TORONTO, July 21, 2023 – The $150,000 Plate Trial Stakes, a key prep on the road to this year’s King’s Plate (August 20), has drawn 12 hopefuls, including Stanley House and Simcoe, Sunday at Woodbine.
The 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial, for 3-year-olds foaled in Canada, has attracted top contenders being pointed towards the 164th edition of the longest continually run stakes race in North America.
Stanley House, trained by Mike De Paulo for John and Diana Russell, will make his stakes debut in what will be his seventh lifetime start.
The son of Army Mule-Stormy’s Song, bred in Ontario by Elevage II, LLC, and St. Elias Stables, LLC, grabbed De Paulo’s attention immediately.
“I liked him when we bought him,” said De Paulo, of the $120,000 (U.S.) purchase at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale. “It was a bit of a gamble because he is from a first-year sire and the first foal out of the mare, so you were basically just looking at an athlete. We had him broke in Ocala with Mike Cooke and he liked him all along. Any time he did something, he did it well. He’s always had a lot of class and showed ability in every work he had.”
“He’s calm and laid-back,” added De Paulo’s wife, assistant trainer Josie De Paulo. “You’d never know he’s a colt. Our son Joe rubs him, and they are just like one another.”
Stanley House debuted last November at Woodbine and finished second in a 5 ½-furlong race on the Tapeta. One race later, on December 4, the dark bay posted another runner-up effort.
He made his 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream on February 16, a fifth-place performance at one mile and 70 yards on the main track, before breaking his maiden next time out at the Florida oval, in a 1 1/16-mile run over the same course.
“His first race at Gulfstream, when he was fifth, I was a little disappointed. But it was the first time I had run him long and he came back, literally, with three shoes on. He had some wolf teeth that were bothering him, so we took care of that. Next time out, he came back and won nicely.”
On May 5, Stanley House, back at his Woodbine home, finished second in a 1 1/16-mile race over the Tapeta.
“The winner (4-year-old Tyson) came back to win the Dominion Day (G3), so he was runner-up to a very good older horse.”
Stanley House rides into his latest engagement off a winning effort on June 18 when he rallied to record a one-length score over 1 1/16 miles on the Tapeta.
“He finished strong and that’s the way he works and runs. Luis [jockey Contreras] had to stand up to pull him up on the backstretch. There was no easing to wire, he was running through it.”
De Paulo, who has 954 career wins, is in search of his first King’s Plate victory.
For now, he’ll focus his attention on the Plate Trial with a horse who has stamped himself as a top contender for this year’s $1 million Canadian classic slated for August 20.
“We’ll just look to keep the winning streak going. Ideally, it would be nice to win the race and not take too much out of him. Obviously, we are aiming for the King’s Plate, but for now, we’ll set our sights on Sunday. There are some people that say his sire means he won’t be able to get the Plate distance of a mile and a quarter, but Army Mule ran three times and won all those starts, including a Grade 1, and he’s from the A.P. Indy sire line. The mother is by Unbridled’s Song, and there is plenty of stamina with Unbridled, so we’ll just have to show them.”
Simcoe, a son of Uncle Mo-Aurora Lights, goes after his third win in what will be the gelding’s sixth career start.
Trained by Katerina Vassilieva, Simcoe finished fifth in his most recent outing, the 1 1/16-mile main track Marine (G3) on July 1.
“He had a bit of a rough trip last time out,” said Vassilieva. “He got walled-in behind horses and stuck on the inside rail. So, it was not the ideal trip. I noticed that he galloped out really well and that meant it wasn’t a case of the horse getting tired or not getting the distance. The race didn’t play out the way we would have liked, so for those reasons, we’re coming back on what I would view as a short period of time. It’s 22 days between races, but I believe the horse deserves another chance and a better trip.”
Bred and owned by Chiefswood Stable, Simcoe, unraced at two, debuted in February at Gulfstream, finishing fifth in a six-furlong race. Six weeks later, also at the Hallandale oval, he was fourth in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race.
The third time proved to be the charm for the dark bay, who broke his maiden over 1 1/16 miles on the Woodbine Tapeta on May 7. He then doubled up at the same distance and over the same surface on June 4.
“I think his first win at Woodbine was the more impressive one to me because he got into a similar traffic trouble situation there, where he got stopped and checked a couple of times. You might expect him to stop running, but he kept on running. That showed some maturity on his part, that he was able to overcome those factors.”
Vassilieva, off to an outstanding start to the 2023 Woodbine season, is confident Simcoe can tackle the Plate Trial distance.
“He’s a plodder, a large, imposing horse, who is one-paced. But I do think that he can get the mile and one eighth, and beyond. He’s very laid-back, very professional. He loves his job. He’s just a true athlete.”
Mark Casse, who won the 2013 Plate Trial with Dynamic Sky, the 2018 edition with Telekenisis, and last year’s running with Sir for Sure, will send out Paramount Prince on Sunday.
Owned by Michael Langlois and Gary Barber, the son of Society’s Chairman-Platinum Steel owns a 1-2-1 record from four starts and comes into the race off a second in the seven-furlong Queenston Stakes on June 11.
“He’s got to step up his game,” noted Casse, of the Ericka Rusnak-bred gelding. “It’s going two turns, so we’ll see. Keeping our fingers crossed on that one.”
