Sunday, June 28, 2009

Canadian Content: The Queen's Plate

Last Sunday Woodbine celebrated the 150th running of the Queen's Plate, the longest continually-run stake race (and sporting event) in North America. A documentary was produced and aired on CBC, and has also been released on DVD. I watched it when it aired, and was really impressed. It hit the nail solidly on the head, explaining what this race means to Canadians, and why it is more important than even the Derby to us on this side of the border. It's supposed to be available for purchase, though I haven't found out yet exactly where! I gladly scooped a copy at the Plate week festivities. Canadians can probably catch it on demand at CBC.

Watching some of the older footage, I was reminded how some things have changed since I wrote my story. When I was a horse-crazy youngster attending the Plate each year, it seemed it was the exception when the track was fast. There were many, many muddy Plates.

A crack of thunder woke her — there it was, finally. She glanced at the clock — two AM. Short moments later the torrential downpour began, and her spirits sank still lower.

She rolled out of bed, the thin shirt sticking to her body, and reluctantly closed the window as the rain blew in through the screen. After so many weeks of dryness, it should have been welcome. She lay down again on top of the sheets, on her side staring out darkly at the brilliant flashes of light, coming now in quick succession.

Bloody rain. It was traditional as the fifty guineas.

Now, with the new Polytrack, that variable has been eliminated. The verdict is still out on whether or not Poly is a safer racing surface, but I have to say for the purposes of fiction, it's far less interesting!

Last Sunday was a model first day of summer - sunny, warm and clear - one of the nicer Plates I've been to. And to be standing in the paddock, for the first time connected to a starter - even being that close was special.