I don’t think I’ve ever picked a Queen’s Plate winner. I did talk my father off last year’s 16-1 upsetter Midnight Aria, however. He wasn’t very happy. So consider that a disclaimer before I state my case for a horse who I think is an extremely live longshot in Sunday's feature...
Three of the last four Queen’s Plates have been won by the pacesetter: Big Red Mike (2010, 5-1), Strait of Dover (2012, 7-2) and Midnight Aria (2013, 16-1). Despite an average of 13 horses in those three renewals, North America’s longest-running race seems to differ significantly in terms of dynamics from the U.S. equivalent. The nature of the Kentucky Derby makes it close to impossible to go box to wire, but the Queen’s Plate seems to feature the opposite phenomenon in recent years. Maybe it’s the different surfaces the two races are contested over, or maybe I’m just being fooled by randomness, but I expect this recent trend to continue in 2014.
Heart to Heart, who’s 30-1 on the morning line but will likely go off at about half that price at post time, was a decent, if not standout 2-year-old last term while trained by Mike Stidham. He was beaten a nose in the six-panel Vandal S. here last August while finishing ahead of two other Queen’s Plate runners, and finished off his juvenile campaign with a fourth-place run in the nine-furlong Coronation Futurity in which a number of these horses competed. That final 2013 effort wasn’t bad considering he was a bit headstrong early and was being asked to carry his speed over a distance that’s probably a bit too far for most 2-year-olds.
Subsequently transferred to Brian Lynch, Heart to Heart resurfaced in a grassy one-mile Keeneland allowance in April, and couldn’t have been much more impressive setting quick splits before drawing off to win by 6 1/4 lengths. He earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort--tied with Lexie Lou’s Woodbine Oaks win for the fastest race by any horse in the Queen’s Plate. Jessica’s Star, second in that allowance, has won three times since then, including last Saturday’s GIII Iowa Derby.
Heart to Heart was a very close sixth last time in the Marine S., but I think you can toss that effort. His rider took a hard hold of him early despite what looked like a significant pace edge, and he just wasn’t quite as effective. Now Eurico Rosa da Silva, winner of the 2009 and 2010 Queen’s Plates climbs aboard, and there’s no way he won’t send Heart to Heart.
The distance might prove too far, but the aforementioned Strait of Dover was also by English Channel (who could obviously run all day himself), and I’ll take my chances in the stretch if Heart to Heart can get to that point without much pressure.
Bonus Pick: I really like Main Sequence in Monmouth's GI United Nations S. He has some very good European form and Graham Motion does extremely well with foreign imports making their first Stateside starts.