One week from horses arriving at the Woodbine backstretch to ready for the 2021 racing, set to begin April 17, and there is snow aplenty, more to come, but hints that the temperatures will begin creeping up as March nears.

All reports say that the number of stall applications has been sizable – American trainer Graham Motion is one of the newest to apply for some stalls at Woodbine – and Ontario horsepeople are eager to get their lovable equines training.

The Queen’s Plate is still 6 months away, the Woodbine Oaks, 5 months in the future, but has tallied a short list of current contenders this winter. Woodbine is expected to release its nominations for the Oaks and Canadian Triple Crown shortly although horses not nominated can still be made eligible as the races draw closer.

Take note, the 2020 Plate winner MIGHTY HEART, at this time last year, was wintering in New Orleans and was an unstarted maiden.


Queen’s Plate Top 15

1. GRETZKY THE GREAT  – working at Palm Meadows

2. STEPHEN – training in Ontario

3. TIO MAGIC – working in Florida


5. HADDASSAH – training in Ontario

6. CURLIN’S CATCH – also Oaks, racing in Florida

7. GIANT WATERS – training in Florida

8. MASTER SPY  – no workouts recorded

9. DREAMING OF DREW – Oaks, working at Winding Oaks

10. WEYBURN – training in New York

11. KEEP GRINDING – training in Ontario

12. TRUFFLE KING – training in Ontario

13. CRUDEN BAY -training in Ontario

14.. RED RIVER REBEL – training in Ontario

15. IL MALOCCHIO – Oaks, in Florida


Notable among the changes in this week’s list is that SMILEY SOBOTKA, who was near the top of the list of 15 leading contenders, has slipped after fading in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs two weeks ago.

The American-based colt by Brody’s Cause was quite sweaty before his first outing of 2021 and after chasing the pace from the inside, he dropped back to ninth. Trainer Dale Romans was quoted as saying he could not find anything amiss with the colt post-race so we will see where he ends up next.

Early Plate favourite GRETKY THE GREAT continues his steady prepping at Palm Meadows for trainer Mark Casse, logging his 5th workout on Feb. 13. The son of Nyquist could try the dirt for the first time when he appears for his 2021 debut, according to Mark Casse. The colt has won going 1 mile around one turn on the grass at Woodbine, in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes, and has won a Tapeta sprint race.

RIPTIDE ROCK, a son of Point of Entry owned and bred by Stronach Stables, had a smart 2021 opener at Oaklawn Park in the mud on Feb. 11, finishing second by half a length after leading late. He posted an 80 Beyer Speed Figure  in that 1 1/16 mile race, his first 2-turn outing and he is trained by Jerry Hollenforfer. Sid Attard sent the flashy chestnut out for a debut win Oct. 17 at Woodbine in a 6 furlong turf dash.

The gelding is the first foal of unplaced Irish Influence, by Stephen Got Even, and her dam is the brilliant graded stakes winner Relaxing Rhythm.

Interesting that last year, a Point of Entry 3-year-old from Stronach Stables, MALIBU MAMBO. was made the early Plate favourite by Woodbine but he missed the Plate, going on to run well in the fall.

RIPTIDE ROCK moves up the list.

Ontario bred RIPTIDE ROCK gets caught right near the wire in an $84,000 allowance race Feb. 11 at Oaklawn Park by Twilight Blue in a good 2021 opener.









Fillies are often included in the Plate contenders list as they tend to do well in the big race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds. We had CAFE SOCIETY on the list but that Shug McGaughey gal has not worked since Jan. 10 and has been dropped for now. Another one off the list for now is LOMAKI’S GEM, a maiden winner at Woodbine Nov. 1 who has not worked since Dec. 31 while in Florida with trainer Stuart Simon.

Meanwhile CURLIN’S CATCH moves up off her win in the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs (79 Beyer Figure). Another Oaks prospect Il Malocchio finished third.

The top 3 from the prestigious Coronation Futurity last fall at Woodbine are all contenders: STEPHEN, TIO MAGICO and GIANT WATERS. The Coronation is 1 1/8 miles on Tapeta but has not produced a Plate winner since 1975.

Chiefswood Stables’ WEYBURN, a smart maiden winner in the slop at Aqueduct in December (69 Beyer Figure)  for trainer James Jerkens, appears to be close to a race  (maybe the March 6 Gotham?). The son of Pioneerofthe Nile – Sunday Affair is a half brother to sprint star YORKTON and would surely have to prove himself at 2 turns yet, but he remains on the contenders’ list.