Some call the Queen’s Plate “Canada’s version of the Kentucky Derby”, but it’s really more like all three of the U.S. Thoroughbred Triple Crown races rolled into one incredible event.
From a race standpoint, the Queen’s Plate most closely matches the Kentucky Derby in that it’s a 1 1/4-mile classic for three-year-olds and is regarded as one of its country’s most prestigious races.
From a racing stand point it follows the big event template with a lot of races starting early and some strong stakes races supporting the main event.
From a what-goes-on-around-the-racetrack standpoint, it’s more Preakness and Belmont than Derby with the festival area around the paddock having a Preakness InfieldFest vibe and the concerts after the races on Queen’s Plate and Queen’s Plate eve following more of the Belmont template.
One glaring difference between Queen’s Plate fan festival and Preakness Infield Fest is how the fans at Woodbine interact with racing. There appeared to be more people betting and watching the racing than I’ve seen at the Pimlico infield.
Another positive was the crowd that was there to interact with the racing seemed to be an earlier arriving crowd than most big events. Post time was noon instead of 1 p.m., so not quite as extreme as the 10:30 a.m. start time as Oaks, Derby, and Preakness, but it definitely seemed a bigger share of those with reserved seats were there early than other events.
For me, I doubt anything will be able to compare to the Kentucky Derby as far as its traditions, pomp, and circumstance, but the Queen’s Plate certainly gives it a carriage run for its money and far surpasses any other U.S. event with the Canadian Royal Mounted Police adding a dignified touch to the proceedings.
At first I was surprised that there is no song as horses parade for the race a la “My Old Kentucky Home” ahead of the Derby, “Maryland, My Maryland” for the Preakness, and “New York New York” at Belmont, but after experiencing the Queen’s Plate it makes sense because this is not a provincial event. This is Canada’s race. I.e., “O! Canada” covers it.
And I was glad to cover it for Brisnet.com and TwinSpires.com. It’s an event on track, and it’s a gambling game there and everywhere else. Woodbine is actively involved in marketing its signal to horseplayers, and it was great to see the marketplace respond with record handle for a third consecutive year and to be a part of that professionally.
I have found Woodbine to be a pleasant place to spend a day at the races, but for those who like experiencing the big events—especially as a way to also experience how horses fit into the local culture—then the Queen’s Plate is a go-to event for sure.
All photos by Holly M. Smith. Follow her on Twitter @KYHolMarie