The Queen's Plate
The Queen's Plate is North America's oldest top level thoroughbred horse race and perhaps the most prestigious race on the Canadian horseracing calendar. The "Queen" in the race's title refers not to Great Britain and Canada's current monarch, Elizabeth II, but to her ancestor Queen Victoria. Curiously, the race predates the establishment of Canada as a nation by 8 years, having first been run in 1859. The race also bears the unique distinction of being run an incredible 148 consecutive times, without interruption by war or weather!
The Queen's Plate takes place each year in Toronto, Canada, at Woodbine Racetrack. Usually run near the end of June, the race is the first jewel in Canada's horseracing Triple Crown, the other two races being the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Breeders' Stakes. Officially, only 3-year-old thoroughbred horses foaled in Canada can apply to run in the Queen's Plate, but even those who qualify may be bumped due to the strict 17-horse limit in place since 1995 for safety reasons.
Over the long history of the Queen's Plate, the format has changed a number of times. The inaugural race was run in one-mile heats, changing to a 2-mile course from 1868 to 1870, 1¾ miles in 1871 and 1½ miles from 1872 to 1886. From 1887 through 1923 the distance was 1¼ miles and except for a 32-year period from 1924 to 1956 when the race was 1⅛ miles long, 1¼ miles has remained the distance. The winner of that long-ago inaugural race was Don Juan, ridden by Charles S. Littlefield. Anyone in attendance then probably would not believe the results of the 2007 Queen's Plate... it may have taken 148 years, but for the very first time a female jockey, Emma-Jayne Wilson, would ride the winning horse (Mike Fox) to victory.