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Todd Kabel celebrates as Riding the River heads to the winner's circle after the Highlander Stakes.
Queen's Plate Day is one of the biggest racedays of the year at Woodbine, attracting the biggest crowd of the year. Those who filled the grandstand and the apron on Sunday afternoon were treated to five additional stakes races on the undercard, both run over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course which is outside of the main Polytrack oval. After a hot dry week in Toronto, Sunday was dark and overcast with intermittent showers and temperatures in the mid 70's.
The richest race on the undercard is the $250,000 King Edward Stakes (G2) presented by TVG. At 1 mile on the turf for older horses, is a very early prep for the Woodbine Mile (G1). A field of 6 went to post, with Hothersal sent off as the 2-1 favorite off a third place finish in the Eclipse (G3), over 5-2 Trend and 3-1 Hollinger.
7-1 Stormy Lord battled for the early lead with Hothersal through fractions of 23.30, 45.92, and 1:09.54. At the 3/16 pole the pacesetters tired, as 13-1 longest shot Riding the River, last early, rallied 6 wide to take the lead at the 1/8 pole and held off 7-2 Big Band Sound by a neck in 1:32.89 over the firm course. It was just a head back to late-running 3-1 Hollinger third.
Left: Riding the River in the winner's circle. Winner trainer Dave Cotey said, "We were hopping in the bar. Todd (Kabel) gave him an awesome ride. He sat back, and made his run. I love him for it. We needed that. The horse deserves a win. He always tries. He runs his guts out every time."
Right: Riding the River heads back to the barn.
The first graded stakes on the card was the $200,000 Highlander Stakes (G2) presented by Pizzaville for older horses sprinting 6 furlongs on the turf, a very early prep for the Nearctic Stakes (G2). Surfrider, an allowance winner at Belmont last out after finishing 5th in the Shakertown (G3) at Keeneland, was sent off as the 9-5 favorite in the field of 9 over 2-1 Fiddlers Patriot and 9-2 Gypsy Ring.
Jockey Jesse Campbell sent 6-1 Essence Hit Man to the lead and he set fast fractions of 21.93 and 43.83 over the firm course while stalked by 18-1 Artic Fern. Essence Hit Man opened up a 2 1/2 length lead midstretch through 5/8 in 55.33, but 18-1 Smokey Fire, 8th early, closed with a rush to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:07.77, just 0.38 seconds off the course record. It was just a nose back to late-running Gypsy Ring third.
Left: Smokey Fire in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva said, "He was running very focused. He kicked in and he was running strong. He was in great shape."
Right: Smokey Fire heads gets hosed off after the race. Trainer Sid Attard added, "When he was so far back, I was worried. I didn't want to see him get stuck in traffic. He ran a great race."
The longest race on Plate day is the $150,000 Singspiel Stakes (G3) for older horses going 1 1/2 miles on the turf, an early prep for the Pattison Canadian International (G1). Louisville Handicap (G3) winner Simmard was sent off as the 9-10 favorite in the field of 7 over last year's winner Musketier at 3-1 and Big Red Mike at 7-1.
Jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva sent 2010 Queen's Plate winner Big Red Mike to the lead and he set easy fractions of 25.48, 51.69, and 1:16.38 before tiring. Simmard who stalked the pace, assumed the lead at the end of the backstretch getting the mile in 1:40.11 and 1 1/4 in 2:04.44, leading into the lane. Musketier, 7th early, came through to collar Simmard at the 1/8 pole and outfinished him by a head in 2:28.07. It was a long 9 1/4 lengths back to late-running Cognashene third.
Left: Musketier in the winner's circle with trainer Roger Attfield at his hip. Attfield, who trained the first two finishers, said, "I was cheering for both of them. Musketier is a wonderful old horse. He's still a battler. I'm proud of both. I love them."
Right: Musketier returns after the race. Jockey Ramon Dominguez said, "He had a great turn of foot. He was in top form today. When he angled out, he had a great kick. The other horse wasn't giving up."
Kicking off the stakes action on Sunday was the $150,000 My Dear Stakes for 2-year-old fillies sprinting 5 furlongs on Polytrack. Just Got In, winner of her debut last out, was sent off as the 4-5 favorite in the field of 7 over 3-1 Ju Ju Eyeballs and 7-2 Lake Dancer. Jockey Chris Griffith sent Just Got In to the lead and she set fractions of 21.78 and 45.10 while pressed by Ju Ju Eyeballs. In the stretch, Ju Ju Eyeballs tired, as Just Got In held off late-running Lake Dancer to win by a neck in 59.11 It was another 1/2 length back to 44-1 Evangeline's Hope third.
Left: Just Got In in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Ricky Griffith said, "Her first race was like a breeze. She never got a test. She won by herself in hand. She's got some class."
Right: Just Got In heads to the winner's circle. Jockey Chris Griffith, brother of the trainer added, "To be honest, it felt like we were going too fast. I was trying to get my filly to relax and slow down a little bit. But she wouldn't have any part of it, so we just had to go on with it. Luckily, she held on. She was very tired but she kept fighting right to the wire."
The $100,000 Trillium Stakes featured a field of 7 older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack. Arlington Matron (G3) winner Upperline was sent off as the 6-5 favorite over 2-1 Stars to Shine and 7-2 Smart Penny. 34-1 Euro Platinum set the pace of 24.69 and 49.39 on the fast track, before Stars to Shine took over down the backstretch, getting 3/4 in 1:13.26. Stars to Shine held the lead into the stretch, getting 1 mile in 1:38.03, and was all-out to hold off late-running Upperline late to win by a nose in 1:51.26. It was another 1/2 length back to Smart Penny third.
Left: Stars to Shine refused to go in the winner's circle, so instead they posed on the harness track.
Right: Stars to Shine heads to the winner's circle (but never entered). Winning trainer Mark Frostad said, "He's (jockey Alex Solis) sat on her a few times now and he did a great job with her."
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