TORONTO — She was definitely the class of the Woodbine Oaks but Kevin Attard is expecting a little more of filly Moira on Sunday.
Moira was installed as the early 5-2 favourite Wednesday for the 163rd running of the $1-million Queen’s Plate. A big reason for that was her emphatic 10 3/4-length win in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks last month at Woodbine Racetrack.
Moira's winning time of 1:49.78 was better than what Sir for Sure posted (1:50.62) in winning the $150,400 Plate Trial on the same day. That's impressive given both races are 1 1/8 miles on Woodbine's Tapeta surface, which will be the same ground for the 1 1/4-mile Plate on Sunday at Woodbine Racetrack.
Moira's impressive Oaks win came despite running without hind shoes following a pre-race incident in the paddock. But Attard feels Moira will have to be better in order to capture the opening event of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown.
"I think she needs to take another step forward again," Attard said Wednesday following the race draw at Woodbine. "It's not to say she can't.
"She has trained like she can, she looks like she can … everything is kind of heading in the right direction."
Moira will break from the No. 8 post in the 11-horse field. Rondure, the 3-1 second pick, drew the No. 6 post, just outside of 5-1 third selection Duke of Love.
"They'll be loading inside out (Sunday) we didn't want to be in the gate for too long," Attard said regarding why he took his post position. "She's a little bit of an antsy filly.
"Also, I think it kind of gives us a better look at what everybody else is doing. It's a pretty good run to the first turn so (jockey Rafael Hernandez) should be able to see how the race is unfolding and place her where he wants."
The field, with post position, jockey and early odds, includes: 1) Hall of Dreams, Patrick Husbands, 12-1; 2) Shamateur, Luis Contreras, 30-1; 3) Ironstone, Kazushi Kimura, 12-1; 4) The Minkster, David Moran, 10-1; 5) Duke of Love, Justin Stein, 5-1; 6) Rondure, Flavien Prat, 3-1; 7) Dancin in Da'nile, Shaun Bridgmohan, 30-1; 8) Moira, Hernandez, 5-2; 9) Hunt Master, Emma-Jayne Wilson, 30-1; 10) Sir for Sure, Declan Carroll, 8-1; and 11) Causin' Mayhem, Antonio Gallardo, 6-1.
This marks the second straight year Attard will attempt the Oaks-Plate double. After winning the '21 Oaks, Munnyfor Ro was fourth in the Plate and one of four horses Attard had in the race.
H C Holiday finished third ahead of Munnyfor Ro while Harlan Estate was seventh and Haddassah took eighth.
Four Oaks champions have gone on to win the Plate — Holy Helena (2017), Lexie Lou (2014), Inglorious (2011) and Dancethruthedawn (2001). In 2018, Oaks runner-up Wonder Gadot captured the opening leg of the OLC Canadian Triple Crown.
Moira has won both of her '22 starts and hit the winner's circle in three-of-four career races. The exception was a second-place finish in the $156,400 Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes on Nov. 28, 2021 at Woodbine.
Mrs. Barbara, a horse owned by Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson, won that event en route to being named Canada's champion two-year-old filly. But Attard said he couldn't be happier with Moira's condition heading into the Plate.
"I think this is the best she has ever looked," he said. "She has put on weight, her coat (looks great), I couldn't ask her to be going into the race any better at this point."
And the weight gain, Attard said, is a very good sign because Moira traditionally has trouble keeping weight on.
"She's a tough filly to kind of hold weight," he said. "She's big and long so she's not like a typical robust horse. I'm very pleased with where she's at right now."
Mark Casse, Canada's champion trainer the past 11 years, has two horses in the field — Sir for Sure and Hall of Dreams, who were 1-2 in the Plate Trial — as he chases his third Plate title. Both of his previous wins were not only with fillies (Lexie Lou and Wonder Gadot) but also came four years apart, his last being in 2018.
Causin' Mayhem is owned by Chiefswood Stables Limited, whose GM is none other former jockey Robert Landry. He won the '04 Plate aboard Chiefswood's Niigon. Trainer Todd Pletcher won the '98 Queen's Plate with Archers Bay, which was owned by the late Eugene Melnyk.
Duke of Love is also trained by Josie Carroll, a three-time Plate champion. And Dan Vella, who conditions The Minkster, is also a two-time race winner who's currently in his 50th year of racing.
Attard's uncle, Sid, is Shamateur's trainer. And William Armata, the conditioner for Ironstone, is the son of Vito Armata, who won the '02 Plate with T J's Lucky Moon at staggering 82-1 odds.
And although Moira heads into Sunday's race as the horse to beat, experience has taught Kevin Attard anything can happen in a horse race.
"I've been here on this particular day with the notion that I've got a good chance," he said. "It's a tough race.
"You look at some of the trainers in the history of Woodbine that this race has eluded and I mean Hall of Fame trainers. It just goes to show you how tough it is to run a mile and a quarter under scale weight in probably 30 C temperatures. It's nice to go in there having the favourite but by no means are they handing us the trophy now."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press