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Stewart Elliott after his Preakness win on Smarty Jones.

Stewart Elliott to ride in the 2004 Queen's Plate

Date: 6/16/04

Toronto-born Stewart Elliott, who has been on the ride of his life this year as the pilot of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, will make his first appearance at Woodbine in 17 years when he climbs aboard Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Long Pond in the $1-million Queen's Plate, Sunday June 27.

Elliott has been confirmed as the rider for Melynk's Plate hopeful, who is unbeaten in two starts this year for trainer Mark Casse. Kent Ridge, who will be ridden by Patrick Husbands, is also expected to carry Melnyk's colours in the 'Gallop for the Guineas'. To add to the excitement of the 145th edition of the Queen's Plate, Woodbine will hold a public autograph signing with Stewart Elliott Sunday morning from 10 a.m. until noon on the track's second floor. Elliott will sign posters, among other items, in the two-hour session. Fans will also have the opportunity to purchase Smarty Jones merchandise at a booth erected near the signing area.

Eugene Melnyk after winning the True North Breeders' Cup with Speightstown on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
Melnyk won the 1998 Plate with Archers Bay and that year brought in jockey Kent Desormeaux, fresh from his Triple Crown bid aboard Real Quiet, to ride his colt. Like Elliott, Desormeaux won both the Derby and Preakness, then just missed in the Belmont. Desormeaux thus equaled the feat of Bill Hartack, who won the Derby (as well as the Preakness) and the Queen's Plate, albeit aboard the same horse, Canada's own Northern Dancer in 1964. Now, the 39-year-old Elliott has a chance to do the same thing, that is, win arguably the best known races in the United States and Canada in the same year.

"It was Eugene's idea," said Casse, of acquiring Elliott's services. "We talked about it and I thought it was a great idea. It's kind of neat. Eugene had luck with Archers Bay doing the same thing. Eugene loves racing and he loves to do things for racing. He thought it would be a great thing for everybody, for the Queen's Plate, for Woodbine, for racing."

Long Pond, a $140,000 (US) Keeneland yearling purchase, had only two starts last year, finishing fourth, then second on the turf. This year, he's won both his outings, including a one-length allowance score over a mile and one-sixteenth on June 6. The son of Grand Slam will be making his stakes debut in the Plate.

Trainer Mark Casse at the Queen's Plate barbecue.
"Last year, he was plagued by some minor injuries but he's over them and I think that's why he's performed better this year," continued Casse. "I'll work him this weekend, Saturday or Sunday, probably five-eighths. There's no question the horse to beat is Catherine's (trainer Day Phillips) colt (Plate Trial winner A Bit O' Gold). Besides him, I think we've got as good a shot as anybody. I'm hoping our colt will move forward. He's coming off a pretty easy race."

While Elliott has never ridden for Casse before, he added, "I've watched him ride and he's a very good rider. I'm very happy to have him." Elliott, who has won over 3,300 races and has been the leading rider at Philadelphia Park for the last few seasons, last rode at Woodbine in 1987, winning 22 races that year. His mother, Myhill and uncle, trainer Bill Stewart still work on the Woodbine backstretch.

Full coverage of the Queen's Plate will kick off Tuesday next week with a preview of the contenders.

Queen's Plate info online:

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