First post time for Sunday’s card, which includes the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser, along with the $175,000 Connaught Cup Stakes Presented by Bulleit Bourbon (G2T), and $150,000 Trillium Stakes Presented by Stella Artois (G3), is 1:05 p.m. Fans can also watch and wager on all the action through HPIbet.com and the Dark Horse Bets app.
FIELD FOR THE $150,000 PLATE TRIAL
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Tiburon – Manuel Franco – Kevin Attard
2 – Guns n’ Rojas (S) – Ryan Munger – Angus Buntain
3 – Paramount Prince – Patrick Husbands – Mark Casse
4 – Stanley House – Luis Contreras – Michael De Paulo
5 – Velocitor – Justin Stein – Kevin Attard
6 – Twin City – Gary Boulanger – Stuart Simon
7 – Pat’s Gamble (S) – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Kevin Attard
8 – Forest Buzz (S) – Eswan Flores – Sid Attard
9 – Philip My Dear – Kazushi Kimura – Kevin Attard
Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms
Churchtown tops competitive field of 10 in Woodbine’s Grade 2 Connaught Cup
Toronto, July 21, 2023 – Churchtown, who began his current campaign with a pair of gutsy second-place finishes south of the border, has been back at Woodbine since early May and will be looking to return to the winner’s circle in Sunday’s Connaught Cup Presented by Bulleit Bourbon.
The Connaught Cup (G2T), a seven-furlong race on the E.P. Taylor Turf, which offers a purse of $175,000, has attracted a solid field of 10 older horses.
“He’s training very, very well,” said Roger Attfield, who conditions Churchtown for William Harrigan and Mike Pietrangelo. “I expect him to run very well here. We gave him quite a bit of time off, to get ready for this race.”
Churchtown, a close second in the one-mile Toronto Cup on the Taylor surface last year, went on to become a stakes winner in the 1 1/16-mile Gio Ponti over Aqueduct turf.
After winding up his sophomore campaign with a seventh-place finish in in the Tropical Park Derby on Gulfstream’s Tapeta surface, the Kentucky-bred 4-year-old gelding was back in action there April 1 and was a battling second, beaten a half-length by Steady On in the Appleton Stakes over one mile of turf.
Five weeks later, Churchtown stopped over at Churchill Downs on his way north and suffered another tough beat, dropping a head decision to the Grade 1 winner Annapolis in the May 4 Opening Verse, also over one mile on the grass.
“That last race was an excellent, excellent race, no question about that,” said Attfield. “That was a nice horse that beat him. He’s a real fighter, this guy. His last two races were two-turn races, and this is seven furlongs, with the one sweeping turn. But I don’t think that makes any difference, really.”
Bound for Nowhere, the senior member of the field, is 9 years old but has made just 22 career starts under the judicious handling of owner/trainer Wesley Ward.
“I don’t race him so often, because he’s been so good to us,” said Ward. “I give him every winter off. I think that’s one of the reasons for the longevity.”
The Kentucky-bred will be making his third appearance on the Taylor course after winning last year’s Highlander (G2T) and running second in the Nearctic (G2), both at six furlongs.
The Connaught Cup, however, will be the first race as far as seven furlongs since the fall of 2019 for the multiple stakes winner whose resume includes a close third-place finish in Ascot’s 2018 running of the Grade 1 Diamond Jubilee, one of his four trips across the pond.
“That’s why I chose this race, because of the distance” said Ward, who supplemented Bound for Nowhere to the Connaught Cup at a cost of $2,625. “I think one of the best races of his life was at Belmont, going seven-eighths. He won an allowance race there (on Oct 25, 2019). At this stage I think five, 5 ½ furlongs is a little too short for him.”
Also invading for the Connaught Cup is Dreams of Tomorrow, who is shipping in from Saratoga off a respectable fifth-place finish in Belmont’s Poker (G3T) over one mile of turf for trainer Shug McGaughey.
Dream Shake is another intriguing prospect. The Kentucky-bred, briefly on the Kentucky Derby trail in 2021, was an impressive winner when making his local debut at seven furlongs on the Tapeta in his second start back from a lengthy layoff for new trainer Michael Stidham.
Lucky Score, winner of Woodbine’s Highlander on Canada Day, will be looking to repeat in his second start for trainer Mark Casse following a private purchase.
Luckman, upset winner of last year’s Toronto Cup at the direct expense of Churchtown, comes into the Connaught Cup off a one-mile score under allowance terms on the inner turf course.
Rounding out the field will be War Bomber, winner of the Toronto Cup in 2021; Roaring Forties, successful in the restricted Sunshine Turf Gulfstream this January; and the Marty Drexler-trained pair of Old Chestnut and Banff, both minor turf stakes winners at Woodbine.
FIELD FOR THE GRADE 2, $175,000 CONNAUGHT CUP
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Banff – Eswan Flores – Martin Drexler
2 – Churchtown – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Roger Attfield
3 – Dream Shake – Rafael Hernandez – Michael Stidham
4 – Lucky Score – Sahin Civaci – Mark Casse
5 – War Bomber (IRE) – Rico Walcott – Norm McKnight
6 – Dreams of Tomorrow – Patrick Husbands – Shug McGaughey
7 – Luckman – Ryan Munger – Vito Armata
8 – Bound for Nowhere – Manuel Franco – Wesley Ward
9 – Old Chestnut – Kazushi Kimura – Marty Drexler
10 – Roaring Forties – Declan Carroll – Katerina Vassilieva
Bill Tallon, for Woodbine Communications