A Historic Coronation: Fiery Filly Moira Sets Track Record In Queen’s Plate Victory

The Queen’s Plate is a race known for its great performances by fillies, and on Sunday at Woodbine, Moira put herself in the upper echelon of that list, winning the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown in track-record time.

The filly entered Sunday’s race known as much for her temperamental paddock demeanor as her big victories, presenting two potential scenarios for the outcome of the Canadian classic: Either Moira is the freak athlete that won the Woodbine Oaks by 10 3/4 lengths, or her attitude would be her undoing, and the field would suddenly become wide open to a variety of able contenders.

That question was answered with authority when she hit the finish in 2:01.48, the fastest time for a 1 1/4 mile race since Woodbine first installed an all-weather surface on its main track in 2006.

Sunday’s weather report in Toronto threatened heavy storms aimed directly at post time for the Queen’s Plate for days in advance, and while the card had been spared through the main event, thunder could be heard in the distance as the field of 11 Canadian-breds crossed over from the barns to the paddock in the late afternoon.

In an attempt to keep the filly’s paddock stunts to a minimum, Moira did not join the rest of the field in the outdoor walking ring to meet her rider. Instead, Moira remained under the indoor enclosure, circling the stalls with a handler on each side and a pony horse guiding her up front.

As the crowd packed around the outdoor enclosure to catch a glimpse of the contenders, Moira was in relative solitude, save for her team of handlers and a smattering of onlookers in the know around the walking ring’s perimeter.

Compared to her exploits in the Woodbine Oaks, where she ended up losing both her hind shoes before the race and nearly dumped her rider into the hedges around the winner’s circle after it, Moira’s Queen’s Plate experience was relatively tame. She roused up a bit as her tongue was tied down, but she was reserved to a few tosses of the head when jockey Rafael Hernandez got the leg up. Hernandez worked hard to keep his mount calm as they circled the indoor paddock, patting the filly on the neck while her entourage remained stuck to her on all sides.

Trainer Kevin Attard knew the filly’s pre-race exuberance was perhaps her biggest opportunity to lose the race, and getting Moira out to the track was the first little victory that led to a bigger one to come.

“When I schooled her, she’s been great, but today, she was a little bit difficult,” the trainer said. “I think the crowd got her wound up. Even when we finally got [the tongue tie] on and she was walking out to the track, she was getting a little edgy because there were so many different people around. She knew it was a different day. The beauty of it is, considering everything that she does, she’s able to mentally stay focused, and know that she has a job to do. I think that’s what defines her as a good horse.”

Moira and Hernandez went through the post parade and behind the gate without incident. At the break, Hernandez took a slight hold of his mount, and focused on getting her settled in further inside from the eighth post.

As they got comfortable near the back of the pack, The Minkster took early command from two-wide, with Ironstone close behind on the rail, and Plate Trial winner Sir for Sure close behind in third. Under jockey David Moran, The Minkster quickly got out to a 1 1/2-length lead and set an opening quarter fraction of :23.75. The order and margin remained unchanged as the field went through the first turn and completed the first half-mile in :47.58.

The Minkster and Ironstone had put several lengths of cushion on the rest of the field as they approached the far turn. Jockey Kazushi Kimura began to rouse Ironstone around the time they crossed six furlongs in 1:11.85, and after drawing even through the final turn, he got a head in front at the quarter pole, clicking off a mile in 1:36.33.

Behind them, Hernandez had already begun gearing Moira up for a late move. After spending the first half of the race on the rail, Hernandez swung the filly four wide, and the duo began devouring rivals in pursuit of the leaders.

“Around the backside, I had to start getting her clear, so when I asked her, I made sure she had room,” Hernandez said. “Between the half-mile pole and three-eighths, I said, ‘This looks good.’ If she gave me the same kick she did the last time, it was going to be tough, and she did it.”

Practically as soon as Ironstone got his moment in the sun at the top of the stretch, his grinding rally was shut down by Moira, who blew past the lead duo from three-wide.

In the race prior to the Queen’s Plate, the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes, Hernandez was part of a desperately close finish aboard Crystal Cliffs, and he pumped his fist in victory shortly after the wire, only to come back and realize he had actually been beaten by a nose. When he thrust his arm in the air in the Woodbine stretch this time around, there was zero doubt he was going to be unsaddling in the winner’s enclosure.

