Trainer Chad Brown enjoyed a monster season in 2016 leading North America in earnings ($23,153,084) and graded stakes wins (42) while capturing his first training title at Saratoga. For his efforts, Brown earned his first Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer.
On July 2, Brown will attempt to add yet another first to his spectacular resume when he looks for a first Queen’s Plate score with the improving filly Inflexibility. By Scat Daddy out of Halo's Verse, the well-bred bay's maternal grandmother is a full sister to the multiple graded stakes winning Hall of Famer, Ashado.
"She’s a nice horse, well-bred, and a good looking horse," said Brown.
The lightly-raced Inflexibility finished second in her Jan. 7 debut in a 1 1/16-mile maiden turf allowance at Gulfstream Park. She graduated at second asking as the favourite when travelling the same distance over the Belmont Park turf.
Last time out, racing on Tapeta for the first time in the nine furlong Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, Inflexibility came with a late run to finish third behind probable Plate favourite Holy Helena.
"We’ve always thought a lot of her and it was nice to see her getting some experience. She’s run well every time we’ve run her," said Brown.
The conditioner is hopeful a second try over the synthetic surface will prove successful.
"I think she handled it okay. I’m optimistic that her second run over it will be better," said Brown. "She’s never had the opportunity to breeze on it, only gallop a couple days over it. So, I’m hopeful that having the experience of one race over it, that she’ll handle it better in her next start."
Brown saddled Bowman's Causeway to be a good fourth in the 2011 edition of the Queen's Plate and would love to add his name to the winner's ledger.
"I have a lot of respect for the race. It’s obviously a classic and difficult to win and we feel fortunate that we have a filly good enough to compete in it. Hopefully she will have some luck," said Brown.
Inflexibility put in her final tune-up for the Plate on Sunday morning on the dirt training track at Saratoga.
"She had a half mile breeze today (:49.95), in company, and it went well," said Brown.
Inflexibility will ship north to Woodbine mid-week along with the multiple graded stakes winning turf mare Rainha da Bateria who will try the Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes at 1 1/4-miles over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
Last September, the five-year-old Broken Vow chestnut captured the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes here, when travelling nine furlongs, and returned a month later to finish a good fifth in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes, defeated less than two lengths in a race won by Al's Gal.
"She’s been training well and went very well over Woodbine’s turf last year, so we’re hoping for more of the same from her," said Brown.
Holy Helena was mighty in the Woodbine Oaks and is all systems go heading into the 158th running of the Queens’ Plate.
Owned by Stronach Stables and trained by Jimmy Jerkens, the daughter of Ghostzapper out of the Holy Bull mare, Holy Grace, put in an impressive performance in taking the Oaks on June 11.
Now, Holy Helena will look to answer her connections’ prayers with a victory in Canada’s most famous horse race, set for July 2 at Woodbine. She’ll also seek to become the first filly since Lexie Lou to turn the Oaks-Plate double.
“Jimmy’s done a beautiful job with her,” said Mike Doyle, racing manager for Stronach Stables. “She’s had three strong races and she’s really got a great attitude about her.”
After a second-place debut at 6 ½ furlongs at Aqueduct on April 15, Holy Helena broke her maiden at Belmont, notching a three-quarter length triumph over 1 1/16-miles on May 12.
“She ran really well first time out,” started Doyle. “And to come back the second time and win with a really nice performance – Jimmy was very pleased. All of us were very happy with it.”
The filly was sent to Doyle’s Woodbine barn after the maiden-breaking score, in preparation for the Oaks.
After that triumph, there’s no denying Holy Helena is at the top of her game. Can she come up with her Sunday best in front of the Woodbine masses?
“I can’t see the (Plate) distance (1 ¼ miles) being a problem,” offered Doyle. “It’s right up her alley. She’s out of a really nice mare and she keeps improving every time out.”
The meaning of Helena is noted as, “bright, shining light.”
Doyle considers it a perfect fit for the filly.
“She’s just a really nice horse,” he praised. “She’s very easy to be around and easy to train.”
Luis Contreras, who rode the filly Inglorious to victory in the 2011 Plate, retains the mount and will be aboard Holy Helena for her final Plate prep which is slated for Monday morning on the Woodbine main.