The results of the 2022 Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve have been in the history books for more than a month, but the 2022 Queen’s Plate Stakes – Canada’s equivalent to the Derby – won’t be contested until Aug. 21. That means pivotal prep races for the Queen’s Plate are only now getting underway, with Sunday’s $125,000 Queenston Stakes at Woodbine a prominent example.
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The Queenston is contested over seven-eighths of a mile on Tapeta, the synthetic racing surface installed at Woodbine. Tapeta can be tricky for some horses to handle, so betting on horses with proven Tapeta form is often a sound strategy.
Experience with the local footing is a positive offered by #5 The Minkster. The son of turf champion English Channel began his career over the Woodbine grass course last fall, flashing front-running speed to smash a maiden special weight sprint by 6 ¼ lengths. But The Minkster was just as impressive when switching to Tapeta for the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity, tracking a slow pace before taking command to win by 2 ¼ lengths.
The Minkster clearly has talent, and his versatility is admirable. But is he the most likely winner of the Queenston? He hasn’t run since Oct. 30, so the layoff is a question mark. And in terms of Brisnet Speed ratings, The Minkster’s career-best 82 ranks among the slower numbers in the Queenston field, suggesting he’ll need improvement in his 3-year-old bow to challenge for top honors.
In contrast, none of these concerns surround #7 Rondure. A son of Grade 1 Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow, Rondure performed unremarkably in a pair of maiden sprints over the Woodbine Tapeta track last fall, finishing fifth and sixth. But he ran out of his skin when returning from a winter layoff on May 14, settling a couple lengths off the speed in a seven-furlong maiden special weight before pouncing to victory by an eye-catching 10 ¾ lengths.
Rondure was full of run down the homestretch of his maiden win, sprinting the final furlong in :11.79 to reach the finish line in 1:22.73 and earn a 92 Brisnet Speed rating. That’s tied for the highest figure posted by any horse in the Queenston field, so if Rondure can repeat the feat while stepping up in class, he’ll be tough to beat on Sunday.
Who are the other key contenders in the Queenston? #6 Duke of Love warrants respect. Conditioned by hot trainer Josie Carroll (a 24% winner at Woodbine this meet), Duke of Love is 2-for-2 over the Woodbine Tapeta, sandwiching victories in maiden an allowance sprints around a fifth-place finish in the Pulpit Stakes over the Gulfstream Park grass. Duke of Love was especially impressive in his May 7 allowance score, tracking the pace before drawing off to win by 5 ¼ lengths, and he has upside for further improvement after training sharply for his second run of the season.
We can’t overlook #3 His Time either. Hailing from the stable of Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse (also a 24% winner at Woodbine so far this spring), His Time was impressive in his debut sprinting over the Woodbine Tapeta on May 8. Heavily favored at odds of 1-2 to win a maiden special weight, His Time led by daylight at every call and ultimately won by two lengths over a next-out winner. The fact His Time will be ridden on Sunday by hot jockey Patrick Husbands (a 30% winner at Woodbine this meet) adds to the appeal.
#1 Ironstone hasn’t visited the winner’s circle in his last three starts, but he ran well on every occasions, placing second in the Display Stakes and Grade 3 Grey Stakes before coming home third in the Woodstock Stakes to kick off 2022. Ironstone dominated the Simcoe Stakes and Clarendon Stakes sprinting over the Woodbine Tapeta last year and has turned in a pair of fast workouts since the Woodstock, suggesting he can crack the top three on Sunday.
Then there’s #4 Hidden Honor. He failed to win in three starts last year, wrapping up the season with a 12th-place finish behind The Minkster in the Coronation Futurity. But Hidden Honor looked like a different horse in a maiden sprint on April 23 at Woodbine, sweeping from behind a modest pace to dominate by 2 ½ lengths with an 88 Brisnet Speed rating.
Clearly there’s a lot of talent and potential in the Queenston field, which is understandable for a Queen’s Plate prep 2 ½ months out from the big race. In formulating betting strategies, we’ll key Rondure on top of our tickets while using The Minkster, Duke of Love, His Time, Ironstone, and Hidden Honor in varying strengths underneath.
Wagering Strategy on a $20 Budget
$11 to win on #7 Rondure
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 9th race, $11 to win on 7
$3 Exacta: 7 with 1,3,4 ($9)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 9th race, $3 exacta 7 with 1,3,4
Wagering Strategy on a $50 Budget
$26 to win on #7 Rondure
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 9th race, $26 to win on 7
$1 Trifecta: 7 with 1,3,4 with 1,3,4,5,6 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 9th race, $1 trifecta 7 with 1,3,4 with 1,3,4,5,6
$1 Trifecta: 7 with 1,3,4,5,6 with 1,3,4 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 9th race, $1 trifecta 7 with 1,3,4,5,6 with 1,3,4
Good luck, and enjoy the race!