Hernandez kept Moira’s mind on the task as they extended their lead down the stretch, but then the jockey looked under his shoulder at the sixteenth pole, saw there was no one close, and gestured to the crowd as they crossed the wire seven lengths ahead of a late-moving Hall of Dreams. Sir for Sure ran evenly to finish third, and give trainer Mark Casse the bottom two-thirds of the trifecta.

It was the fastest race held at the classic distance over Woodbine’s Tapeta main track since the Grade 3 Dominion Day stakes in 2013, when Delegation stopped the clock in 2:01.51. Moira also became the 38th filly to win the Queen’s Plate; the first since Wonder Gadot in 2018.

Moira paid $5.60 to win as the betting public’s second choice behind Rondure, who finished sixth. With the victory, Moira improved her career record to four wins in five starts for earnings of $902,128.

Sunday’s Queen’s Plate was the second victory in the Canadian classic for Hernandez, and the first for trainer Kevin Attard.

The Attard family, one with a deep history in Ontario racing, has been represented by a Queen’s Plate victory among the riders in its clan – Larry Attard, Kevin’s uncle, aboard Bompago in 1983 – but Kevin Attard became the first of his line to saddle a winner in the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

“I think my dad (Tino Attard) hugged me, my mom hugged me, and my wife,” Kevin said. “My family was surrounded, and being in this business, and the amount of time I’ve spent in the barn, my family sacrifices a lot. For them to be there, and share in that moment means a lot. When we won the Woodbine Mile during COVID, it was just my dad, my brother and my son.

“My dad put me in this position,” the trainer continued. “He taught me everything I know. I think he sacrificed part of his career to put me in a position to succeed when he was training, and I started to take over his part of the business, and he just kind of started taking a backseat to it. I can’t thank him enough. I love him so much. I wouldn’t be here without him.”

Hernandez has been there before with the Queen’s Plate, but he said he understood the responsibility on his shoulders before the race, riding a live horse for a trainer who wanted the race on a generational level.

“I know this is special for me, but more for Kevin,” he said. “He’s been here training so hard, and finally he got a winner in the Queen’s Plate. All of that on that my back is a lot, but we became winners, and it’s something special.”

Moira is campaigned by a large partnership including the 10-member X-Men Racing, Madaket Stables, and SF Racing.

Bloodstock agent Donato Lanni is the driving force behind the X-Men Racing partnership, and selected Moira, a daughter of Ghostzapper out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Devine Aida, out of the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $150,000. The filly was bred in Ontario by Adena Springs.

As he waited for the filly to return to the winner’s circle, Lanni marveled at the legend, for better or worse, that the filly has created for herself.

“Before she runs, there’s just something about her,” Lanni said. “She just gets full of spite, and piss and vinegar. She wants respect, and she’s got it.

“She’s an unassuming filly,” Lanni continued. “If you looked at her, you’d never say, ‘Wow, that’s a freak,’ but she’s got gears.”

With an authoritative victory in the Queen’s Plate on her resume, the natural next question is whether Moira will be pointed for the Prince of Wales Stakes on Sept. 13 at Fort Erie. The filly’s form is firmly proven over the friendly confines of Woodbine’s Tapeta, but the natural dirt surface has brought many a promising Canadian Triple Crown contender back to earth after an impressive Queen’s Plate victory.

Attard said those plans would come after the adrenaline of Sunday’s victory wore off, but as a horseman so deeply rooted in Canadian racing, the allure of what could be at stake would be hard to pass up.

“At this point, I’m not sure what’s next,” he said. “Obviously, me being a local trainer, I would love to put my name beside a Triple Crown horse if I could. There’s a lot of people involved, so we’ll discuss it when the time comes.

“She’s bred for the turf,” the trainer continued, assessing Moira’s chances for the Breeder’s Stakes, the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, on Oct. 2 at Woodbine. “I think the turf is not an issue at all. I would think the dirt, maybe. She trains a lot on the dirt, and she trains over it well. Deep down, I think she would handle the dirt fine, but until you try, you don’t know.”

The post A Historic Coronation: Fiery Filly Moira Sets Track Record In Queen’s Plate Victory appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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