King's Plate in Canada, 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga top weekend horse racing

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Moira and jockey Rafael Hernandez, are shown winning the 2022 Queen's Plate, are favorites in Sunday's Grade II Dance Smartly Stakes at Woodbine. Michael Burns photo, courtesy of Woodbine
1 of 2 | Moira and jockey Rafael Hernandez, are shown winning the 2022 Queen's Plate, are favorites in Sunday's Grade II Dance Smartly Stakes at Woodbine. Michael Burns photo, courtesy of Woodbine

Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Three-year-old fillies slug things out in the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga in a weekend horse racing highlight, while the Canada's premier race reverts to its previous name, "King's Plate," and goes to the post for the 164th consecutive year.

Del Mar and Monmouth Park also host important stakes races.


Internationally, Japan gets its autumn season cranking with the Sapporo Kinen, and Australia kicks off its sprint season with the Winx Stakes and an eye on the immediate future. This week's Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" is in France and a good race it is, too.

Trouver le cheval!


Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park look like a perfect spot for Zozos.

The 4-year-old is 6-for-9 and has won three straight including stakes events at Churchill Downs and Ellis Park in his two most recent starts for trainer Brad Cox.


He was second in the 2022 Louisiana Derby and not disgraced finishing 10th in the Kentucky Derby. Some of the other five are nice horses but not, on form, as good as Zozos.

The King's Plate

For the first time in most people's memory, Sunday's $1 million (Canadian) race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds at Woodbine is the "King's Plate." The name change from the familiar "Queen's Plate," of course, reflects the death of Queen Elizabeth II and her succession by King Charles.

Labels aside, this is Canada's premier event and drew 17 entries plus two also-eligibles.

Throughout its 163 previous editions, the oldest continually run race in North America usually has been an intramural affair. But this year's favorite, Kalik, already is proven on the bigger stage and certainly will be looking for greener fields after this.

All six previous starts for the Chad Brown charge were on the New York circuit, including a victory in the Grade II Pennine Ridge at Belmont in June. He flopped in the Grade I Belmont Derby in his last, finishing eighth, but that was against far, far tougher foes.

Also in the King's Plate field are Woodbine Oaks winner Elysian Field and Plate Trial champ Paramount Prince, both trained by Mark Casse. They have done well on the Woodbine all-weather strip, but a good performance in the Plate could open doors.



Wet Paint and Gambling Girl, the fourth- and second-place finishers, respectively, from the Kentucky Oaks, are among 10 signed on for Saturday's $600,000 Grade I Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga.

Wet Paint is the morning-line favorite after winning the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks July 22 at the Spa. Gambling Girl was third in that.

Oaks winner Pretty Mischievous went on from Louisville to win the Grade I Acorn and Grade I Test. She swerves this and risks her status atop the division should Wet Paint put up a good one. There are a few potential upsetters.


Patches O'Houlihan seeks his fifth straight win in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Bold Venture Stakes on the Woodbine all-weather.

It's a big step up in class, though, and he's only second-favorite on the morning line after Candy Overload. Flag of Honour makes his first start after shipping in from Australia. Sprinters are the big deal Down Under, so we'll see.

Filly & Mare Turf

Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Del Mar Oaks drew a well-matched field of 10 with Anisette as the morning-line favorite.

The British-bred filly has won three in a row, starting on the Wolverhampton all-weather and most recently the Grade II San Clemente over the Del Mar grass. Impact Warrior, Be Your Best, Window Shopping, Ruby Nell and Big Pond all are worth a look.


Chad Brown saddles five of the 10 3-year-old fillies entered for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga and Todd Pletcher has two.

Brown's herd comprises:

Prerequisite, won the Grade II Wonder Again at Woodbine, second in the Grade I Belmont Oaks.

Aspray, won her first three, fourth in the Belmont Oaks; Surge Capacity, undefeated after two starts and won the Grade III Lake George in her last.

Tax Implications, three straight seconds, lately in the Lake George.

Undervalued Asset, 2-for-5 and looking for her first stakes win, is in only if the race comes off the grass.

Pletcher counters with Junipermarshmallow, undefeated after two and a minor stakes winner at Gulfstream Park in her last, and Soviet Excess, third in the Wild Applause Stakes at Belmont Park.

Cox entered Heavenly Sunday, winner of the Grade II Edgewood at Keeneland. The Brendan Walsh-trained Gloria's Princess is not out of the question.

Leave No Trace, second in the 2022 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, is another MTO entry.

Moira will defend Canadian honor against two tough New York invaders in Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian) Grade II Dance Smartly Stakes at Woodbine.

Moira, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly, won last year's Woodbine Oaks and Queen's Plate and finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. After just missing victory in her 2023 debut, she finished second to the talented Fev Rover in the Grade II Nassau July 1.


Brown ships Salimah, winner of three of her last four, and Neil Drysdale sends up Miss Dracarys, making her first start since winning the Forever Together Stakes at Aqueduct in November.

