Road to The King’s Plate: Junior Hot Shot takes on eight in Queenston

Road to The King’s Plate: Junior Hot Shot takes on eight in Queenston

TORONTO, June 7, 2024 – The $125,000 Queenston Stakes, a key prep on the road to this year’s King’s Plate (August 17), is the feature race on Sunday at Woodbine.   

The seven-furlong Queenston, for 3-year-olds foaled in Canada, has attracted top contenders hoping for a spot in the Plate starting gate, including Junior Hot Shot.

Trained by John Ross for owner T and T Racing Team, Junior Hot Shot has recorded two wins and a third from three career starts.

The son of Souper Speedy heads into Sunday’s engagement off a strong performance in his 3-year-old debut.

Sent off as the 4-5 choice in the six-furlong main track sprint on May 10, Junior Hot Shot, under Justin Stein, broke well and settled off his rivals along the backstretch before being set down in mid-stretch on his way to a 1 ¼-length win in 1:10.53.

“Junior Hot Shot has a beautiful, efficient stride when running early in his races,” praised Stein. “He has a turn of foot that has always been impressive.

“The way he settled off the pace was an important part of his development as a young horse,” continued Stein. “What stood out the most was his last eighth of a mile – he ran it in :11.4.”

The dark bay debuted in style last October, winning a 6 ½-furlong main track sprint by 6 ½ lengths.

He followed it up with a third later that month in the 6 ½-furlong Frost King Stakes.

“When he broke his maiden, we were very excited about him,” said Ross. “He did it in very impressive fashion and in a good time. We ran him back in the Frost King and it didn’t go as we had hoped. He got caught up in a speed duel and we didn’t want that to happen.

“We’ve talked about teaching him how to relax in the race and take him back. Justin did an amazing job with that in his first race this year. He got him to settle and make one nice run. It shows that he is a push-button horse, and we can do that with him now.”

Ross, who has 610 lifetime wins, is taking a wait-and-see approach with The King’s Plate.

For now, the multiple graded stakes-winning trainer, who won the Prince of Wales, the second jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown, with Cool Catomine in 2017, will focus on the final preparations for Sunday’s race.

“He’s matured,” said Ross. “He doesn’t have to be that speedball. We can work with him so that he can sit off the pace and make a nice run, which means that he could possibly go longer.

“This is a very cool horse. He’s so cool to work around. I’m delighted to have him in the barn. People argue as to who is going to gallop him – he’s that classy kind of horse.”

Stein, who has 1,414 career wins, 94 of them stakes, including the 2012 King’s Plate with Strait of Dover, has high praise for Ross’ meticulous approach with Junior Hot Shot.

“It’s been great riding this horse for John. He recognized Junior’s ability right away. He has taken his time with the horse. Whenever John and I talk about his horse, I can see how each step forward is considered thoughtfully to ensure Junior’s success.”

Steve O’Neil McIarty is the groom.

Other starters include Pierre, a bay son of Tapiture-Archerette.

Trained by Kevin Attard for owners Al and Bill Ulwelling, the colt debuted last December in a 6 ½-furlong trip over the Woodbine main track.

After being bothered at the start, Pierre, tenth at the stretch call, was full of run and finished third, three-quarters of a length behind the winner.

“He had a tough break in his debut, but was flying late and looked impressive,” said Attard. “You always want them to get something out of their first start and I think he was able to get that.

On May 4, the chestnut, bred by Tall Oaks Farm, broke his maiden in a six-furlong sprint, holding on gamely to win by a head as the even-money choice.

“I thought his second start was very impressive all the way around. The way he dug in late to get the win, showing that competitiveness and grit, was great to watch.

“Al and Bill are huge supporters of racing here in Ontario, so winning any race with them is always special.”

Attard was impressed by the colt early on.

“I liked him from the start. He has the look and the mind of a good horse. Obviously, getting him to The King’s Plate is the goal, but we will focus on this race for now.”

William Lawrence is the groom.

Babbo, trained by Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee Sid Attard, will make his 3-year-old debut for owner Lou Tucci.

A bay son of Kantharos, Babbo has won three straight races, including a 2 ½-length triumph in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity on November 25.

“Sid had him so ready to roll,” said jockey Eswan Flores. “That win was special.”

“He’s not a big horse, but he is tough,” said Tucci, who, along with his uncle, Carlo Tucci, won the 2013 King’s Plate with Midnight Aria. “He needs two people to handle him. Once the gate opens, he’s as determined as they come. He loves to run.”

Bred in Ontario by the late Robert Harvey, the bay colt was fourth in his debut last June at Woodbine before a runner-up effort the following month.

After another second, this time in a six-furlong main track race in September, Babbo broke his maiden in a six-furlong race over the E.P. Tayor turf.

“I'm impressed by how he understands his job,” said Flores. “He's so professional on the racetrack.”

Babbo spent the winter in Florida getting ready for his sophomore season.

“Sid has liked the horse from the start, and he has done a great job with him,” said Tucci, whose other stars over the years include One For Rose, Just Rushing and Artie Hot. “This is a tough race for him to start with, but hopefully he runs a good one. The goal is the Plate, so we will look to keep things rolling and build him towards that.”

Dual Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse sends out multiple stakes winner and graded stakes placed Our Boy Prince, and Essex Serpent, who won at first asking on April 27 at Woodbine.

No More Options, last year’s Frost King Stakes winner, brings a record of 3-0-3 from seven starts into the Queenston.

First post on Sunday is 1:10 p.m. Fans can wager on all the action through and  

Field for the $125,000 Queenston Stakes (Race 8)

Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer  

1 – Western Whirl (S) – Ryan Munger – Stuart Simon

2 – Junior Hot Shot – Justin Stein – John Ross

3 – Pierre – Rafael Hernandez – Kevin Attard

4 – Highland Blue (S) – Skye Chernetz – David Cotey

5 – Essex Serpent – Patrick Husbands – Mark Casse

6 – My Boy Prince – Sahin Civaci – Mark Casse

7 – No More Options – Kazushi Kimura – Zeljko Krcmar

8 – Babbo – Eswan Flores – Sid Attard

9 – Roscar – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Rachel Halden

Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms  

Grace Martin
Grace Martin Communications Specialist, Woodbine Entertainment
Horse Racing - TB
About Woodbine Entertainment

Woodbine Entertainment is the largest horse racing operator in Canada, with Thoroughbred horse racing at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, and Standardbred horse racing at Woodbine Mohawk Park in Milton. Woodbine Entertaiment also owns and operates HPIbet, Canada’s only betting platform dedicated to horse racing. Woodbine and Mohawk Park are host to several world-class racing events including The King’s Plate, three Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races, and the Pepsi North America Cup. Run without share capital, Woodbine Entertainment has a mandate to financially invest all profit back into the horse racing industry and the 25,000 jobs it supports across Ontario.   

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