Excerpts from The Plate: 150 Years of Royal Tradition by Louis Cauz and Beverley Smith:
“Winning the Queen’s Plate by eight lengths with authoritative ease was just her first coronation,” wrote Cauz and Smith. “Dance Smartly won all eight starts as a three-year-old, including her thrashing of some good U.S. colts in the Molson Export Million at Woodbine. She then made history in the Breeders’ Cup, the showcase event for the best thoroughbreds in the world.
“Eighteen previous Canadian-based horses, including Dance Smartly (third the year before in the Juvenile Fillies) had run in the Breeders’ Cup and been beaten. But at Kentucky’s Churchill Downs, she became the first Canadian-bred to win, capturing the rich Distaff in convincing fashion against America’s best fillies and mares When she did, she surpassed Lady Secret’s world record earnings for a female, garnering a total of $3,263,836 when she retired at four. Her exploits also earned her a Sovereign and Horse of the Year honours in Canada and an Eclipse Award in the United States as the champion three-year-old filly. Like Northern Dancer before her, she helped put Canada on the horse-racing map.”
A homebred owned by Sam-Son Farm, trained by Jim Day and ridden to victory in the Plate on July 7, 1991 by Pat Day, Dance Smartly “was a happy accident. Her mother, Classy ‘n Smart, a future Hall of Fame inductee, was headed for the court of English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky II, but he was ailing so she was sent to another son of Northern Dancer, Danzig to be bred. The result was a dark bay filly that grew larger than her mother, and, with more of an attitude.”
Dance Smartly later foaled two Queen’s Plate winners — Scatter the Gold and Dancethruthedawn. “All of her foals came with attitude, just like her.”
50 Years Ago — Titled Hero
Trainer Patrick MacMurchy was contemplating retirement in 1964 when along came a big, black yearling colt that would come to be named Titled Hero. The Canadian Champ colt out of Countess Angela convinced the Scotsman with more than 40 years in the game to stick it out a few more years. Titled Hero rewarded him handsomely when he won the Queen’s Plate on June 25, 1966 by three lengths over Bye and Near to give famed jockey Avelino Gomez the third of four Plate victories. He also won in 1957 with Lyford Cay, 1960 with Victoria Park and 1969 with Jumpin Joseph.
Titled Hero, owned by Peter Marshall, practically staggered home in the Plate, running the final quarter in 27 seconds.
“After his Plate win, Titled Hero looked more like a loser,” Cauz and Smith wrote. “His right eye was swollen, two teeth were missing and he finished the race on a cracked hoof. The left fore quarter, bruised by a stone earlier in the season, split and later became infected. It prevented him from running in the Prince of Wales Stakes, but he did return to win the Breeders’ Stakes. But before he was to go to stud in 1968 at Windfields, he had to be put down because of an incapacitating injury.”
100 Years Ago — Mandarin
The 1916 King’s Plate was as dominant a performance as there ever was by Canada’s most dominant stable. Joseph Seagram not only claimed his 14th Plate, he did so by finishing sweeping the top three spots with Mandarin, Gala Water and Gala Day, respectively, to take home every available prize, including the $500 award for the winning breeder.
Mandarin, sired by Seagram’s stud Havoc, was out of Royal China, a mare that was imported from England as a weanling in 1904. Arthur Pickens rode him to victory in the Plate and became the first jockey to win the Plate and the Kentucky Derby, which he won at age 19 in 1908 with longshot Stone Street.
In the 1916 Plate, the margin of victory was four lengths for Mandarin, who covered the one-and-a-quarter miles in 2:04.1/3 and then won the Breeders’ Stakes a few days later.
Seagram’s talented trio were trained by Barry Littlefield, who also won the Plate in 1905 (Inferno), 1906 (Slaughter), 1908 (Seismic) and the year after Mandarin’s victory in 1917 (Belle Mahone) — all for Seagram, who was too ill to attend the 1916 King’s Plate and sent his eldest son, Edward, to receive the certificate for the King’s guineas from Lieutenant Governor Sir John S. Hendrie.