One week after an exciting renewal of the Kentucky Derby, bettors will be treated to a race of a similar sort when 14 of the best Canadian-bred 3-year-olds vie for victory in Saturday’s $1 million Queen’s Plate Stakes at Woodbine.
The historic race takes place over the same 1 1/4-mile distance as the “Run for the Roses,” but it’s actually an older event than the Derby, dating back to 1860. The Queen’s Plate has been contested every year without a miss and will celebrate its 161st renewal in 2020, though the upcoming edition has been postponed from its original June 27 date due to COVID-19.
Held over the synthetic Tapeta track at Woodbine, the Queen’s Plate has been a productive race for fillies. Whereas only three fillies have managed to win the Kentucky Derby, 37 have claimed top honors in the Queen’s Plate, including four in the last decade – Inglorious (2011), Lexie Lou (2014), Holy Helena (2017), and Wonder Gadot (2018).
Two fillies have been entered in the 2020 Queen’s Plate, including the talented #10 Curlin’s Voyage, who appears to have victory within her reach. A consistent daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, the chestnut sophomore has cracked the top three in eight of her nine starts for hot trainer Josie Carroll.
Curlin’s Voyage showed significant talent as a 2-year-old, winning the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes via disqualification and the 1 1/16-mile Ontario Lassie in outright fashion. In the latter race, Curlin’s Voyage unleashed a sustained and determined rally to defeat fellow filly and Queen’s Plate contender #2 Merveilleux by a head.
Breaking quickly from the starting gate has never been a strong suit for Curlin’s Voyage, but she compensates with her late rallies. After finishing second in the Star Shoot Stakes and first in the Fury Stakes (both sprints) to kick off 2020, Curlin’s Voyage stretched out over 1 1/8 miles for the Aug. 15 Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser and boldly rallied up the rail on the far turn to seize command and win comfortably by 1 3/4 lengths.
The eye-catching inside move Curlin’s Voyage unleashed in the Woodbine Oaks showed she doesn’t mind racing through traffic, a significant asset for a race like the Queen’s Plate. As a late runner she may have to thread her way through the pack to reach contention, so her willingness to rally through small openings is a big positive. With veteran jockey Patrick Husbands in the saddle, Curlin’s Voyage looms as a major threat to reach the winner’s circle on Saturday.
Her main opposition could come from #12 Clayton, the morning line favorite with Woodbine’s leading jockey Rafael Hernandez aboard. An improving son of Bodemeister, Clayton is 3-for-4 overall and 2-for-2 since stretching out beyond a mile, most recently battling to a narrow victory in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial Stakes at Woodbine.
But it’s worth noting the Woodbine Oaks and the Plate Trial were held on the same afternoon, barely more than an hour apart, and Curlin’s Voyage ran a significantly faster race. Whereas Clayton required 1:50.61 to win the Plate Trial, Curlin’s Voyage claimed the Woodbine Oaks in 1:50.04.
The Plate Trial did unfold at a much slower pace than the Woodbine Oaks, a meaningful factor in the slower final time. But Curlin’s Voyage was also a more decisive winner, since Clayton was all-out to beat #6 Halo Again and #9 Dotted Line in a three-way battle to the finish line. Taking all of these factors together, I’m tempted to view Curlin’s Voyage as a more likely winner of the Queen’s Plate than Clayton.
If there’s a longshot who can get involved for a strong finish on Saturday, it’s likely the above-mentioned Merveilleux, who rallied resiliently to finish third by 2 1/4 lengths in the Woodbine Oaks. Visually this was an impressive performance, as Merveilleux had to fight her way between runners at the top of the stretch before gaining a lot of ground down the lane.
Merveilleux’s narrow defeat against Curlin’s Voyage in the 2019 Ontario Lassie hints she has the ability to compete at this level. And while she rallied from far off the pace in the Woodbine Oaks, Merveilleux has shown plenty of tactical speed in the past, so there’s a chance she’ll secure a more forwardly-placed position on Saturday. Keep in mind, Merveilleux has displayed an abundance of speed in recent workouts, blazing five-eighths of a mile in :58.40 on Aug. 29 and a half-mile in :47 on Sept. 5.
So how should we bet the Queen’s Plate Stakes? If you’re playing on a small budget, I recommend playing Curlin’s Voyage and Merveilleux on top of Clayton, Halo Again, and Dotted Line in the exacta. For players with more capital to spend, employing the same strategy in the trifecta could lead to lucrative returns. Use ABR's Gambling Calculator to construct your bets.
Wagering Strategy A: Exactas
$3 exacta: 2,10 with 2,6,9,10,12 ($24)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $3 exacta 2,10 with 2,6,9,10,12
Wagering Strategy B: Trifectas
$2 trifecta: 2,10 with 2,6,9,10,12 with 2,6,9,10,12 ($48)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $2 trifecta 2,10 with 2,6,9,10,12 with 2,6,9,10,12
Good luck, and enjoy the race!