Who is the greatest Queen's Plate winner?
The first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Queen's Plate, is coming up Sunday at Woodbine!
It is the oldest continuously-run horse race in North America, and its winners' list features some all-time greats.
Let's revisit the best of the best, and then you can decide — who is the greatest Queen's Plate winner?
Though he did not race at age two, Awesome Again was good at three and an absolute force at four.
Within less than a month in 1997, Awesome Again went from maiden to classic winner. He broke his maiden at Hollywood Park on June 5, then romped by 3 1/2 lengths in the Queen's Plate on June 29.
A little more than a month later, he won the Jim Dandy S. (G2) by daylight, over foes like Affirmed Success and Behrens. Though that was his final win at three, he was better than ever the next year.
Awesome Again won all six starts in 1998, including a romp in the Whitney H. (G1) and a gritty score over Silver Charm and Swain in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).
After his racing career, he become an important sire, with progeny like Ghostzapper, Round Pond, Game On Dude, and American classic winners Oxbow and Sir Winston.
Few horses have won both Sovereign Awards and Eclipse Awards. Few are in the Hall of Fame in both Canada and the United States. Few racetrack stars are as important in the breeding world.
Dance Smartly was all these things.
A daughter of blue-hen mare Classy 'n Smart, she was the Canadian champion juvenile filly at age two, after she won the Natalma S. and came in third to Meadow Star in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
She won all eight of her starts at three. She beat males four times, swept the Canadian Triple Crown, and then romped in the Molson Export Million S. (G2).
A heavy favorite in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1), she won the race comfortably. That year she was voted the champion three-year-old filly in both Canada and the U.S., and Canadian Horse of the Year.
As a broodmare, she continued her family legacy, highlighted by two Queen's Plate winners — Scatter the Gold and Dancethruthedawn.
The daughter of Bull Page won twice in 1961, at age two — in the Shady Well S. at Woodbine and in an allowance at Saratoga.
At three, she became a Canadian champion.
She held her own against good Americans and ran second to the great Cicada in the Kentucky Oaks. She then won the Canadian Oaks (now the Woodbine Oaks), just a week before she stormed home to win the Queen's Plate over male stablemate Choperio.
Though she suffered a career-ending injury in the Coaching Club American Oaks, she was an excellent broodmare. Though only three of her foals survived to racing age, they all shined, with the best English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky II.
The temperamental, flashy Kennedy Road was a Canadian champion four years in a row.
A trio of wins in the Colin S., Cup and Saucer S., and Grey H. earned him champion two-year-old colt in Canada.
At three, after a win in the Plate Trial, Kennedy Road went off the 2-5 favorite in the Queen's Plate and cleared to win by three decisive lengths, over 30-1 outsider Fabe Count, which clinched him champion three-year-old in Canada.
At ages four and five, he did most of his racing in California, where he won the San Antonio S. (G1) and the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) in 1973. He was champion older male in Canada at both four and five, and Canada's Horse of the Year at five, as well.
He had a successful stallion career in California, and his progeny included Grade 1 winner Variety Road.
A curious grey who starred from ages two through four, With Approval broke his maiden impressively on grass as a juvenile and went on to win the 1989 Display S.
At three, he started with a respectable Florida campaign and finished second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3), but he shined in the Canadian Triple Crown. He won nail-biters in both the Queen's Plate, over Most Valiant, and the Prince of Wales S., over Domasca Dan, then trounced the field by 7 3/4 lengths in the Breeders' S.
That season made him champion three-year-old and Horse of the Year in Canada.
He continued his form at four, when he won the Bowling Green H. (G2) and the Tidal H. (G1), and he finished second in the Arlington Million (G1) and Breeders' Cup Turf (G1).
At stud, his best progeny include Canadian champion Talkin Man, as well as blue-hen mare Win Approval.
It isn't often that an all-time great makes his debut at Fort Erie, but Northern Dancer did just that.
He debuted against fellow Canadian-breds in a maiden special weight dirt sprint there, in August of 1963, and he won by eight lengths. It was only upward from there. He won seven of nine starts as a two-year-old, including the Coronation Futurity at Woodbine and the Remsen at Aqueduct. He was Canada's Champion Two Year Old Colt.
At three, Northern Dancer made history. He held off the closing Hill Rise to win the 1964 Kentucky Derby in two minutes flat, a new record, and one that held until Secretariat. That made him the first Canadian-bred Kentucky Derby winner. He won the Preakness, too. Though he finished only third in the Belmont, he returned to Canada a hero, and concluded his career with glory in the Queen's Plate, a 7 1/2-length romp.
He was named Champion Three Year Old Colt in both the United States and Canada, and Horse of the Year in Canada. He would go on to become one of the greatest sires of all time, with progeny including English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky II, English Horse of the Year The Minstrel, and French champion and great sire Sadler's Wells.
Last week, we went old school and asked you about the greatest Saratoga Special winner! The vote ended in a dead heat. With each getting 41% of the vote, it was a split between Native Dancer and Whirlaway!