masters

By Bob DiCesare

Last year it took a record 36-hole score of 152 to advance to the championship flight at the International Junior Masters at East Aurora Country Club. This year's field is on pace to match that number.

Thirty-six players shot 76 or better today, with one group still on the course after a late starting time necessitated by morning exams. Thirty-two qualify for the championship flight.

The co-leaders in the clubhouse at 3-under 68 are Andres Gonzalez of Mexico and Paul Edgar of Kitchener, Ont. Three shots back at even-par 71 are Javier Gonzalez of Boca Del Rio, Mexico (Andres' younger brother) and Evan Santa of Edgewater, Md.

The low local pending results of the final group was Ben Reichert, a jnior-to-be at Williamsville North. He shot 73. Defending championTrevor Ranton of Waterloo, Ont., is solidly in the mix at 74.

Last year there was a five-man playoff for the final three spots in the championship flight.

Post Time: Friday racing notebook

By Gene Kershner 

Summer racing is just around the corner, it's hard to believe that in four short weeks it will be opening day at Saratoga Race Course.  The Queen's Plate and coverage by The News is just around the corner on July 6 as well.

Some random thoughts as we put the Triple Crown season in the rear view mirror and look forward to a great summer of racing…

It was a riveting Triple Crown series with another failed attempt at the troika by a valiant horse who gave his all in the Belmont. We'll never know how much the cut foot on California Chrome's right front really bothered him in the race. One thing we do know is that it surely couldn't have enhanced his effort.

A number of stories have been written about changing the Triple Crown series as is done every year ad nauseum. I once thought spacing the races out made some sense using the First Saturday concept of May, June and July, but I've since changed my tune being closer to the series. The Belmont would really get lost in the July 4th holiday if that was the case.

One thing I would change is who qualifies to run in the races, especially the Belmont. Matterhorn, the horse that stepped on Chrome's foot, was never even graded-stakes placed, but could run in the Belmont. Something needs to give here. Horses that have been stakes-placed and have earned Derby points (or maybe TC points for races like the Peter Pan) should be the only ones allowed to enter.  Matuszak would have been the other horse that wouldn't have qualified under this parameter.

In I'll Have Another's year, several horses hadn't even run in a stakes race but ran in the Belmont. Stalwarts including Five Sixteen, Unstoppable U, and Guyana Star Dweej were all entered in the 2012 Belmont.  Am I painting a picture?

The Breeders' Cup announced the track rotation for the next three years, being Keeneland (2015), Santa Anita (2016) and Del Mar (2017). Both Keeneland and Del Mar will hold their inaugural Breeders' Cups and I have to say I'm excited for both of them and a change of pace from Santa Anita and Churchill Downs. Back in 2009, I actually nailed Keeneland in the 2015 year, in a post on the Blood-horse website; just don't pay any attention to my other predictions.

Speaking of predictions, I'm currently 4-for-7 in my 2014 Racing Kreskin post last December, already doubling my 2013 total. The stinking Haskell hat projection eluded me again this year.  It's orange, if you were curious.

We Miss Artie propelled himself into the favorite role for the 2014 Queen's Plate with a win in Sunday's Plate Trial Stakes at Woodbine by 3/4-lenghts over Majestic Sunset. A shorter field than normal is still not expected even with the presence of the son of Artie Schiller. The Plate Trial drew only seven entries including the Todd Pletcher-trained winner, but 15 horses are currently probable for the Plate.

I'd say We Miss Artie has as good a chance as any horse in recent years to capture the Canadian Triple Crown, first since 2003 when Wando pulled off the feat. The 3-year-old colt who finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby should have no issues with turf, his sire Artie Schiller won the Breeders' Cup Mile in 2004. It will likely come down to the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Race Track on Tuesday, July 29 on dirt as the race that will be the toughest of the three.  The final leg, the Breeders' Stakes, is run on turf at Woodbine in August.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

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Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.