Horse racing fans turned out in droves for the 2021 edition of the Queen’s Plate. This incredible horse race pits the best-thoroughbred horses together at the Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Around 5,000 horse racing fans packed into the racetrack for what was a superb drama-filled race.
The Queen’s Plate, known as the King’s Plate from 1901 to 1952 when the reigning monarch was male, is the oldest continuously run horse race in North America. The race was founded back in 1860, and it has run every year since; not even two World Wars and a global pandemic have prevented the Queen’s Plate from taking place!
Queen’s Plate sees up to 17 three-year-old thoroughbred horses foaled in Canada battle it out over a 1.25 miles dirt track in the first race in the world-famous Canadian Triple Crown, the other Triple Crown races being the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Breeders Stakes.
In 1902, following the death of Queen Victoria, Edwards VII took his seat on the throne, and the race became the King’s Plate. The race became the Quee’s Plater again in 1952 when Elizabeth II came to the throne.
There are several course records due to the different lengths, tracks, and surfaces used for the Queen’s Plate. Kinghaven Farms Izvestia holds the course record for a standard dirt track, winning the 1990 race in an impressive time of 2:01 ⅘. The race is now run on artificial dirt, giving the modern race record to the 2020 champion, Mighty Heart.
Mighty Heart faced a significant step up in class when he entered the 2020 Queen’s plate. Online bookmakers priced Mighty Heart as a +1300 outsider, although the race was considered to be fairly open. With Daisuke Fukumoto in the saddle, Mighty Heart galloped into an early lead before settling into a rhythm. He eventually romped home by 7 ½ lengths in a time of 2:01.98, the second-fastest time in the long history of the race.
While the 2020 Queen’s Plate champion had hardly raced before the race, the 2021 Queen’s Plate champion had never raced at the Toronto Tapeta dirt track prior to this 1 ¼ mile classic. Perhaps it was beginner’s luck, but Safe Conduct emerged as a worthy champion.
Safe Conduct, owned by the WellSpring Stables and trained by Phillip Serpe, set off at 3/1 (+300) in the betting markets, but it was Take a Chance who led during the early part of the race. Take a Chance continued to lead at the opening quarter, which was run at a time of 0:24:01.
The race reached the halfway stage, with Take a Chance still leading by a length in front of Safe Conduct. Safe Conduct made a break for the lead and claimed it as the field rounded the turn. He stayed in front until the finishing line.
It was an exciting finish because Riptide Rock, who was last at the quarter and second-last at the mile mark, had plenty in reserve and began chipping away at Safe Conduct’s lead. Riptide Rock fell short of catching Safe Conduct, although he would have caught him if there had been another ¼ mile to run.
Safe Conduct won his owners the $600,000 first-place prize and now has a 3-1-0 record from seven starts. It is an incredible return for WellSpring Stables, who purchased the horse for only $45,000 at the 2018 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. The son of the legendary sire, Bodemeister, has a bright future ahead of him.
The Queen’s Plate is the first of three legs of Canada’s Triple Crown. The next leg is at the $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at the Fort Erie Race Track on September 14. Leg three is at Woodbine on October 3, the date of the $400,000 Breeders’ Stakes. It would be surprising not to see Safe Conduct take to the track in at least one of those races.