Neige Blanche and Queenof the Temple are the early favorites in a field of nine for Friday's $100,000 CTT and TOC Stakes at Del Mar.

Turf Mile

Shirl's Speight, winless since the Grade I Maker's Mark Mile in April 2022, nonetheless is the morning-line favorite for Saturday's $200,000 (Canadian) Grade II King Edward Stakes at Woodbine.

Despite the victory drought, the 6-year-old son of Speightstown has been productive, finishing second in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile and fourth in the Group 1 Dubai Turf in March. If he's not ready off the five-months layoff, this is a wide-open affair.

Turf Sprint

Clitheroe tops a field of seven entered for Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Sweet Briar Too Stakes for fillies and mares at Woodbine. The British-bred 4-year-old finished second in the Grade Hendrie Stakes in her last start.

Juvenile Turf

Friday's $150,000 Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga has an overflow field with No Nay Mets as the 7-5 favorite on the morning line.

The No Nay Never colt won the Royal Palm Juvenile in May at Gulfstream Park and the Tyro Stakes at Monmouth in July. In between, he finished ninth in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, tiring after racing prominently.


Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Soaring Free Stakes at Woodbine has a promising field of 11, including a few up from south of the border. Go figure. One would like to think Four Strong Winds is named in a nod to Ian Tyson, the Canadian folk singer who penned the excellent song of the same name and died last December.

Juvenile Fillies Turf

Amidst Waves looks like the star in Sunday's $150,000 Bolton Landing Stakes at Saratoga. The Midshipman filly has won two in a row including the Colleen Stakes at Monmouth Park. The other five have yet to beat winners.

Eleven fillies reported for Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Catch a Glimpse Stakes at Woodbine. While it's hard to separate them, Living Magic returns as winner of the My Dear Stakes over the course in her last start July 15.

Juvenile Fillies

Sunday's $200,000 Sorority Stakes at Monmouth Park has Princess Indy, fifth in the Grade III Adirondack at Saratoga in her last start, and Wine on Tap and Kiss For Luck, fourth and seventh in the Grade III Schuylerville at the Spa.

After that, it's maiden winners and a few still looking for that first photo session.

Around the world, around the clock



Sunday's Group 1 Jean Romanet for fillies and mares at 2,000 meters and Group 1 Morny for 2-year-olds at 1,200 meters are the continental features -- both at Deauville. The Prix Morny is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.

Pending final declarations, Via Sistina, winner of the Group 1 Pretty Polly stakes at the Curragh, but a well-beaten third in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes in her last, looks imposing in the Jean Romanet.

Above the Curve, second in the Group 1 Nassau at Goodwood in her last, could be pointing toward a repeat Breeders' Cup trip. She was seventh in last year's Filly & Mare Turf.

The Morny, again preliminarily, has some good ones. Ramatuelle, trained by Christopher Head, has won three of four, lately the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin at Chantilly. Valiant Force exits a win in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Jasour was last seen winning the Group 2 July Stakes at Newmarket. Vandeek overcame a slow start to win the Group 2 Richmond Stakes at Goodwood two weeks past.

Sacred Angel comes off a victory in the Group 3 Princess Margaret at Ascot. Three entries from Aiden O'Brien include undefeated Group 2 Coventry Stakes winner River Tiber and Johannes Brahms, runner-up in the Windsor Castle Stakes, also at the Royal meeting.



With the Matildas eliminated from the Women's World Cup, attention turns back to racing and, fortunately, Saturday's Winx Stakes at Royal Randwick is well worthy of note.

The 1,400 meters is a target in its own right but also an early-season prep for bigger goals down the road, including the Cox Plate. This year's field includes Think It Over, Zaaki, Mo'unga and Arapaho. But the relative fitness of the runners after winter layoffs makes handicapping a big tricky.


Friday's Elite Universal British EBF Maiden Stakes at Newmarket doesn't immediately come to top of mind on a list of important 2-year-old fixtures. That's until Frankel's name, along with a raft more future stars, pops up on the winner's list.

This year's leading contender, at evens on the antepost market, is Oddyssey, a Ulysses (what else?) colt who finished third last month behind Coolmore's latest budding star, City of Troy.

But note that was 9 3/4 lengths back of the winner, a Justify colt who's likely to show up next month in the Group 1 Goffs Vincente O'Brien National at the Curragh.

Also supported in the Friday race is Godolphin's first-timer Kingdom of Time. He's by Dubawi out of the Galileo mare Via Condotti and William Buick is booked to ride.



Sunday's Sapporo Kinen is only a Grade 2 event but that's just a number. Boasting a field full of horses who have contested Group 1 and Grade I races around the world, it's a gateway to the rest of the year's biggest events, including the Japan Cup in November.

Danon Beluga and Shahryar both have run well in Dubai. Jack d'Or, Hishi Iguazu and Win Marilyn all have competed with honor at home and in Hong Kong. Others have featured in local Grade 1 races during the past several years.

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