For trainer Kevin Attard the feeling has lingered for a while that he might have a precocious three-year-old on his hands in the form of Clayton.
He’ll come a long way closer to finding out this weekend when the son of Bodemeister attempts to win the 161st edition of the Queen’s Plate, the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown and North America’s oldest continually run race.
A tri-surface series for Canadian-bred three-year-olds, the Triple Crown will take in the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie on dirt later this month and concludes with the Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine on the turf course on October 24th.
This weekend’s first leg is run on the Tapeta track at Woodbine and, having won a Plate Trial last month, Clayton is amongst the leading contenders for glory.
The mount of Rafael Hernandez, Clayton has three wins and one second from four starts thus far and his trainer saw something special in him from the start.
“He’s been special from the get-go,” said Attard. “He was an impressive maiden winner, so once that happened, the bell starts ringing in your head, and you’re saying, ‘Hey, maybe I’ve got a good three-year-old here.’
“He followed it up with a good race first time out this year — didn’t win but had traffic trouble — and I think he learned a lot. That was encouraging.”
Attard feels that Clayton is going to have to take another step forward if he wants to land the Queen’s Plate, a race the trainer came close to winning when Alezzandro finished second in 2007.
“Obviously, he’s won his last two since then and stretched out. He’s doing everything you want him to. Hopefully, he just needs to get a little bit better one more time and maybe he can put everything together.”
Trainer Josie Carroll meanwhile has her eyes trained on a third Queen’s Plate with Curlin’s Voyage. The handler has tasted success in the past with the filly Inglorious in 2011 and with Edenwold in 2006.
Winner of the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks earlier this season, Curlin’s Voyage is her big chance and is set to be joined by stablemates Belichick and Mighty Heart this weekend.
“She finds a way to get it done. She always shows up and she’s a very, very special filly,” Carroll remarked of Curlin’s Voyage.
“We’ve always thought very highly of her after her two-year-old debut. She’s a very uncomplicated filly and does everything you ask of her.”
If she can triumph on Saturday, Curlin’s Voyage will emulate the like of Inglorious (2011), Lexie Lou (2014) and Holy Helena (2017) in adding the Queen’s Plate to their triumphs in the Woodbine Oaks.
Patrick Husbands rides Curlin’s Voyage this weekend and he was the last rider to achieve the Canadian Triple crown with Wando in 2003 – the only time the feat has been achieved in the last 27 years and just the seventh overall.