Betting the 2021 Queen’s Plate Stakes on a Budget

Gambling
Fans handicap the races during the Queen’s Plate card at Woodbine in 2019. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

Arguably no horse race in North America comes up more competitive and tougher to handicap on an annual basis than the $1 million Queen’s Plate Stakes at Woodbine.

Canada’s equivalent to the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve is held over Woodbine’s synthetic Tapeta course at a distance of 1 ¼ miles. Restricted to horses foaled in Canada, the Queen’s Plate typically draws a blend of horses stepping up out of easier races and dropping down out of graded stakes events, creating an extremely difficult race for horseplayers to decipher.

weekend Television schedule

Saturday, Aug. 21: 2 p.m.-7 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, Aug. 22: 1 p.m.-4 p.m. on FS2; 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on FS1; post time varies on TVG

Sunday’s renewal of the Queen’s Plate has drawn 13 starters, and separating them is difficult. But after analyzing the field, the following five horses stand out among the most appealing:

#1 Safe Conduct: Switching to Tapeta is a question mark for Safe Conduct, who has run exclusively on dirt and turf so far. But the son of Bodemeister is exiting a tough renewal of the 1 ¼-mile Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes and displayed a nice finishing kick to win a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming race at Belmont Park during the spring, so we know he has some talent.

Three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. is slated to ride Safe Conduct, who has enough tactical speed to be prominent from the outset. If Safe Conduct can work out a clean, ground-saving trip from the rail draw, he can factor for a top-four finish in the Queen’s Plate.

#2 Harlan Estate: This Kevin Attard trainee might be a 12-1 longshot on the morning line, but I believe he can vie for victory in the Queen’s Plate. The son of Kantharos spent his first six starts facing quality turf horses on the Southern California circuit, most notably finishing fifth behind future Grade 1 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World in the Feb. 27 Pasadena Stakes.

But Harlan Estate has taken a step forward since returning from a spring layoff at Woodbine. In a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming race on June 19, Harlan Estate made an arguably premature rally to the front before settling for second place by just half a length. Then in an identical race over 1 1/8 miles, Harlan Estate rallied boldly from behind a pedestrian pace to win by a nose.

Harlan Estate finished genuinely fast in his allowance win (sprinting the final three-eighths of a mile in approximately :36.65) and will be guided in the Queen’s Plate by jockey Kazushi Kumura, a 30% winner when teaming up with Attard. Count out this improving colt at your own risk.

#6 Munnyfor Ro: Although just three fillies have won the Kentucky Derby, 37 have claimed top honors in the Queen’s Plate, including four in the last decade. Munnyfor Ro is the latest filly to tackle the Queen’s Plate, and her credentials are strong. A maiden winner on turf at Keeneland, Munnyfor Ro has run twice over the Woodbine Tapeta course this summer, finishing second in the Grade 3 Selene Stakes before claiming victory in the Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser.

In the Woodbine Oaks, Munnyfor Ro squared off against fellow Canadian-breds and rallied gamely to win by 1 ¼ lengths with a sharp 92 Brisnet Speed rating. A repeat of this effort will make Munnyfor Ro a formidable contender in the Queen’s Plate.

Keep Grinding (Michael Burns/Woodbine Photo)

#8 Keep Grinding: Slowly but surely, Keep Grinding is making positive progress. A maiden winner racing 1 1/16 miles over the Woodbine Tapeta last fall, Keep Grinding outran expectations when finishing second in Woodbine’s 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Marine Stakes last month, beaten just two lengths after rallying into an unremarkable early pace.

Keep Grinding finished well in the Marine, running the final five-sixteenths of a mile in approximately :30.46, and his 90 Brisnet Speed rating ranks among the higher figures in the Queen’s Plate field. If he improves while stretching out over 1 ¼ miles, Keep Grinding can live up to his name and grind his way to a top-four finish.

#11 Avoman: From a pace perspective, nothing went Avoman’s way in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial Stakes at Woodbine last month. The early fractions (:25.35, :51.06, and 1:15.93) were painfully slow, so Avoman – rallying from last place in a four-horse field – could have been forgiven if he’d failed to challenge. But instead, the dark bay gelding closed resolutely to win by three-quarters of a length.

Jockey Antonio Gallardo and trainer Donald MacRae have been hot this meet, and they’ve gone 3-for-3 together over the last two months (through Aug. 19). Avoman continues to train sharply at Woodbine, and as a sibling to three stakes winners, he has the pedigree to be a classy racehorse. If he gets a better pace setup to work with in the Queen’s Plate, Avoman can potentially visit the winner’s circle.

So how do we turn all of these opinions into a viable betting strategy? By spreading deep, that’s how. We’ll favor Harlan Estate in all our wagers, counting on him to finish first or second in order to cash. But for the remaining slots of exacta and trifecta tickets, we’ll use Safe Conduct, Munnyfor Ro, Keep Grinding, and Avoman in equal strength.

Wagering Strategy on a $12 Budget

$4 to win on #2 Harlan Estate

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $4 to win on 2

$1 exacta: 2 with 1,6,8,11 ($4)

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $1 exacta 2 with 1,6,8,11

$1 exacta: 1,6,8,11 with 2 ($4)

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $1 exacta 1,6,8,11 with 2

Wagering Strategy on a $24 Budget

$8 to win on #2 Harlan Estate

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $8 to win on 2

$2 exacta: 2 with 1,6,8,11 ($8)

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $2 exacta 2 with 1,6,8,11

$2 exacta: 1,6,8,11 with 2 ($8)

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $2 exacta 1,6,8,11 with 2

Wagering Strategy on a $50 Budget

$10 to win on #2 Harlan Estate

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $10 to win on 2

$2 exacta: 2 with 1,6,8,11 ($8)

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $2 exacta 2 with 1,6,8,11

$2 exacta: 1,6,8,11 with 2 ($8)

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $2 exacta 1,6,8,11 with 2

$1 trifecta: 2 with 1,6,8,11 with 1,6,8,11 ($12)

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $1 trifecta 2 with 1,6,8,11 with 1,6,8,11

$1 trifecta: 1,6,8,11 with 2 with 1,6,8,11 ($12)

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $1 trifecta 1,6,8,11 with 2 with 1,6,8,11

Good luck, and enjoy the race!

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