Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Race type||Flat / Thoroughbred|
|Distance||1+1⁄4 mi (2 km)|
|Weight||Colt/Gelding: 126 lb (57 kg)|
Filly: 121 lb (55 kg)
The King's Plate (known as the Queen's Plate from 1860 to 1901 and 1952 to 2022) is Canada's oldest thoroughbred horse race and the oldest continuously run race in North America, having been founded in 1860. It is run at a distance of 1+1⁄4 miles (2 kilometres) for a maximum of 17 three-year-old thoroughbred horses foaled in Canada.
The race is the first in the Canadian Triple Crown, typically taking place each summer at Woodbine Racetrack in Etobicoke, Ontario. The event was scheduled in June or July until 2020, when it was postponed to September, due to government-imposed restrictions in place through the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2021, Woodbine ran the Queen's Plate, and now runs the King's Plate, in August.
The race's name reflects the title of the reigning Canadian monarch, following on Queen Victoria's donation of the first cup. The Woodbine Entertainment Group, which owns and operates the event, announced in December 2022 the race will be renamed the King's Plate, following the accession of King Charles III on 8 September 2022.
In 1859, the then-President of the Toronto Turf Club, Sir Casimir Gzowski, petitioned Queen Victoria to grant a plate for a new race in the Canada West (today Ontario). With the monarch's approval, the first Queen's Plate was run on 27 June 1860, at the Carleton racetrack in Toronto, with the prize of "a plate to the value of 50 guineas". Despite the name, the winning owner is presented with a gold cup, rather than a plate.
The race was originally restricted to three-year-olds bred in Canada that had never won a stakes race and was run in heats, with a horse having to win two heats to be declared the winner. The race conditions have since evolved; heat racing was discontinued in 1879 and, around the same time, the race was opened to stakes winners (some early records are incomplete). For many years, the race was open to older horses and, in the early 1900s, was even open to two-year-olds. The King's Plate is currently restricted to three-year-olds foaled in Canada. The owner must pay a nomination fee ($500 in 2018) in February, a second subscription fee ($1,500 in 2018) in May, and a final entry fee ($10,000) prior to the race.
The first four renewals were run at Carleton racetrack. After that, the Queen's Plate became a "movable feast", with politicians from all over modern-day Ontario vying to host the race in their constituency. Fifteen different race tracks hosted the race over the next two decades, with distances varying from one to two miles. In 1883, the race moved to Old Woodbine, located in eastern Toronto along Lake Ontario. The race continued to be held at Old Woodbine until that track was replaced by "New" Woodbine in northern Toronto in 1956. The race has been run at Woodbine ever since. In 2006, Woodbine changed the track surface for the main track from natural dirt to a synthetic surface known as Polytrack. In 2016, the surface was changed to Tapeta. Because of the change in racing surfaces, Woodbine maintains several sets of track and stakes records. The fastest time for the race on the original dirt surface at the current 1+1⁄4 mi (2 km) distance is 2:01 4/5, set by Kinghaven Farms' Izvestia in 1990. The current stakes record (the fastest all-time) is 2:01.48, set by Moira in 2022 on Tapeta.
In 1902, the year after Victoria's death, the race became the King's Plate, after her successor, Edward VII. It became the Queen's Plate again during the reign of Elizabeth II (1952–2022). In 2022, it reverted to the King's Plate upon the accession of Charles III.
Horses owned by Windfields Farm have won the Plate eleven times, but the most successful was the stable owned by Joseph E. Seagram, a prominent distiller from Waterloo, Ontario. Seagram's stable won the Plate on twenty occasions between 1891 and 1935 including eight times in a row between 1891 and 1898, and ten times in eleven years from 1891 to 1901.
The 2004-2013 Plate winners had little success in their subsequent racing careers. This compares unfavourably to the 1990s when a number of Plate winners had considerable success thereafter, including With Approval, Izvestia, Dance Smartly and Awesome Again. The more recent Queen's Plate winners have also been successful, including Lexie Lou (who became a multiple graded stakes winner in Canada and the US after winning the Plate in 2014) and Shaman Ghost (a Grade I winner in America after winning the Plate in 2015).
Nick Eaves, former President and CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group, announced during the 2012 Queen's Plate post position draw that Woodbine Racetrack might be forced to close in April 2013 due to the cancellation of Slots at Racetrack program partnerships between Ontario's racetracks and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Eaves said that if Woodbine is not open, "there won't be a Queen's Plate." A new funding agreement was put in place in March 2013, which ensured the continuation of horse racing at Woodbine.
38 fillies have won the Plate, beginning with Brunette in 1864. The 2017 running was won by filly Holy Helena, while the 2018 running was won by Wonder Gadot. Two chestnut fillies both by the name of Wild Rose have won the Queen's Plate, in 1867 and 1886. They were the daughter and great-great-granddaughter respectively of Yellow Rose, who also produced the first Queen's Plate winner Don Juan.
The latest filly to win the Queen's Plate was Moira in 2022, whose final time of 2:01.48 established an all-time speed record.
The race has been held at a variety of distances:
- 1860–1867: 1-mile (1.6 km) heats
- 1868–1870: 2 miles (3.2 km)
- 1871: 1+3⁄4 miles (2.82 km)
- 1872–1886: 1+1⁄2 miles (2.4 km)
- 1887–1923: 1+1⁄4 miles (2.01 km)
- 1924–1956: 1+1⁄8 miles (1.811 km)
- 1957-: 1+1⁄4 miles (2.01 km)
Triple Crown dispute with Fort Erie Race Track
Since 2021, a year after the Queen's Plate was moved to September from its usual June or July spot due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, Woodbine has run the race in August. As a result, Fort Erie Race Track, which runs the second of Canada's Triple Crown races, the Prince of Wales Stakes, moved their race to after the King's Plate. In April 2023, a few months after Woodbine announced that the 2023 King's Plate would again be run in August, Fort Erie filed a grievance with the Canadian Trade Commission over what it called business practices that were "unfair and clearly predatory." A member of the Fort Erie Council suggested that the COVID pandemic was over and that the King's Plate should move back to June, adding that continuing to run the race in August would not be in Fort Erie Race Track's best economic interests, as it would result in the Prince of Wales Stakes being run after Labour Day, when the key summer tourism season is over. Woodbine responded that Fort Erie's allegations are "baseless and without merit" and that they would defend themselves if requested by the Trade Commission.
As King of Canada, Charles III is patron of the event. Various other members of the Canadian royal family have attended, beginning with John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne, and his wife, Princess Louise, in 1881, when Lorne was serving as governor general of Canada and the couple was touring Ontario. Queen Elizabeth II's fourth and final visit to the race was in early July 2010.
- 4 – Avelino Gomez (1957, 1960, 1966, 1969)
- 4 – Sandy Hawley (1970, 1971, 1975, 1978)
- 4 – Robin Platts (1972, 1974, 1977, 1984)
- 8 – Harry Giddings Jr. (1911, 1913, 1914, 1920, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1942)
- 8 – Roger Attfield (1976, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 2008)
- 6 – John R. Walker (1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1896)
- 6 – Gordon J. "Pete" McCann (1940, 1951, 1953, 1957, 1959, 1963)
- 6 - William H. Bringloe (1923, 1926, 1928, 1933, 1936, 1937)
Strait of Dover
Sir Dudley Digges
One Bad Boy
† indicates a filly
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