This year’s running of the Grade-1 Queen’s Dish will have a festive feel to it. There are rumors floating around these parts that the newly-crowned NBA champion Toronto Raptors will begin their parade near Air-Canada Centre and make their way to Woodbine to take in their country’s premiere SIM race. Surely they will drag a good amount of fans with them. I’m also hearing that the winner will pictured with the Raptor team along with the Larry O’Brien trophy in the winner’s circle. A field of 11 three-year-old colts and geldings will square off in an effort to join in on the week-long Canadian celebration. The handle is certain to be higher than normal but you’ll be hard pressed to find a clear favorite in this group. Let’s try to find a winner:
1) THEY WERE GIANTS – 10/1 – agk04
A son of Giant’s Causeway out of an Equinics-winning mare, THEY WERE GIANTS will enter the starting gate for the 7th time in his career in this one. He switched back to the turf last time out in a N2L open allowance and won by three parts of a length after stalking the leaders early. He posted a career high speed of 100 and certainly looks to be improving while apparently having found a home on the turf. He certainly is making a large jump in class here and will certainly need to improve greatly on his performance to have a chance in this one. The good news for his connections is he’s definitely not the only one in this field that can say that.
2) HIGHLAND EMPIRE – 8/1 – desertdog10
Won convincingly at this distance in his last start – the grade-2 Griffen. That win gives him the distinction as the only runner in this group that has a graded win on his resume. This son of Highland Reel has proven he can handle the distance and surface, having gone 3 for 4 this year at distances of 9.5-10.5 furlongs. He was gelded after the 2018 campaign and seems to have responded well. Should be sitting just off the pace and if he’s in good form, he should be one of the runners in the hunt as they turn for home.
3) FUNKY UNCLES – 13/1 – roscoe10
Making his 10th career start, this son of Uncle Mo looks to build off his last performance where he found the winner’s circle for the 2nd time in his career and a year after breaking his maiden. He posted a 9-furlong 101 speed while going against non-winners of two over the poly track in that win. Always seems competitive but his connections have been struggling to find a distance and surface that he can own. Has the pedigree, if not the resume, to be competitive here.
4) VICTORY TWIRL – 13/1 – aussloth
This Twirling Candy gelding has been solid in his last three starts since switching to the turf. He has a win and 2 place finishes in those starts against allowance company. Making his stakes debut in this one and will need to outdo himself by quite a lot to be a winning contender here, but don’t leave him out of your exotics.
5)MELTED – 5/1 – gowans7
Finished 5th in the French 2000 Guineas before shipping to Canada. This son of Lope De Vega cut back in distance in that race going a mile and came up short. The connections have decided to give this deep closer an extra quarter mile in to catch them all in his second consecutive Grade-1 try. He’ll have plenty of speed in this race to run down and could be the most likely beneficiary to the likely early speed duel in this race. Definitely one to look at.
6) K’S SANCHO PANZA – 6/1 – pompeya
This well bred son of TAPIT and a multiple Grade-1 winning mare is 3 for 7 lifetime and has never finished out of the money. Finished third last time out as co-favorite in the Italian Derby. Owns the pedigree and speed figures to be a contender in this race, however he likes to get on the lead and he likely will have a lot of company early on in this race. The distance makes sense here and he very well could be too talented to get passed by this group.
7) BRIGHTBURN – 9/2 – malekfarms
Morning line co-favorite BRIGHTBURN is coming into his own as of late. He is coming off of two straight convincing victories in listed stakes at this distance. There is plenty more to like about this Galileo colt, specifically in his breeding. He is a full brother to THREE Grade 1 winners and his dam, LUFTHANSA HEIST, was no slouch either. She has a Grade 2 badge to her resume and she did most of her damage at similar distances. He will be another runner in here that will be on or near the lead early. One has to think BRIGHTBURN is going to be a great horse. The question is – he can win his first Grade 1 in just his 7th career start?
8) MESSAGE IN THE SKY – 9/2 – rharfoman
The other morning line co-favorite MESSAGE IN THE SKY is coming off three solid top-3 performances against graded stakes and residency stakes company. He posted speeds North of 10o in each of those starts. That alone puts him in the conversation here. The downside is that he was caught late in all three of those starts and will be running his longest distance to date. He is also making his third start in just over 6 weeks. It will be interesting to see if he has something left in the tank.
9) GUNSHOT AGAIN – 8/1 – derekcarlson13
A son of Gun Runner out of an Awesome Again mare, GUNSHOT AGAIN’s breeding screams for this distance, if not necessarily for turf. He has proven to be a solid turf runner, however, and is coming off a listed stakes victory at 9.5 furlongs over a firm turf course. It was by far his best performance to date and if he can replicate it, he may just end up in the winners circle.
10) ZONEING IN – 14/1 – lostkey13
The first of two Japanese entrants in this one. ZONEING IN doesn’t have the speed figures to match up to his competition here and is coming off an effort in the Italian Derby in which he failed to show up. He does have a stalking running style that should be an advantage with the high-end early speed entered in this race. Will need to take a big bump in performance and form to be in the running here.
11) BEER BEFORE SWORDS – 8/1-jimntom2
This Deep Impact colt has yet to reach 100 on the speed figure dial but like his fellow Japan-bred, BEER BEFORE SWORDS should benefit from the early speed in this contest. He likes to come way back and is certain to be passing horses as they approach the wire. His connections will be hoping that he can pass a total of 10.
2) HIGHLAND EMPIRE – In a race littered with runners coming off of wins, this guy’s last performance was most impressive. The only graded winner has to be close here…
7) BRIGHTBURN – Just so hard to ignore the breeding. His mom is Galileo’s main squeeze and they have created quite a family. Look for BRIGHTBURN to add the the impressive Progeny of Galileo and LUFTHANSA HEIST.
1) THEY WERE GIANTS (longshot pick) – In a race that supports a ton of early speed, this is perhaps the most talented deep closer in the field. If the bottom falls off of the speed here, it may set up for a horse like this to steal a grade-1 win.