Trainer Attard says plan is for Oaks winner Moira to run in $1-million Queen's Plate

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TORONTO — For the second straight year, trainer Kevin Attard will attempt to register the Woodbine Oaks-Queen's Plate double.

Attard said Tuesday the plan remains for filly Moira to run in the $1-million Queen's Plate on Aug. 21 at Woodbine Racetrack. Moira is coming off an impressive 10 3/4-length win in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks on July 24.

Four Oaks champions have gone on to win the Plate — Holy Helena (2017), Lexie Lou (2014), Inglorious (2011) and Dancethruthedawn (2001). In 2018, Oaks runner-up Wonder Gadot captured the opening leg of the OLC Canadian Triple Crown.

"That's the plan right now," Attard said. "She's doing really well, I'm happy with her.

"She came out (of the Oaks) really well and had a nice little workout Friday. So far, so good."

Attard also won the '21 Oaks with Munnyfor Ro, which eventually finished fourth in the Plate. She was one of four horses Attard had in the race.

H C Holiday finished third ahead of Munnyfor Ro while Harlan Estate was seventh and Haddassah took eighth.

The Plate is the oldest continuously run race in North America and one of the few Attard has yet to win.

Moira is owned by X-Men Racing, Madaket Stables LLC and SF Racing LLC. All three also have an ownership stake in Ontario-bred Messier, who was unveiled as the Queen's Plate Winterbook favourite in March.

In May, part-owner Tom Ryan left the door open to Messier possibly running in the Plate. But on Tuesday he confirmed the horse won't be making the trip to Woodbine.

Messier was 15th in the Kentucky Derby on May 7, which was the last time he raced.

"He's doing great," Ryan said in a text. "(The) timing just didn't work this time.

"Moira is an exciting representative for the team."

Moira definitely put on a show in the Oaks, winning the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:49.78 on Woodbine's Tapeta track despite not wearing hind shoes. In the paddock she stepped on her hind foot, knocking off one shoe and bending the other.

The paddock blacksmith tried fixing the problem but ultimately the decision was made to run minus the shoes. That certainly didn't affect Moira as she earned her second win in as many starts this year and third in four races overall.

But Attard said Moira will have to come up with an improved performance in the Plate to secure the victory.

"I think she's going to have to step up a little more in the Queen's Plate to be the winner," Attard said. "But I do think that's not out of the realm of possibilities.

"She's a lightly-raced filly that's improving . . . . I think we haven't seen the best of her yet."

Also on July 24, Sir For Sure won the $150,400 Plate Trial _ run over 1 1/8 miles and on Tapeta _ in 1:50.62. The Trial and Oaks are both considered Queen's Plate prep events.

Moira's other race was a second-place finish in the $156,400 Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes on Nov. 28, 2021 at Woodbine. Mrs. Barbara, a horse owned by Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson, won the event en route to being named Canada's champion two-year-old filly.

Attard has no concerns about Moira either covering the 1 1/4-mile Plate distance or being able to shoulder the weight of expectation as a potential race favourite.

"Obviously, you want to be in those races as one of the choices," he said. "In any race you're in, when the betting public likes you it typically means you're in the right race.

"Obviously this is a race I covet and really want to win ... and I'm hoping the horse can do it for us."

A bigger concern, though, could be dealing with a big field and having to navigate in tight quarters.

"Obviously the more horses that are in a race, the more traffic problems you're going to encounter typically," Attard said. "No matter what, you always have to have racing luck on your side.

"Sometimes the best horse doesn't always win."

If Moira runs in the Plate she'll again be ridden by veteran jockey Rafael Hernandez, who was aboard her for the Oaks. Hernandez has over 2,800 career victories _ including the '15 Plate with Shaman Ghost _ and claimed more than $56 million in earnings.

"That's why you try to get the best and hope they can navigate a good trip," Attard said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press