TORONTO — Catherine Day Phillips is returning to the $1-million Queen's Plate.
The veteran trainer plans to run Woodbine Oaks winner Dixie Moon in the first jewel of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown on June 30 at Woodbine Racetrack. Day Phillips had a horse in last year's race as Plate Trial winner Guy Caballero finished 10th.
Dixie Moon should be among the early Plate favourites as her winning Oaks time (1:50.38) was better than what Telekinesis ran (1:50.4) in the Plate Trial. Both races were over 1 1/8 miles.
"We wanted to see how she came out of the Oaks and she seems to be doing really well," Day Phillips said Thursday. "As of right now we're running in the Plate."
The Plate field will include Telekinesis, Wonder Gadot (second to Dixie Moon in the Oaks) and Neepawa, all trained by 10-time Sovereign Award winner Mark Casse. In February, Telekinesis was installed as the 4-1 favourite in the Winterbook, a hypothetical listing of early odds for the 109 three-year-olds – 95 colts and geldings, 14 fillies – nominated to the Canadian Triple Crown.
Wonder Gadot (6-1) and Neepawa (8-1) were third and fourth, respectively, while Dixie Moon was fifth (10-1).
Recent Oaks winners have fared well in the Plate. Last year's champion Holy Helena and '14 victor Lexie Lou both captured Canada's most prestigious horse race after claiming their respective Oaks races.
"If the fillies always did poorly you wouldn't want to think about it," Day Phillips said. "But considering they've done well in the race traditionally gives you more encouragement to go in."
Dixie Moon has four wins and a second-place effort in eight career starts with earnings of $517,216. She finished sixth in last year's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar.
Early on, the thought was Dixie Moon's best surface was turf. After all, she was second in the Grade 1 $250,000 Natalma Stakes on Sept. 17 before beating the boys Oct. 17 to win the Cup and Saucer Stakes on Woodbine's E.P. Taylor turf course.
But the filly has proven to be a versatile performer, finishing second by a neck in the Grade 3 $125,000 Selene Stakes on May 19 before winning the Oaks, both on Woodbine's Tapeta surface.
"I thought she was better on the turf but we ran in the Selene and she ran probably the best race she's run yet," Day Phillips said. "And then she came back in the Oaks and ran a tremendous race so I'm not sure.
"Right now we'll stick with the Tapeta."
And predictably, Day Phillips will stick with Eurico Rosa Da Silva, Woodbine's top jockey last year, as Dixie Moon's rider.
"The first time he got on her he walked her in and said, 'Wow, this is a very special filly,' and I said, 'I thought you'd like her,'" Day Phillips said. "He's been with her almost every step of the way.
"He was away from her a little over the winter . . . but they're reunited and seem to be happy and focused and working well again together."
Two years ago, Day Phillips won the Oaks with Neshama but didn't run her in the Plate.
"Dixie Moon is a much stronger horse than Neshama ever was," she said. "The Oaks was a tough race on Neshama and she just seemed more delicate and it would be asking too much for her to run in the Plate."
Day Phillips said as a Canadian-born trainer, winning the Plate would be a tremendous achievement. It's something she's thought about for some time.
"As a young person in horse racing you always looked up to these horses and people involved with the Queen's Plate," she said. "I've been fortunate to be involved a few times, been close a few times but it would be nice to get the job done.
"What's special about Dixie is we've had her from the time she was a two-year-old and first came to the track . . . and that's special to watch a horse develop into the quality filly that she is. What's also very special is the Fitzhenrys (owners Sean and Dorothy) been very good to us and involved with us. I think Sean said, 'It works well both ways.'"