Frank Stronach's homebred filly Holy Helena captured the Woodbine Oaks on June 11, then returned this Sunday to beat males by 3 1/2 lengths in the $1 million Queen's Plate. The sophomore daughter of Ghostzapper, ridden by Luis Contreras, covered 1 1/4 miles over Woodbine's Tapeta in 2:02.87, finishing in front of Tiz a Slam, Inflexibility and Channel Maker. This is the first Queen's Plate victory for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, and the fourth for Stronach. Jerkens did not make the journey to Woodbine; Mike Doyle saddled the winner. Holy Helena is the fourth female Queen's Plate winner since the year 2000, preceded by Lexie Lou (2014), Inglorious (2011), and Dancethruthedawn (2001).
“I was very confident today after winning the Oaks, and last Monday I breezed her on the surface and she did it pretty easy,” said Contreras, who won his second Queen's Plate, the first coming with the filly Inglorious in 2011. “I got a dream trip, really. She broke really good. She gave me a lot of time to see the horses outside of me, what they are going to do, what they are trying to do. She was so nice and relaxed behind those horses and I had a lot of horse at the 3/8th (pole), so I took a look back to see where everybody was. I waited for the [final] quarter pole to run.”
As he did in the Kentucky Derby in May, State of Honor lept from the starting gate to take the lead in the early going. He was followed by Megagray through early fractions of :24.17, :48.67 and 1:13.23, while Aurora Way and Holy Helena kept company just behind those leaders. Guy Caballero came up to be close to the pace nearing the half-mile mark, pushing Holy Helena back into fifth position.
Rounding the far turn, Megagray took the lead briefly but Contreras had Holy Helena moving into her best stride on the far outside. Both Channel Maker and Tiz a Slam were making their moves from the rear of the field, but Holy Helena struck the front and never looked back.
Reaching for the wire under a hand ride, Holy Helena never seemed to struggle as she bested her rivals by 3 1/2 lengths at the finish. Tiz a Slam made up enough ground to be second, ahead of the filly Inflexibility in third. Channel Maker was fourth.
In winning the Queen's Plate, Holy Helena became the eighth filly to complete the Oaks-Plate double since Woodbine opened its gates in 1956.
The Queen's Plate win was the fourth as owner/breeder for Team Stronach, their latest success coming with Shaman Ghost in 2015.
“I think she is a very good horse,” said Stronach, of Holy Helena. “I put a lot of effort in, a lot of time in and naturally I can put all the money in and do everything great, but you still need some luck.”
The 13-race Queen's Plate card produced a record handle of $13,560,678 eclipsing the $11,839,883 number of a year ago.
Bred in Ontario by Stronach's Adena Springs, where sire Ghostzapper stands, Holy Helena won the Queen's Plate in just her fourth career start. She was second on debut at Aqueduct in April, but won easily her second out at Belmont Park. She came to Woodbine to dominate the Woodbine Oaks, and the Queen's Plate is her third win from four career starts. Overall, Holy Helena has earned over $850,000.
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